What is blockchain?
New technological concepts and innovations come and go all the time, but blockchain has been making big waves in the technology industry for a few years now. Described by many as a distributed database, blockchain gives professionals the ability to store vital information and assets in a list of ordered records that updates in real-time.
This technology has been famed through the rise of cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Although the latter has received a somewhat mixed response from tech experts and companies around the world, blockchain plays a crucial role as its public ledger. Making use of a peer-to-peer network and timestamping server, it tracks all transactions that go through the currency.
New use cases
Blockchain was first introduced in 2008 as a ledger for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, but its original creator remains unknown. The concept was created under the name Satoshi Nakamoto, but this is probably a pseudonym and could possibly represent a group of people.
The technology was initially intended to fix a "double-spending" problem that allowed people to use digital tokens more than once. Blockchain also eliminates the need for a central regulating authority and removes layers of bureaucracy.
Although the development of Blockchain began in connection to Bitcoin, the ledger has become even more popular than the cryptocurrency that it supports. The incredibly secure and fault tolerant systems store important data in a decentralised way, making it highly desirable for industries that use highly sensitive data such as identity information, banking transactions and medical records.
The rise of blocks
As the name suggests, Blockchain systems are organised into 'blocks', each one carrying a unique timestamp that can be linked back to an older block. That's incredibly useful for industries where it's essential to be able to track information by time and event.
Another great thing about blockchains is that they're often highly resistant to editing. This means that once data has been recorded in a block, it can't be retroactively changed. While normally this would be frustrating, it provides a means to accurately verify transactions. Creators of Blockchains are also able to configure them to trigger transactions automatically, increasing the efficiency and accuracy at which data is processed.
More affordable and efficient
As a decentralised type of public ledger, blockchains are commonly operated through thousands of global computers. Thanks to this, users are able to organise and audit information quickly and efficiently. In most scenarios, people running and using blockchain systems take collaborative approaches and may have common aims.
If you work in the financial services sector, for example, your main intention is to ensure that you have a safe, secure way to store and process customer transactions. A physical file room may have dominated in the past, but with technology like blockchain, you can process timely data more accurately.
Blockchain could also bode for more affordable financial processes and diminish the chance of fraudulent activity at the same time. Such systems are mainly in the experimental phase right now, but they're always advancing and we'll no doubt see more use cases come to light in the foreseeable future.