Although blockchain technology has only been around for 15 years, and only entered mainstream awareness in the last five or so, it’s already made a considerable impact on society.
Billions are being invested into blockchain projects by private and institutional investors alike. Consequently, largely unproven cryptocurrencies have acquired market capitalisations of billions of dollars: with Bitcoin holding the honour of being the asset to reach a market value of 1 trillion dollars in the shortest time.
However, as impressive as blockchain’s success and influence have been so far, what’s even more remarkable is just how little of its enormous potential has been realised. The current applications of blockchain technology, such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs, only scratch the surface of what it’s truly capable of.
With that in mind, in this post, we highlight four future uses of blockchain technology that could make our lives more convenient and transform how we do things as a society.
Supply Chain Management
One of the greatest challenges faced by companies that are a part of complex, supply chain networks is a lack of transparency. With each organisation in a supply chain having their own, siloed IT networks, databases, inventory management systems, and processes, getting a hold of accurate data promptly can be problematic. Even when the information is received, it might not be at the required level of detail to be most helpful.
Blockchain technology solves these problems by enabling each member of a supply chain network to document and track all transactions securely and transparently, making it simple for stakeholders, and customers, to view each record. A shared blockchain platform would provide all supply chain partners with an accurate and permanent audit trail detailing the flow of data, inventory, and money as it changes hands. Companies can use blockchain technology to sync logistical data, track moving inventory, and even automate payments through the use of smart contracts.
The benefits of this are significantly reduced admin, delays, costs, and the human error inherent within supply chain transactions.
A traditional voting system requires voters to stand in line to cast their votes in person or, in some cases, send them in via mail. From there, the votes are counted by a local authority. Meanwhile, viable alternatives like telephone and online have proven problematic, as there’s an increased risk of fraud and cyberattacks.
Going forward, blockchain technology could provide the ideal infrastructure for casting, tracking, and counting votes for a modern voting system. Blockchains not only have the potential to make voting systems less corrupt but to make them more inclusive, efficient and cost-effective. With blockchain technology, each voter’s identity can be better authenticated and only attributed to a single vote, making it impossible to commit voter fraud. More importantly, once a vote is recorded on the blockchain, it can’t be altered or removed.
These factors allow officials to count votes with the confidence that they’re accurate, which reduces, or even eliminates, the need for recounts. Plus, as casting votes on a blockchain leaves a verifiable and transparent record, accurate election results can be calculated more efficiently and with fewer personnel – reducing costs.
Better still, blockchain technology can improve the democratic process itself by making voting more accessible. With a blockchain as the backbone, smartphone apps can be developed that make it possible for sick, elderly, and remote citizens to cast their votes in minutes.
Blockchain technology could play a significant role in managing intellectual property (IP) rights such as patents, trademarks, and industrial designs. Its primary application being as an IP registry where inventors and innovators can record permanent digital proof of their IP and use smart contracts to get automatic royalty payments from those who utilise their work.
Under the current process, individuals looking to register their IP often have to wait months –or even years – for approval from patent offices. This can negate the crucial first-mover advantage in industries where individuals and organisations must act quickly to retain their competitive edge. Replacing centralised IP registry systems with decentralised blockchain technology will make it easier to register and update IP filings, as well as transfer ownership. Blockchain technology also has the potential to help unify patent registration across countries. This would not only improve the effectiveness of IP management internationally but increase the rate of innovation globally too.
Similarly, blockchain technology can be utilised to better record and enforce copyright on original content like images, music, writing, and art. Unlike with IP, there typically isn’t any official documentation proving ownership, and the burden of proving copyright falls on the creator. This can be especially challenging in the digital age, where anyone can download and use content freely. Blockchain-based platforms can offer creators an efficient way to record copyright ownership, track where and how their work is used, and successfully monetise it.
Another industry that could benefit considerably from blockchain technology is asset management. We’ve already seen a preview of this with NFTs as a way of storing and tracking ownership of unique, digital assets. However, there’s huge potential for a range of real-world assets to be converted into digital tokens and permanently recorded on a secure blockchain. Not only will this make verifying the ownership and authenticity of assets simpler but transferring the ownership of assets from one party to another too.
A prime example of how this could be applied is with property, where transactions are typically complex, prone to delays and human error, require assistance from intermediaries, and, subsequently, are expensive. In the future, paperwork such as property deeds and land titles can be tokenised and stored on a blockchain. This would provide all parties involved with immutable proof of ownership, cut transaction times and costs by eliminating the need for a middleman, and simplify asset transfer between buyers and sellers.
Additionally, the tokenisation of assets allows for their division into smaller parts. I.e., instead of an asset being represented by a single token, it can be split into any number of tokens for distributed ownership. Let’s say, for instance, that you have an asset worth $500,000. This could be divided into 100 tokens worth $5000 each, with each token holder owning 1% of the asset. This enables individuals to invest in particular assets with smaller amounts and grants those holding assets more flexibility over how they sell them or raise capital.
We are some way off from many of these technologies becoming a reality – particularly as the vast majority of people are unfamiliar with blockchain technology. Even those with a passing knowledge of blockchain aren’t especially comfortable using it. This is worsened by the fact that learning how to use blockchain-based tools and platforms, like wallets and exchanges, comes with a pretty steep learning curve that can discourage non-technical users.
However, significant portions of the billions of dollars pouring into the blockchain industry are being invested into making its tools, platforms, and technology more accessible, intuitive, and, above all, secure. Let’s not forget that the internet itself was a niche tool mainly used by technical people and enthusiasts in its infancy. There was a once time when the average consumer couldn’t have envisioned even making a purchase over the internet.
Today, the eCommerce industry is worth trillions of dollars globally and we all routinely pay for goods and services with a few taps on our smartphones – without a second thought!
If blockchain technology evolves in a similar way, then its mainstream adoption is inevitable, leading to the development of even more useful applications and blockchain fulfilling its vast potential.