Emerging Use Cases for the Blockchain (Part 2)

Arun Devan
5 min readOct 31, 2017
Image Source: William Bout from Unsplash

In part 1 of this story, I described the development of blockchain based use cases in the fields of cryptocurrencies, banking, insurance, law enforcement, digital marketing, advertising and capitalism. You can check it out here.

I have tried my best to avoid use cases that may be questionable. The 2017 boom in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) has spurred the proposed development of many blockchain based applications that have not been sufficiently validated. The motivation by some of these ICO startups seems to be to secure ICO funds rather than truly build solutions for a potential and validated customer base.

Let’s continue with our review of additional use cases for the blockchain.

1. Assets & Rights Ownership

We have depended on our governments to validate our ownership of large and valuable assets like land, houses and cars. However, in some cases, rogue governments can invalidate the ownership records of these assets. An often sited case is land title fraud in Honduras, where those in power hacked the nation’s land title database and helped themselves to choice properties of their liking.

By building an immutable public title record, backed by blockchain, countries like Honduras are now trying to build new systems that can secure land ownership titles, mineral rights, land contracts and mortgages.

Similar blockchain based solutions can be built for other assets including precious stones and metal, stocks and fine art.

This video addresses the key aspects of this topic: How blockchain technology can help build a transparent future

2. Credit Cards

Financial institutions have been studying and exploring potential blockchains for about two years through their in-house and in some cases, consortium innovation labs. Their innovations are centered around the disruptive impact of the emerging distributed ledger technology (DLT) and opportunities to coopt the features of DLT to improve identity verification to support KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti Money Laundering) regulatory requirements, cost reduction in settlement transactions between financial institutions and the development of innovative solutions to service a wider customer base in emerging markets with lower risk.

Credit card companies like Mastercard are taking the lead to build blockchain based settlement networks to create solutions that are fully auditable, safe, secure and scalable. They are actively working with their partners to create new transaction types to support new use cases.

Watch how Mastercard is empowering their B2B customers (banks and merchants) to build blockchain solutions using their API in this video: API for Everything: Mastercard Blockchain

3. Supply Chain

“A supply chain is a system of organisations, people, activities, information, and resources involving in moving a product or service from supplier to customer. Supply chain activities involve the transformation of natural resources, raw materials, and components into a finished product that is delivered to the end customer”. Source: Wikipedia.

With the Internet, supply chains became leaner by the elimination of multiple layers of intermediaries (global wholesalers, regional wholesalers, in-country supply cartels, distributors, retailers). The supply chain of today has been reduced to the manufacturer, online platforms and dropship suppliers. In the process, costs are reduced, value creation is enhanced and collaboration between parties has increased.

With the blockchain, supply chains are experiencing greater transparency, traceability and further cost reductions. The immutable records in the blockchain support the requirment to track sources of supply that lead to environmental damage, unethical extraction practices, unsafe work environments, forgery and wasteful practices.

Here’s a short video that addresses many of the points stated above: The story of Provenance — The blockchain startup revolutionising supply chains

4. Voting & Governance

With an adequate voter identification regime, it will be possible for nations to significantly increase participative democracy by every citizen by a blockchain based immutable record of votes from mobile devices. Instead of setting up costly voting centers and a manual system that is prone to fraud, more people can be encouraged to participate in their communities’ activities that affect their lives.

The blockchain can also be used to hold politicians to their promises through better governance frameworks. In the process, accountability can be enhanced and corruption reduced.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. — R. Buckminster Fuller

This video by an Argentinian Millennial who has lived through several decades of political, economic and social upheaval addresses the key issues and potential 10X solutions that impact politics and governance: The Future of Democracy.

5. Health Records

The healthcare system has been beset with transactional inefficiencies for a very long time. These include the sometimes needless repeat of patient diagnostic procedures since related entities are either unable or unwilling to share data, the supply chain networks of pharmaceutical products and services that are not interoperable, and the poor efficiency of processing payments and settlement between financial institutions (insurance, credit card, financial aid and banks).

This short video addresses the key issues and potential solutions for the healthcare industry: What is Blockchain for Healthcare

6. Crowdfunding via Initial Coin Offerings (ICO)

Initial coin offerings or ICO is an unregulated (in most jurisdictions) and often controversial means of crowdfunding through the issuance of cryptocurrency tokens. ICOs today challenge the venture capital industry, since startups can raise funding more easily from a larger base of global investors without diluting their stakes in their companies.

Since these are early days, national regulators are watching from the sidelines and will probably intervene with investor protection regulation for ICO investors at the right time. In 2017, ICO based crowdfunding has bloomed and many startups have been able to raise funds to build their innovations and bring them to market. Unfortunately, many of these ICO startups have early stage ideas without adequate market validation and investors may realise rather quickly that they will lose their funds to what will appear as scams.

For the ICO startups that are well prepared with clearly define business case theses, have validated their innovative solutions with some prior proof of concept developments and have assembled a team of competent technologists and executives, may deliver some radically innovative solutions that have the potential of furthering global development and improving the quality of our lives.

Watch this rather light-hearted video to uderstand the gist of initial coin offerings: What is an Initial Coin Offering?

Conclusion

I have attempted to give an overview of use cases for the blockchain in this 2-part series. It is in no way an exhaustive selection of potential applications for the distributed ledger technology (DLT). But it should give you a reasonable idea of the spread of innovation across multiple sectors. There are a LOT more blockchain based innovations in progress and I look forward to them pushing the envelope on this framework to deliver more secure, personalized and low cost solutions to further our quality of life.

Please leave me a comment if you come across use cases that you find personally interesting and let’s get a conversation going.

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This story has also been published in Steemit.

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