The technology alone offers interesting application possibilities, but the potential unfolds best in combination with other technologies like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, or modern RFID & sensor technology.
Furthermore, some necessary regulatory hurdles will have to be overcome over time. In principle, the technology is best used in environments where several parties are pursuing the same goal but are suspicious of each other for various reasons. In blockchain-based environments, parties can act quickly and efficiently with each other without doubt or mistrust.
Application areas according to industries
- Energy industry (example: Powerledger, WePower)
- Real estate: land register/property law, notary public, crowd investing (example: Rentberry, Propy, Atlant)
- Identity (personal data, driver’s license, etc.) (Example: Civic, Blockstack)
- Health data/history (for doctors and hospitals)
- Logistics and supply chains (e.g., retail, container logistics, etc.)
- Internet of Things — M2M communication or payment (example: IOTA)
- Cloud Computing: Renting and leasing computing power (example: Golem)
- Data storage (example: IPFS, Storj, SIA)
- Political Elections & Votes
- Prognosis/forecasts (example: Augur, Gnosis, Cindicator)
- Cyber Security (Example: Polyswarm)
- Financial products (shares, ETF/funds, etc.)
- Startup Investments (new find)
- Social Media (Steemit, Status)
- Decentralized, censorship-free Internet (Blockstack, Brave Browser & Basic Attention Token, Substratum)
and much more…
In the following, three use cases will be presented, which describe the innovative range of technology.
One case that exemplifies the use of blockchains in the supply chain is the cold chain of drugs. In order to guarantee the efficacy of certain drugs, it is necessary to transport them under precise temperature conditions. The negative consequences of an ineffective drug can be financially far-reaching for companies and, above all, ultimately for patients. However, guaranteeing and proving a constant cold chain is still a central challenge today. Complicated transport logistics involving many different parties and systems are inefficient and prone to transparency and lack of traceability of transport routes and temperature conditions. This can lead to retailers receiving medicines whose quality they cannot track and ultimately take ineffective drugs.
Blockchain could create trust and transparency in this area of application.
While the sensor technology for the control of drugs is already available in parts and the interface to the Internet of Things can ensure that the corresponding analysis data can be fed into digital systems, a piece of the puzzle is missing for a holistic solution. This is a blockchain that can create trust between the individual participants in the supply chain and the end-user. Without a blockchain, the drugs’ information is stored and distributed on central servers, or even in paper form. This creates a dependency on each intermediary involved in the supply chain — government officials, customs, banks, transport and storage companies, etc. Coordinating all these parties is also extremely time-consuming and costly.
The system described increases efficiency and transparency in the cold chain of medicines to an enormous degree. However, the advantages of a supply chain blockchain can be transferred to a wide range of industries. This results in exciting projects in food, luxury fashion, gemstones, minerals, or container logistics — to name just a few examples. The supply chain sector is one of the largest application areas of blockchain, and it is already foreseeable that many exciting projects and developments will follow in the future.
The way we use transportation systems today will change dramatically due to various developments. Autonomous driving, e-mobility, voice control, and artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will lead to a man leaving more transport to machines. In order to understand how Blockchain will have an influence here, we first want to draw a futuristic, but quite possible scenario:
Cars that pay for themselves
On a Thursday after work, Karl logs into a self-propelled e-car with his Smartwatch. The car belongs to his colleague Sarah, but her shift is just beginning, so she makes her car available for rent during working hours. The car already anticipates the destination through Karl’s login information, since he goes to the sports every second Thursday. After a short confirmation, the vehicle guides him into the parking garage of the sports hall. This happens without waiting at a barrier because the car has already made a payment to the parking garage operator. After the sport, Karl lets the car drive him home. While driving, the car warns him that the battery needs charging. With Karl’s permission, the car then drives itself to the nearest charging station, charges the battery, pays, and brings Karl home, who then logs out again.
During the loan, several microtransactions were made between the accounts of the machines and people. The car paid the parking fee and battery charge to other machines, while at the same time withdrawing money from Karl’s account for the time of the loan, energy consumption, and parking time. The payments are made in real-time, so Sarah received several microtransactions for time and energy consumption during the loan, while the car, in turn, withdrew money from its account for battery charging.
One of the many projects dedicated to this topic is IOTA, for example.
In the above example, people and machines communicate and interact with each other without any uncertainties. The information about use and possession is safely and constantly stored in the blockchain system, while smart contracts help carry out tens of automated actions and payments. While the former technologies ensure that autonomous, intelligent machines can communicate with each other at all, the blockchain technology ensures that they do so in interaction with humans in a trustworthy, tamper-proof, and automated manner. This machine-machine and human-machine interaction can be extended indefinitely by means of blockchain infrastructure, wherever machines are used. Since the number of machines and the use of autonomously acting machines will be strongly increased in the future, especially by the Internet of Things, interesting projects and developments of the blockchain technology are also awaiting us here.
Nowadays, anyone who wants to take out an insurance policy or obtain payment due to their insurer in the event of a claim must expect a great deal of administrative work. This starts on the one hand, with the registration of an insurance. Insurance companies want to assess risks, as well as possible. In order to ensure this, they obtain the necessary information at the appropriate expense. On the one hand, they use individual information from existing medical records or fill out questionnaires. On the other hand, they use and analyze huge amounts of statistical data, some of which have been created specifically. For example, a storm insurance company uses comprehensive statistical analyses of environmental conditions in corresponding areas.
The second high effort for the insurers is the evaluation of damages and the respective claim. Depending on the case, questionnaires have to be filled out again, photos, videos, and witnesses have to be used as evidence, or even experts and lawyers have to be commissioned. This effort affects insurers and insured and results in increased costs for both. Furthermore, mutual trust is disturbed by a non-transparent flow of information reinforced by insurance fraudsters on the one hand and the commercial interests of the insurance companies.
Blockchain offers several advantages in this intransparent and suspicious environment. Of course, there are still complex insurance cases that cannot be processed without human experts. Nevertheless, blockchain and intelligent contracts can already provide exciting solutions for some insurance cases.
On the one hand, individuals can upload their complete personal data to Blockchain and release it selectively when necessary to affiliated insurance companies, doctors, or authorities. Since this information is fraud-proof and verified, this reduces all parties’ effort and costs and allows for individualized tariffs. In addition to the healthcare industry, a good example is a car insurance company. Information on the driving and accident behavior of a person stored by the Federal Motor Transport Authority could automatically and quickly calculate individual insurance tariffs to use a car-sharing offer.
With regard to the payment of benefits, the first blockchain-based solutions are already in place, which is used to ensure against possible flight cancellations. Here, the blockchain network is connected to a worldwide air traffic database, which automatically recognizes whether and to what extent flights are canceled. Smart Contracts are used to make automated payments to the insured parties as soon as the network receives corresponding information about flight cancellations. Compared to the previous process, where claims for damages had to be made via the airline or complicated online consumer portals, this means an enormous reduction in costs.
The insurance industry’s opportunities and participating parties seem immense, as mutual trust is made partially superfluous. In the area of individual calculation of tariffs, the information storage and selective information transfer of a blockchain system can create a completely new infrastructure, while smart contracts through automated payments of compensation claims mean an enormous increase in efficiency, leading to lower costs for all participants. The complexity of the insurance industry suggests that completely automated and transparent processes in all areas are utopian.
However, there are developments in some areas that suggest the potential for far-reaching changes through the use of blockchain technology. It will be exciting to see which areas will be affected in addition to the examples already described.
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