Blockchain Technology Is Coming To An Application Near You

The decentralized ledger technology isn’t just for cryptocurrencies anymore.


Throughout the history of the semiconductor industry, disruptive IC technologies have been brainstormed and developed by innovative thinkers, offered up for global consideration through technical papers and conferences, discussed and scrutinized, put to the test at alpha and beta sites, and – once proven – adopted for widespread use. The path is similar for inventive applications.

Blockchain is one such advancement that is gaining momentum. This 11-year-old means of enabling the secure distribution of data for digital transactions has its roots in cryptocurrency. Two specific characteristics of blockchain – its ability to serve as a decentralized ledger and the way that it protects any entered data from being modified – make it appealing to businesses. It can be used to efficiently record transactions between two parties in a way that is both verifiable and permanent, which could make this technology a key asset in battling identity theft and online fraud.

Blockchain has the potential to both streamline and safeguard the digital business operations of companies ranging from online start-ups to large retailers. In one of its more far-flung applications, blockchain is being used to certify the authenticity and history of natural diamonds, providing the ability to tell the real thing from synthetic gems and fake stones. Imagine no more stressing over the possibility of supporting blood diamonds or sweating out the authenticity of your loved one’s engagement ring.

In other applications, “smart” connected technology can be extended beyond our phones, appliances and cars to include official documents such as stock certificates, property deeds and insurance plans. A blockchain ledger can maintain a record of who has current ownership of important papers, effectively becoming a “smart key” that allows access only to the permitted person(s). This capability could digitally revolutionize government, finance, healthcare and other fields that rely on bulletproof documentation.

Blockchain also can be used to verify the path from farm to table and make the foods we eat safer. By keeping a registry of the specific section or field where a head of lettuce was harvested, blockchain may help to pinpoint the sources of dangerously tainted foodstuffs much more quickly. This will not only keep consumers safer from illness, but help to reduce the unnecessary disposal of food that is suspected to be contaminated, but actually is not. It also can improve the integrity of foods by tracing whether your organic arugula or free-range turkey is really as advertised.

Although it’s not ironclad, blockchain may be the most hackproof network in existance. While traditional networks rely on a central data storehouse, all information on a blockchain is decentralized, encrypted and cross-checked by the entire network.

Because of its distributed design, there is no third-party data center for transactions. This helps to protect against data loss because each user’s computer, or node, has a complete copy of the ledger. Losing one or two nodes does not raise the risk of system-wide data loss.

In addition, everything is encrypted. File signatures can be verified across all the ledgers on all the nodes in the network to ensure that they have not been altered. If an unauthorized change is made, the traced signature is rendered invalid.

As worldwide connectivity continues to expand, serious concerns about data vulnerability are growing with it. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) represents a huge step in addressing the issue of data privacy, but there are always those who subvert and break the law. Blockchain’s design allows user-friendly yet incorruptible data tracking with validity that is easy to confirm. Its transparency offers a refreshing alternative to the way that much of our personal, online information has been dissected and manipulated for financial gain by some “Big Brother” technology giants.

With a breadth of applications that is nearly unlimited, blockchain technology looks promising to make the leap from managing digital currencies to becoming the next-generation solution for how we live and work online.

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