You probably all know and understand Bitcoin, currently the most popular cryptocurrency. What makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies great are their superfast transfer times and very low fees. The coin side of Bitcoin is not that difficult to grasp for even a newbie – think of it as digital cash if you like. If email is the digital letter then Bitcoin is the online and digital equivalent of money. You can purchase goods with Bitcoin. Send money easily to almost any part of the world. On top of this you can make nice profits trading Bitcoin on an exchange thanks to its volatility.
Bitcoin came with such panache, promising to revolutionize today’s banking system. And it is gradually doing exactly that. It can easily undercut the fees of traditional cross border payment systems and banks. And it does that by design – the decentralized open source technology. But this is not what I want to talk about today. My focus in this article is about the technology that made Bitcoin possible – blockchain. Let’s have a look at what other opportunities, gimmicks and great new use cases that blockchain can and has delivered.
Different uses for blockchain
Blockchain is said to drastically change how we do things on the internet nowadays. I totally agree. The dot com bubble brought us a whole new world and things have grown rapidly ever since. I remember the times when surfing on the internet took loads of time. The dial-up connection took time to connect and then the pages just loaded for ages. At the time of course it didn’t seem like that. The fact that I can type in a word or a question and get an answer, read articles, find businesses and play games was almost mind blowing. I still fondly remember the 90’s modem dial up sounds. Right now the story is much different of course – you can get a 300 Mbit connection on my mobile phone. You can start a company, pay taxes, get a degree, find out how far the nearest galaxy is just with a few clicks. Innovation is happening. The internet has brought us great things and blockchain will bring even more. These are just a few things you can already do with and thanks to blockchain:
- Digital Identity
The wonder of blockchain if you like, is one of its key features – the fact that is decentralized. This means you do not need to go through an authority like a bank, government etc. The proof lies in the network. You can identify yourself through the network. One of the most known projects of identification with blockchain is probably Bitnation. They provide so many awesome features. The idea is to set up systems for self governance. The modern anarchy. To make the world a better place by removing the unnecessary bureaucracy. You can get a Bitnation citizenship and do so much more.
Another option for an online identity is Shocard. The idea behind this in my opinion is great. A way to exchange ID that doesn’t require sharing your personal info every time. They do this through blockchain so you don’t have to leave your ID with them either. Let’s be honest, sharing your personal information to the scale that we do nowadays is just not safe. About 15 million people in the US alone fall victim of identity theft every year. That is an insane amount. And your ID is required on a daily basis even for some basic transactions. Sending or receiving parcels, picking up your prescription drugs, in some countries even when buying a bus ticket. Now yes identifying a customer is something a business needs to do but do you definitely need to leave your details with them after you’ve been identified?
There are many more businesses developing this idea, onename for example is more for networking and getting in touch with other users. You can either create a personal or a business profile and share your blockchain ID on your web page, social media or anywhere you like. So other users can find you easily online.
- Smart Contracts
This is one of my favourite innovations that blockchain has brought us. Yes, it is still very much in the beginning but it will revolutionize so many aspects of business and also personal transactions. This will drastically cut the cost and time of putting together legally binding documents. I have attended many meetups and lectures on this topic and it truly excites me. One of the possibilities that are now being tested are online contract templates – not in the traditional sense but the terms and timeframes are recorded in blockchain and timestamped. Basically what a notary or a lawyer does, but digitally. One of the options is Bitnation. You could for example get married on blockchain.
For simpler transactions you could try Smartcontract. What this brings you is verification of your data and an awesome feature for contracts that require payment – they are automatically collected on time. It is also fully fraud and tamper proof. These contracts are computable self-executing ones, they verify whether the conditions have been met. For example: action x triggers y, if conditions are not met z happens. In earth terms: if you were to sell a car, the date of payment would be specified and the payment collected automatically. If that were to not happen, it would trigger a fee or whatever specified in the contract. In short this is essentially automating legally binding documents, cutting down the cost and human resources needed in the process.
- Blockchain automation
This is another use of blockchain that I am particularly fond of. This technology could be used at home for simple things online. What I mean specifically is the Internet of Things. If you are unsure about what this is here’s a simple explanation:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.
Basically, if you have a more modern washing machine or any other appliance for that matter it can connect to the internet to perform certain functions. This is mostly used for monitoring the device’s progress. Also you can control them via an app in your phone for example, let’s say turn up the temperature on your heat pump when you’re away.
So where does blockchain come into this? For example if you were to run a cafe and are running low on coffee beans. Instead of the normal way – you detect that the amount of beans is low, so you call your provider for some more. Through the blockchain your devices could automatically send out an alert to your provider and also make a payment, they will then send out a delivery for your goods. Essentially you’re saving minutes from this simple transaction.
There are so many simple and meaningless, yet important tasks that could be totally automated. This sometimes could raise concerns like – people would lose their jobs, robots would take over the world etc. The latter is of course a concern, we’ve all seen at least one science fiction piece on that but that’s probably not a concern yet. Automating meaningless tasks will let us humans deal with the things that a machine cannot do. We have a wonderful ability – creativity. And by removing the day to day tasks that do not require any we opening up to a new world full of ideas.