Bitcoin become a buzz word in many Fintech circles around the globe and has been tipped to transform many industries in the next decade. Bitcoin has received commendation from some of the world’s finest minds namely Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Eric Schmidt (Google) on its ingenuity. It is popular quoted that bitcoin will do to the financial and legal industries what the internet did to media yet many are confused on what makes Bitcoin revolutionary. The answer to this lies in understanding what the technology that undergirds Bitcoin; The Blockchain technology.
It is common error to think bitcoin and blockchain is the one same thing and though often used interchangeably there is a distinctive, though interrelated, difference. Think of Blockchain as the motherboard of Bitcoin or the operating system of Bitcoin. Think of Bitcoin as the first android application ever made that opened us to the potential of the android platform which has led to the birth of many other android applications such as Whatsapp, Slydepay and Candycrash among others.
So one may ask, what is Blockchain technology?
Blockchain technology is an openly accessible online record (ledger) that approves information/transactions through a cryptographic protocol that requires the consensus of members of its network. It then converts the verified information into immutable blocks of information that are backed up on every device in the network and tied to previously stored information in a sequential manner.
Let me draw a more relatable picture of how the blockchain works that you can relate to:
Imagine a classroom of students. The students in this classroom represent nodes (members) in the blockchain network. Now a student receives an email and claims it’s an assignment from a tutor. He goes ahead to share it with the members of the class by broadcasting it on the board. The members of the class now go ahead to verify the assignment using an encrypted protocol provided for verifying assignments. The first student to verify the assignment gets a reward and once verified each student copies the assignment next to previous assignments into their notebooks using indelible ink. This makes information recorded in the blockchain impossible to falsify or hack due to the robust verification process. It is also impossible to change previously processed information without leaving an indelible trail of reference given that multiple copies of verifiable of that same information have been chained to other blocks of information and saved on every device in the network in real-time. When you begin to really analyze what blockchain is you begin to realize it takes away the current system of operations which is flooded with middle men or centralized authorities who we trust to ensure compliance in information transfer and transaction processing.
Blockchain technology can be applied in many ways to solve real world problems. Bitcoin is a financial application of Blockchain technology developed and released during the 2008 financial crisis to tackle the flaws of our current monetary system. The issues bitcoin was designed to solve were mainly centered on monetary inflation due to manipulation from central banks and governments, slow transaction processing and cross boarder transfer limitations. However there are many other applications of Blockchain technology that are being designed to solve issues of trust, data verification and storage across multiple industries.
Today, there are thousands of blockchain applications being developed to disrupt over 17 industries; literally changing how we live, transact and exchange assets of value.
Below are a few noteworthy Blockchain projects:
VECHAIN: Vechain is a Blockchain based solution for logistics and product counterfeiting. The Chinese government, assured that Vechain can help save them billions of dollars spent every year combating counterfeit scandals and fines levied against their trade industries, has partnered and invested in the Vechain platform. This platform will be used to verify product authenticity by accessing product history and logistics stored via the Blockchain. This will make it extremely easy for customers to track exactly where the product they want to purchase was manufactured as well as be able to follow the trail of all the channels the product has been through; revealing whether it is genuine or counterfeit. Vechain recently received an award at the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey sponsored VivaTech Conference for their ground breaking innovation. Global retail leaders, WalMart, are designing a similar platform for their goods.
HYPERLEDGER: Hyperledger is a Blockchain based open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. Many banks have taken keep interest in the Hyperledger project because of its potential to radically change how cross-border payments are carried out. It is common knowledge that many banks are seeking to adapt the instant and cheap nature of blockchain transactions. This will to enable cheap and instant cross-border payments which currently takes up to 72 hours and costs several billions yearly.
Some premier members of the Hyperledger project include Accenture, Airbus, American Express, Cisco, Fujitsu, IBM, Intel, J.P Morgan and a recent entrant, the Deutsche Bank.
PLEBISCITO DIGITAL: Plebiscito digital is a Blockchain powered voting platform that enabled Colombians living abroad to cast their votes in an authentic and secure manner during the 2016 elections. Voting is one key area that looks very promising for Blockchain technology. The lack of trust and conflicts generated by many elections across the globe has instigated many discussions on how blockchain can be a reliable solution. The hack-proof, cryptographic, transparent and immutable data storage functions of the Blockchain can be used to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. Blockchain has already proven itself as a leading candidate for solving voting fraud and with other Blockchain projects like The Horizon State being developed, we can boldly say goodbye to election disputes and its related cancer.
AUTHICERT: Authicert is a Blockchain based solution to Academic Certificate Fraud. Certificate fraud has become a common menace that employers and academic institutions face every recruitment season. This application will revolutionize how academic information is recorded, how certificates/transcripts are produced and distributed to institutions of interest. Authicert will work in partnership with affiliated institutions to store academic results of their students on the Blockchain making it impossible for anyone to falsify the information at any given point in time without living an indelible trail. This solution can be applied to any form of certification systems and cure the corruption and manipulation we see daily in the certification industry. Authicert is proudly a Ghanaian innovation owned by Ghana dot com.
BITLAND AFRICA: Bitland is a Blockchain based solution to land registration, purchase and ownership disputes. Bitland, a West African project recently featured on Forbes that is seeking to launch in Ghana and Kenya, will record land ownership and title deeds into a permanent and auditable record via Blockchain technology. This project will in a transparent and litigation-free way solve the numerous issues of land fraud and theft that have been seen across the African globe. In the near future when you show interest in acquiring a particular land, all you would need to do is go online and search out who exactly owns the land and has the power to sell it as well have a historical trail of all who have owned the land; a record no one, not even the government can manipulate. In a few years when we have a global ledger of lands you could, in a few minutes, own land in any part of the world and have a legal digital version of land deeds transferred to you in seconds, thanks to blockchain technology.
These and many such solutions being developed by many brilliant minds across the globe represent the value blockchain brings to the world. Just as email was the gateway to the possibilities of the internet, Bitcoin is the doorway to the possibilities of the blockchain.
By: Kweku Brew Ammuako-Annan
Business Developer and Cryptocurrency Geek
Derrydean and Heritors