Just ten short years ago, blockchain was just an idea in a handful of forward-thinking developers’ heads. Even today, it’s widely misunderstood, and only a small portion of the population knows exactly what it is. Most technology experts agree, however, that blockchain will transform both business and everyday life.
In just a short time, it is already having an impact on many business segments and is starting to touch our lives in many meaningful ways that we may not even realize. IBM’s blockchain food supply chain initiative is starting to help us keep our food safer, for example. Many of these applications and benefits will be exclusively behind the scenes.
So what will the future with blockchain technology look like? In many ways, that future has yet to be shaped and many innovative uses are yet to be discovered. But there is enough going on, and enough expert predictions for us to compile into what we think the future might be with blockchain.
Cryptocurrency, the first application for blockchain-based technology rolled out for the public, is likely to be a major disruptive factor for the whole banking and finance industry moving forward.
- Currency may no longer be tied to nation states, and instead be truly borderless.
- As widespread adoption of cryptocurrency increases, the demand for fiat currency-based solutions will decrease.
- Even fiat currency-based transactions will likely migrate to blockchain, as many banks are already starting to do.
- Your money will be stored digitally, relegating the bank ‘vault’ into history, with secure digital vaults and wallets holding your assets.
- Stocks and other securities will eventually be transacted via blockchain too, and markets will no longer open and close at certain times.
- You’ll be able to trade your stocks whenever you want, globally.
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Software-based wallets will come with you everywhere you go on your smartphone app, allowing you to ditch your traditional wallet and pay for goods and services via wireless technology. Legacy financial institutions are already doing this, so the infrastructure will be there. As cryptocurrencies gain traction, it’s only a matter of reprogramming to add them to payment terminals.
Purchasing products online will benefit from blockchain as well, with secure payment available with one click as opposed to putting in your payment information for every new e-commerce site you visit. Again, traditional financial institutions are already doing this. Blockchain will make it a neutral and decentralized feature, allowing you to use any desired currency.
Once you do order your product, you’ll know more about where it came from, when it was produced and how it got to your door. Imagine a product tracked from the moment it was produced all the way until it reaches your door or the shelf of your local store.
Integration of blockchain technology in the supply chain industry, along with IoT (Internet of Things) connectivity will log every step in a product’s life. This will drastically alter the transparency with which we can audit the supply chain. How many warehouses did your product sit in? For how long? What were the temperature extremes it endured?Blockchain will allow so much of this information to follow a product and all of its raw materials from the earliest point in the process. This will improve the quality of products, increase the safety of food production and supply, and allow precise tracking from the assembly line to your house.
“Blockchain technology isn’t just a more efficient way to settle securities. It will fundamentally change market structures, and maybe even the architecture of the Internet itself.”
Abigail Johnson, Chairman and CEO, Fidelity Investments
As we mentioned in the previous section, having connected devices throughout the production/supply chain stages will allow information to be linked to every product automatically. The devices can report all sorts of conditions around the product and store them on the blockchain at every step of the way.
Even connected devices in our home will use blockchain technology to ensure safe and effective operation and to integrate with other domestic systems. That link will extend all the way to your online purchases, with ‘smart’ devices reporting when household items need to be re-ordered.
Protecting our privacy and personal data is another area we’ll see blockchain change our lives. You will be able to conclusively prove your identity to any entity, be it at the airport security check or at a bank when you want to open an account. The critical information that makes up your identity can be securely stored on a blockchain system, and protected from unwanted intrusion.
Properly designed consensus architecture will ensure that your data does not get corrupted, and your identity cannot be stolen. As long as the blockchain agrees on the data integrity, your info cannot be compromised.
Along with our identity, the entirety of our medical history can follow us as well. This can have a profound effect on how quickly and accurately we are diagnosed, and improve the safety of treatments. Imagine being unconscious at a hospital, but the doctors treating you already know your medical history and any potential allergies or dangers in treatment.
In this sense, blockchain literally has the power to save lives. The integration of all this medical data, combined with machine learning and big-data analysis can also help track diseases, and look for potential cures.
Integration with our world
While blockchain offers the necessary levels of transparency, anonymity and security, it is still tied to many platforms, tools, and processes. For example, virtually any trading platform for goods is operated from a web interface, which is still vulnerable as any other website and ca be hacked via SQL injections, cookies, password fraud, and domain hijacking. To reach the same level of security for all the services connected to blockchain, many web and mobile technologies will have to take a leap forward.
“Whereas most technologies tend to automate workers on the periphery doing menial tasks, blockchains automate away the center. Instead of putting the taxi driver out of a job, blockchain puts Uber out of a job and lets the taxi drivers work with the customer directly.”
Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum Co-Founder. Source
While some countries are following the trends and incorporate blockchain into the current law landscape, in other states blockchain evolvement can be slowed down not just by absence of blockchain regulations, but also by indirect regulations which make its usage impossible or illegal.
Due to the Russian Data Protection Law, all the personal data of the Russian citizens must be processes and stored on the devices located in Russia. As LinkedIn didn’t comply with this law, it was banned and blocked on the territory of Russia by the Russian government.
Data protection laws are seriously conflicting with many blockchain concepts, and a solution to use blockchain 100% legally in such cases is yet to discover.
The Future We Don’t Yet Know
Even though the above solutions are regarded as the first wave of blockchain technology implementation, there will be new ideas and solutions emerging. Innovation will continue, and as automation plays a bigger role in our global economy, the interoperability and connectivity of all these systems will be important.Blockchain is poised to be the chain that links all these different industries and systems, making our lives easier, safer and more productive. From increasing food and medical treatment safety and effectiveness to reducing waste and speeding global transactions, blockchain holds the promise of a better future for all.
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