When most people think of blockchain technology, their mind immediately goes to Bitcoin or another popular digital currency. While the future of money may reside with the blockchain, the technology promises to create other far-reaching changes as well. Several hundred practical applications already employ blockchain technology and the benefits it has to offer. While some applications are fun and silly (think Cryptokitties), others appear to provide deep and lasting changes to society. Below are seven surprising and exciting ways that blockchain is being used today.
Preventing Voter Fraud
Since blockchain records are immutable, blockchain technology promises to end voter fraud. Indeed, it seems like a natural fit for this use-case, given that it can quickly and securely store individual voting preferences. It would also streamline voter registration rolls by eliminating duplicate registrations between states and localities. Even elections themselves could be tracked so as to minimize election tampering. And by preventing voter fraud, blockchain technology promises to lend greater legitimacy to elections held throughout the world. And in the end, it would also ensure that the will of the people was realized.
Grocery shoppers are becoming ever more cognizant about where their food originates from. Almost every month, a news story alerts the public about some food contamination that results in consumer illness. Being universal, blockchain technology could track down where each food item originates as well as its path along the supply chain. Consequently, health officials could quickly identify any contaminated food and remove it from the market.
Moreover, many consumers are deliberately procuring local foodstuffs as a means to help their local economy. Being able to easily source such items would go a long way in promoting this trend. IBM has already announced a blockchain-based food safety project designed to help consumers determine where their foodstuffs originate from. Major food companies including Dole, Kroger, Nestle, Tyson Foods, and even Walmart have expressed interest in becoming project partners.
Tracking Dental Records
Dental records are primarily used by dentists to track dental health, plan dental procedures, and ensure that dental work is performed correctly. Dentacoin is now placing dental records on the blockchain so that those who need them can more easily access them. Their highly secure system enables patients to share their dental records with only those they choose. Dentacoin also intends to track dental tools and materials, thereby ensuring that they’re appropriately sourced and used only on the patients they were designed for. This capability would invariably cut down on dental mistakes and improve individual dental health.
Hiring & Paying Freelance Workers
Freelance work has been growing at an incredible pace over the past decade, and this trend is only expected to continue. Although freelance work is incredibly popular, businesses find hiring and payment process time-consuming and highly inefficient. At present, most freelancers get paid via PayPal, a payment system with high fees and limited geographic availability. In the not-too-distant future, businesses will find that hiring and compensating such workers is best performed on the blockchain. As several platforms already pay workers using crypto, it is not hard to see how effective this will be.
Creating & Running Loyalty Programs
Businesses typically promote rewards programs to ensure customer retention. However, several blockchain projects are working to take loyalty programs to the next level, combining multiple loyalty programs and offering unique cross-promotional opportunities. Such projects may prove revolutionary in how they market to existing customers. Several businesses have already expressed interest in participating in a blockchain based rewards system, so it is only a matter of time before this becomes the standard.
Proving Your ID
For most people today, verifying your identity means providing some combination of driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate, or another document. With several billion people in the world, the number of potential identification documents expands dramatically and with it the risk of fraud. In addition, many countries have no system in place to properly verify a person’s identification, making participation in global markets a problematic endeavor.
Several companies, including Civic and IBM’s Blockchain Division, are seeking to verify every individual’s ID by using blockchain technology. Once verified, each person would be able to share their personal information with only those they choose to. This capability would reduce the risk of ID theft and simplify one’s ability to prove their identity. Moreover, blockchain users could login to websites and services without having to memorize IDs and passwords!
Ending Knock-Off Products
Ever see a great deal on a Rolex watch, Gucci handbag, or another luxury item, but worry that it might be a fake? Well, blockchain technology may put an end to counterfeit luxury items, and just about any other item as well. Several companies are offering supply chain management technologies on the blockchain, most notably Chronicled and VeChain.
When a product brand uses their service, they enter their products onto the blockchain for tracking and verification by consumers. As a result, potential buyers reviewing a brand-new luxury item could scan its QR code to access information about it, including where it was manufactured when it came out of the warehouse, and which retailer is selling it. Of course, every brand product may also have extraneous information about it placed on the blockchain, all of which furthers the authentication process and reduces the risk of buying a knock-off product.
The Future is On the Blockchain
These are just some of the more exciting and innovative ways that blockchain is being used, or will be used, to change the way the world runs today and in the future. As more and more individuals and businesses begin using blockchain and understanding its potential, there is little doubt that nearly every aspect of our lives will be changed and improved by this revolutionary technology.