Imagine you are in Ohio and have recently undergone a medical checkup, lets say fever. You fly to Texas and start having those same symptoms of fever and need to visit the doctor again. You would either call up your previous doctor for suggestions or if he wants to see you in person you would have to wait till you get back to Ohio. What if you have permanently shifted and your doctor in Ohio can’t get you over call?
You would make a fresh appointment and see a new doctor telling him your history all over. Now imagine a system where all your medical records are safely stored and can be accessed from anywhere. Your new doctor in Texas would access your prior history, medical records, understand the problem and the prescribe you for further actions.
How easy would that be?
Now imagine another case, where you need to make a cross border payment to your client based on milestones and according to the project completion. You set up a automatic system which would fund your client as and when he delivers the successful milestones. More so, you need not make the transfer via any bank incurring huge middleman charges but do that from anywhere just with your internet connection.
All of this is what Blockchain is about!
A disruption in its own form, Blockchain technology combined with decentralised Internet of Things (IoT) is on its way to make life much easier, faster and economical.
So, what is Blockchain in simple terms?
Broadly speaking Blockchain is a decentralised platform which makes a peer to peer trust instead of requiring multiple intermediaries to verify that things work properly. Consider a chain of blocks which contains a piece of information and is timestamped so that it does not allow any backdation or tampering of the data.
The first block in the chain is called the Genesis block and each block contains a hash – a set of codes like fingerprint which is unique and identifies all the contents of the block. So once the block is created any change inside the block will also result in change in the hash.
Summarising each block contains,
c. Hash of the previous block
Blockchain is secure in a way as it is,
a. Decentralised in nature
b. Transparent to all participants in the given network
c. Records data in a secured encrypted format
d. Requires a consensus between nodes to implement a change.
A single change in one node would simultaneously affect in all other nodes.
A big use of this is in the formation of ‘Smart Contracts’ which is actually not a contract literally but a set of programme which decides the funds to flow or be remitted once the decided task has been performed. This very much does the work of an escrow agent with additional value to place further conditions and without having to incur much intermediate charge on the remitted funds.
Now what is Disruptive Technology?
Disruptive innovation or technology is one that changes an existing market or an on going process by displacing old products and providing value addition. Common example is the evolution of digital content including e-books and streaming media which has almost replaced a lot many physical copies or CDs and DVDs.
Blockchain has already been into its research and development stage for the past few years and has taken up pace in the recent times. Namely, major industries where Blockchain has found its pace for disruption are,
a. Real Estate – Buying, selling or dealing with real estates includes several agents such as brokers, escrow agents, title companies and intermediate banks. By registering the properties on Blockchain many of the intermediaries maybe negated. Moreover, real estate companies which tend to have an objective for cross border crowd sourcing find huge difficulty in mobilising the concept. Use of Blockchain for crowd sourcing or funding provides great help to such models.
b. Banking – Using gateways, tokens or crypto currencies using Blockchain, money can be transferred between any two points of the world without having to go through intermediate banks and third parties which incur a lot of intermediate charge. However, this also produces a major threat to the security and compliance policies of a particular country as it is easy to transfer money anonymously. A lot of debate and discussions have come up in the past few years with countries banning the use of crypto currencies or crowdfunding by Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) as clear cut regulations need to be in place in terms of taxation, Know Your Customers (KYCs) and validation before use of crypto currencies or token can be out rightly used.
c. Supply Chain – Having a decentralised platform such as Blockchain would enable proper tracking of shipments and authenticating their origins which otherwise would have incurred a lot of paperwork or manual labour with human errors.
d. Healthcare – As the example given in the start of this writeup, Blockchain provides enhanced transparency, efficiency, engagement and a decentralised platform for storage of data which can be accessed from anywhere within the network. By streamlining and reliable billing for a patient’s treatment it may be ensured that he is not double charged for the same treatment in two different hospitals. It also helps to benefit health insurers by verifying the necessity of medical treatments prior to execution and cross checking that they were indeed performed. There are plenty of such use cases in healthcare where Blockhain has been or maybe used for betterment in all aspects.
e. Insurance – As mentioned for the health insurance use case of Blockchain, the same may also be used for other insurance policies as well. For example, in an automobile insurance case, if a smart contract is created between two insurers of the vehicles, it may negate the need for a claims adjuster to physically go to the scene of the accident and verify. The claims process would automatically be triggered with the claim being paid out in the same or next day.
There are plenty of such use cases which can be mentioned in detail and readers may feel free to place their experiences or share their views in the Comments section.