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Blockchain Business Applications: Far Beyond Bitcoin

Posted by Ho Nguyen

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Known as the technology behind bitcoin, blockchain has created a profound impact on the financial industry and beyond. But its potential is much more far-reaching and not limited to cryptocurrency. As blockchain continues to evolve, the list of its business applications just keeps expanding.

Infographic: Blockchain explained in 3 minutes

Blockchain applications in businesses

Blockchain applications in your businesses

In some cases, bitcoin is considered the public currency today due to its being impossible to fake and the ability to keep the user identity tightly secure. As a result, bitcoin is notoriously big in the black market.

However, blockchain underlines many possible business applications, and if utilised correctly in an appropriate setting, it can benefit the end users as well. It is possible to say that there will be a future where blockchain transforms every aspect of our day-to-day business, starting with the following applications.

Read more: Benefits and challenges of blockchain

Smart contracts

The traditional contracts tend to be complex, and error-prone. The process sometimes requires a third party to oversee the terms in the contract, which would lead to more stress, time-consuming and other costly fees.

Read more: 7 worst financial fiascos caused by Excel errors

The term “smart contract” is not new. It was first introduced way back in 1993 and is just recently resurfaced thanks to the release of the Ethereum Project, a blockchain-enabled computing platform. In simple terms, smart contracts are computer protocols that are digitally facilitated, verified, and enforced.

Smart contracts run on the Ethereum platform is guaranteed to act exactly as programmed but minus the downtime, fraud, or any third party interference. An example of how smart contracts can be useful is in the music industry.

The music industry has experienced a big shift during the past decade due to the growth of various social media and digital platforms causing the consumers to change their preferred methods of consuming music. Today, digital music accounted for half of the revenue in the music industry in 2016 alone.

The problem is the music industry deals with a lot of ownership rights, royalty distribution, and transparency which are often overlooked in the digital world. Music streaming services like Spotify has an additional layer of intermediaries to manage and ensure the artists’ rights.

Blockchain and smart contracts offer complete transparency by removing all the layers of intermediaries. This innovative method enables a direct payment from fans to the artists (with digital currency) in real time to aid the royalty issues.

Cloud storage

No one doubts cloud computing capabilities. However, there have been reported cases of a breach in the security system. This sparks the question, whether cloud computing is truly secure as it claimed?

Blockchain applications in businesses

This is where blockchain comes in. Blockchain provides a decentralised cloud storage where files are shattered into pieces and spread across multiple nodes. These pieces are encrypted with a private key, only you (the data owner) possess the key to the data.

Private data stored on these decentralised networks is impossible to hack, alter, or even read as the files now are just a fraction of their original forms. Additional copies of the files are also created in case of data loss or deletion.

Read more: What 'Transformers' can teach us about enterprise IT security

Companies like Sia and Storj are the perfect examples of utilising blockchain in cloud storage. These two companies also go a step further in which they incentivise users for renting out their excess hard drive space to further decrease the cost of storage while increasing bandwidth, capacity and security. The concept is fairly similar to how you rent out your extra room on Airbnb or ridesharing with others via apps like Grab and Uber.

Read more: How Grab uses data analytics to refine new products

Shawn Wilkinson, Storj Founder, commented: “Considering the world spends more than $22 billion on cloud storage alone, this could open a revenue stream for average users, while significantly reducing the cost to store data for companies and personal users.”

Supply chain management

Blockchain was created for the fintech industry, but it “flourishes” the most when applied in the supply chain. The manufacturing industry is an interconnected network of not only one or two suppliers, but with multiple suppliers, each contributes a specific component to the making of the final products. If one supplier in the network fails, it would negatively impact the entire chain and the brand.

Read more: Data analytics for manufacturing - the Tesla's case study

Implementing blockchain into supply chain sensors can help the vendors to gain maximum visibility at every stage of the production. Skuchain, a US blockchain company, utilises such technology to build a seamless supply chain and logistics management system.

In addition, combining radio-frequency identification (RFID), one of Internet-of-things innovations, with blockchain also proves to have significantly improved the supply chain efficiency.

Data on the location and conditions are also updated in real time, thus, once the products arrived at the warehouse, the staff does not have to scan each pallet again to notify the system that the goods have arrived, the integrated RFID technology has already done the work for them.

Skuchain’s blockchain elements empower companies to gain better control of their entire supply chain whilst reduce stock wastage and increase efficiency.

Cross-border payments

International money transfers are downright complicated, obscenely costly and lengthy. Money was put into the wrong account, or money is being laundered across the globe are just a few examples of how cash can bleed out of your pocket.

Read more: Cash flow management - "Control the uncontrolled"

Let’s say, for example, your workforce is dispersed in multiple locations across the globe. Hence, you have to pay in the local currencies. There are 3 pain points when it comes to money being transferred internationally:

  • Speed: the average time for one cross-border transaction to take place is 3 to 5 business days.
  • Fees: there will certainly be all sort of fees accumulated at every step of the transfer: transfer fee from one bank to another, foreign exchange fee, processing fee, the fee for when the value of your transfer exceeds the bank limit, etc.
  • Transparency: it is extremely difficult for both the senders and the receivers to track the payment, or pinpoint the exact time when the money will land.

Leveraging the fame associated with Bitcoin, blockchain is now being incorporated with other money transfer platforms, such as Bitspark and Abra, to provide 24/7 international money transfer functionalities in a highly secure and timely manner.

Furthermore, all involved parties are able to track their money with every step of the way. All information is stored, shared or uploaded through a blockchain remittance platform to be encrypted further to protect the user’s privacy.

However, this new method of cross-border payment is not entirely free. Some instances still require the sender to convert to Bitcoin prior to the initial transferring, and when the transfer is complete, the receivers then exchange Bitcoin for the local currencies. Though not as expensive and time-consuming as the traditional method, this method still incurs a cost and some level of complexity.

The world of blockchain is still surrounding with tons of noises, the majority of them are good, other news is just simply bad enough to tarnish the reputation of blockchain and its potential applications. However, the benefits the blockchain brings are certainly revolutionary and impossible to ignore. And various aspects of our business can utilise these smart contracts, cloud storage and blockchain enabled supply chain management to resolve our daily issues and kick things up a notch.

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