There’s no denying the impact blockchain has had on the world recently.
Without it, we wouldn’t have Bitcoin or any of the other cryptocurrencies that have caused such a stir over the last few years.
We wouldn’t have governments, banks and the world’s leading financial institutions scrambling to cope with the questions it raises over the flawed system they preside over.
However, blockchain isn’t limited to the application of digital currencies.
We’re already starting to see a wide range of areas where the technology can transform the way we collect and share information, in a way that’s going to affect just about every industry that exists.
Hence, we researched five ways blockchain will change the world, based on what we already know about the technology and predicting where it can take us further.
Blockchain vs Bitcoin And Other Cryptocurrencies
Blockchain technology is used by Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies gaining so much attention right now. This is what makes the instant transfers, low fees, security and decentralisation that cryptocurrencies are famous for possible.
In the same way, cloud computing services from Google, Microsoft, IBM and other suppliers all rely on the same cloud technology, the significant cryptocurrencies all are dependent on the blockchain.
Bitcoin has its blockchain, as does Ethereum and there are thousands of others acting as digital public ledgers where every transaction is securely documented and encrypted.
Most importantly, this data can’t be changed by any individual. Because blockchain data is shared across peer-to-peer networks, any changes need to match up across every copy of the same data, which makes it challenging to commit fraudulent transactions or fix figures on a blockchain.
Likewise, each transaction is 100% traceable, and this is where blockchain becomes an essential technology beyond cryptocurrencies.
#1: Cryptocurrency Will Change The Way You Handle Money
The most obvious way blockchain is going to change the world is the way people handle money.
The technology still needs time to mature, but the prospect of instant payments to anyone in the world, at minimal cost, is becoming very real.
Beyond this, blockchain technology gives you a decentralised alternative to using banks for your financial needs – and you only have to look at how the big banks attacked Bitcoin to see how worried they are.
In theory, cryptocurrencies could take banks and national currencies out of the equation entirely. Sadly, this won’t happen because the banks and major financial institutions know they can’t ignore this technology.
They also know they can be among the most prominent winners of the blockchain boom if they adopt it as quickly as possible – and this is the game plan.
Either way, the rise of blockchain will force banks to rethink the way they operate and potentially reduce their influence over governments – remember the £500 billion bailout Brits had to pay for in 2008 because banks proved how useless they could be with money?
Blockchain puts more power in the hands of currency owners while driving down the cost of storing and moving wealth.
In turn, this will make banking cheaper for the banks who adopt the technology most effectively, and some of this will be passed on to their customers. But the fact there are decentralised alternatives to storing your money in a bank will mean they can’t call all the shots anymore.
For more information and real-life examples, read our guide to What Is Cryptocurrency.
#2: Digital Payments Change The Way You Do Business
At the corporate level, blockchain promises to make international business far easier to operate. You can kiss goodbye to currency exchange rates and frustrating delays when sending and receiving payments.
Those precious few percent on each transaction add up to a lot over the course of a year and cutting out this unnecessary expense will be a significant gain for any business operating on the international stage.
Another major impact blockchain is already having on business is something called smart contracts.
Unlike regular contracts which are only enforceable by law, smart contracts are mostly programs that execute functions agreed between two or more parties.
So let’s say your business has agreed to pay another 100 ether coins, as long as specific criteria are met. Your smart contract will automatically transfer those funds when the necessary criteria are met, which means there’s no room for breaking terms.
Forget the expensive lawsuits; if the terms aren’t met, the funds aren’t sent, and there’s no argument to be made.
Blockchain technology is also changing the way businesses pay their employees.
Bitwage, claims to be the world’s first Bitcoin-based payroll service, promising to:
“circumvent the costly fees associated with transferring money internationally, as well as the time it takes for such funds to move from bank to bank, payments made via Bitcoin can save both money and time for employers and employees alike.”
So, aside from dealing with other businesses overseas, paying international workforces is also about to get a lot cheaper for brands that want to expand their global presence.
The internet has already made remote employment more manageable for businesses, but the privilege comes at a cost – one that blockchain is drastically reducing.
#3: More Protection From Scams, Theft And Illness
When you pay for something, you like to buy with confidence. Online shopping puts new products at your fingertips, but it doesn’t always guarantee you’ll get the item you order or that it will be genuine.
It’s pretty disheartening when those unbelievable prices on designer gear turn out to be too good for real, and you’ve got a bunch of fake Louis Vuitton merchandise on your hands.
With blockchain, the entire manufacturing and distribution path of a product is openly accessible, making it very difficult to counterfeit goods. This is about much bigger things than fake handbags, too.
Many developing countries have severe problems with counterfeit drugs being sold in pharmacies and contaminated foods being sold at markets. Without any accountability, people live their lives without being able to trust the food they eat or the medicine they take.
Besides buying things with more confidence, blockchain technology can also help protect you against theft.
Every product you buy can be digitally stamped to say it’s yours and this ownership can be instantly transferred if you choose to sell an item on to someone else.
Crucially, if anything you own gets stolen, it’ll still have your digital ownership stamped on it, and its location history will be readily trackable, making petty theft mostly pointless.
Healthcare is another industry that’s already transforming thanks to blockchain technology.
A more secure approach to collecting, storing and accessing data means medical histories are better protected, administration costs are slashed, and hospitals can focus on saving lives rather than falling behind with paperwork.
Guardian Circle is a security firm that wants to use blockchain to improve the role of emergency services.
After one of his family members suffered a stroke while home alone, founder Mark Jeffrey was inspired to seek a better system than the conventional emergency services call.
Using blockchain, Guardium provides a system that instantly alerts a list of people – friends, family, medical professionals, security staff, etc. – at the push of a button. It also shares your location and allows people to communicate so the fastest response can be coordinated between the people closest to you.
#4: Blockchain Will Change The Way You Travel, Vote And Identify Yourself
Last month, Canada announced plans to create a blockchain traveller ID scheme, in partnership with SecureKey and IBM.
The initiative will make it easier for Canadians to travel around the world by reducing waiting times at airports and borders. With IDs instantly verifiable, travellers don’t even need to wait until they get to the airport to get clearance for their next trip.
The technology can also streamline visa applications, backgrounds checks for overseas employment and other documentation issues – e.g., getting a passport verified at the last minute.
Above all, digital IDs will significantly improve security in a way that reduces the inconvenience on the vast majority of travellers who just want to get to their destination as quickly and safely as possible.
Canada isn’t the only country moving to blockchain identification either.
Singapore is working on options for a national identification system that could rely on blockchain and Estonia has already implemented KSI, a digital identity scheme using the technology. India, Kazakhstan and Japan are among the other countries already known to be testing similar applications.
Digital IDs also provide a more secure system for elections by making voter fraud, hackings and data loss almost impossible.
This promises to make elections more transparent, which will be particularly welcome in countries where violence mars polls due to accusations of corruption.
Most importantly, digital IDs will make identity theft and fraud far more difficult. For most of us, this removes concerns about credit card bills, contracts and other expenses stacking up without our knowledge.
On a larger scale, it also means issues like human trafficking, illegal immigration and other major humanitarian concerns will be easier for authorities to deal with.
#5: It’ll Change The Way You Buy Property
Last year, Lev Loginov, co-founder of property investment company London Wall, put a £18 million London mansion up for sale.
The thing is you can only buy the property in Bitcoin and this is by no means the only example of crypto property listings – nor is it reserved for the rich. In fact, the first property to be sold using cryptocurrency was a £45,000 apartment in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
So what’s the big fuss about?
Well, a cryptocurrency property market cuts out the middlemen for the buyers and sellers alike. You can bypass real estate agents, lawyers, banks and all the added costs that come with them.
And with the power of smart contracts, you can buy and sell with a new kind of confidence that doesn’t require the expensive legal team backing you up.
In the case of buying property overseas, you’ll be able to operate with more confidence, too. For example, it will be easier to check that the person you’re buying a property from also owns the land its built on.
Of course, this doesn’t change anything regarding local land and property regulations, but the administrative process will be much faster and more secure.
Blockchain Technology Is Going To Change Everything
The key takeaway from this article is understanding that blockchain is much bigger than Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency.
Yes, this is a technology that’s transforming the way people buy, store and transfer wealth, but it stretches far beyond the finance sector.
Blockchain is revolutionising the way data shared and verified across every industry, which means it’s going to change the way hospitals deal with your medical records, governments confirm your travel details and retailers handle your consumer concerns.
It’s not all about corporate power, though.
In fact, the entire concept of blockchain is about taking this power back from centralised, third-party systems and handing some of the say back to users instead.
You’ll have more control over your finances, better insights into what you’re buying and the reassurance of knowing that your money and identity is better protected every step of the way.
In the early days of the internet, nobody could have predicted the impact things like Facebook and Google would have on our daily lives. It was the same when Apple released the first iPhone, and the mobile web put every digital interaction at our fingertips. These are just a few of the ways technology is changing our lives.
The five ways blockchain will change the world presented in this article are more examples of the paradigm shift we are experiencing with the development of improved technologies.
However, in these early days of the blockchain boom, there’s no predicting how much impact the technology will have on our daily lives. But rest assured, the blockchain will have an effect.
For more detailed information on blockchain and its technicalities, visit our guide to What Is Blockchain Technology.