Banking isn't the only industry that could be affected by blockchain tech. Law enforcement, ride-hailing, and many other sectors could also have blockchain in their future.
What began as the basis of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain technology — essentially a virtual ledger capable of recording and verifying a high volume of digital transactions — is now spreading across a wave of industries.
Blockchain tech has gone far beyond its beginnings in banking and cryptocurrency: In 2019, businesses are expected to spend $2.9B on the technology, up almost 90% from 2018, according to IDC. Industries from insurance to gaming to cannabis are starting to see blockchain applications.
Bitcoin’s popularity helped demonstrate blockchain’s application in finance, but entrepreneurs have come to believe blockchain could transform many more industries. Ultimately, the use cases for a transparent, verifiable register of transaction data are practically endless — especially since blockchain operates through a decentralized platform requiring no central supervision, making it resistant to fraud.
As companies use blockchain to drive greater transparency and veracity across the digital information ecosystem, they’re boosting awareness of the technology in sectors ranging from infrastructure to public policy. Here are the latest innovative ways companies are harnessing the power of global blockchain.
Banking is just the beginning. From a macro perspective, banks serve as the critical storehouses and transfer hubs of value. As a digitized, secure, and tamper-proof ledger, blockchain could serve the same function, injecting enhanced accuracy and information-sharing into the financial services ecosystem.
Swiss bank UBS and UK-based Barclays are both experimenting with blockchain as a way to expedite back office functions and settlement, which some in the banking industry say could cut up to $20B in middleman costs.
In May 2019, Barclays invested in Crowdz, a blockchain-based B2B payments startup that helps companies collect payments and automate digital invoices.
Blockchain is also growing as a solution aimed at reducing the cost of cross-border transactions, which accounted for 27% of global transaction revenue in 2017, according to McKinsey. Blockchain company Ripple has partnered with financial institutions like Santander and Western Union with the goal of improving the efficiency of cross-border transactions.
Blockchain startup BanQu is working with AB InBev to facilitate payments to cassava farmers in Zambia. BanQu’s platform tracks the farmers’ products through the supply chain and then provides digital payments to farmers via their mobile phones, even if they don’t have bank accounts.
JP Morgan is also entering the blockchain space with the JPM Coin, which it intends to use to facilitate transactions between institutional accounts.
2. MESSAGING APPS
Encrypted messaging app Telegram raised $1.7B from private investors before canceling the public sale of its planned $1.2B initial coin offering (ICO). Around a year later, the company launched the test client for its blockchain-based TON (Telegram Open Network). Telegraph’s TON Labs has also partnered with Wirecard, a European financial services entity, to build a digital banking platform.
3. Hedge Funds
Backed by names including First Round Capital and Union Square Ventures, Numerai is taking the hedge fund model — employing a bunch of traders and quants — and decentralizing it. Numerai sends its thousands of disparately located quants encrypted datasets and asks them to build predictive models, and the best contributors are rewarded with Numerai’s token called Numeraire. Then, Numerai takes the strategy and creates a meta-model to make trades. In some ways it’s a blockchain-based spin on Quantopian‘s model for rewarding data scientists, except it’s less a competition and more an invisible collaboration.
Elections require authentication of voters’ identity, secure record keeping to track votes, and trusted tallies to determine the winner. In the future, blockchain tools could serve as a foundational infrastructure for casting, tracking, and counting votes — potentially eliminating the need for recounts by taking voter fraud and foul play off the table.
By capturing votes as transactions through blockchain, governments and voters would have a verifiable audit trail, ensuring no votes are changed or removed and no illegitimate votes are added. One blockchain voting startup, Follow My Vote, has released the alpha version of its stake-weighted end-to-end blockchain voting solution.
Agora is an organization which has developed a blockchain-based way to cast a vote digitally. The technology aims to prevent election fraud by using a custom blockchain record. The platform was tested in a limited capacity during elections in Sierra Leone in 2018 and showed results close to those from official tallies.
5. Internet identity & DNS
In the current web, it’s difficult to establish your true identity, and your personal information lives on company servers for apps you use with little inter-operability (even using Facebook as a log-in only gets you so far). Platforms like Blockstack and uPort think there’s a future where your identity can be easily carried with you around the internet. On Blockstack, for instance, a user will access apps atop decentralized networks, and have perfect portability of their data.
6. Critical Infrastructure Security
The current internet architecture has proven easy to hack, especially when it comes to IoT devices. As critical infrastructure like power plants and transportation all become equipped with connected sensors, the risks to civil society as we know it are great. Companies like Xage, for example, are employing blockchain’s tamperproof ledgers to sharing security data across industrial device networks.
Though blockchain’s ledger is public, its data communications are sent and verified using advanced cryptographic techniques — ensuring that data is coming from correct sources and that nothing is intercepted in the interim. Thus, if blockchain is more widely adopted, the probability of hacking could go down, as the cyberprotections of the technology are more robust than legacy systems.
Other potential applications include using blockchain to provide massive scale data authentication. For example, using its blockchain-enabled KSI (Keyless Signature Infrastructure), cybersecurity startup Guardtime tags and verifies data transactions.
7. Ride sharing
Ride apps like Uber and Lyft represent the opposite of decentralization, since they essentially operate as dispatching hubs and use algorithms to control their fleets of drivers (and dictate what they charge). Blockchain could inject new options into that dynamic: with a distributed ledger, drivers and riders could create a more user-driven, value-oriented marketplace.
Startup Arcade City, for example, facilitates all transactions through a blockchain system. Arcade City operates similarly to other ride-sharing companies but allows drivers to establish their rates (taking a percentage of rider fares) with the blockchain logging all interactions.
This allows Arcade City to appeal to professional drivers, who would rather build up their own transportation businesses than be controlled from a corporate headquarters: drivers on Arcade City are free to set their own rates, build their own recurring customer base, and offer additional services like deliveries or roadside assistance.
8. Internet advertising
The internet as we know it emerged with ad hoc solutions for advertising. In aggregate, ads add tons of mobile data usage to loading web pages, and both advertisers and consumers suffer from any lack of protocols.
Brave recently ICOed its Basic Attention Token (BAT) to compensate advertisers and users. Instead of a middleman like Google or Facebook’s ad arm, advertisers will list directly onto Brave’s blockchain-based browser. Users who opt in receive fewer, but better targeted ads without the malware. And advertisers get better data on their spending.
Blockstack works a little differently, aiming to keep people who are browsing free from unwanted targeted ads. Essentially, its approach seeks to remove the person’s identity from their activity.
Snovio is another option that lets people sell their personal data and gain SNOV tokens.
9. Crypto Exchanges
One way blockchain reduces conventional cybersecurity risk is by simply removing the need for human intermediaries — thus lessening the threat of hacking, corruption, or human error.
Ironically, some of blockchain’s most successful companies are fairly centralized middlemen, and many new projects are “dogfooding” the buying and selling of blockchain-based currency by putting the whole exchange on a blockchain.
One high profile project here is Enigma, which claims MIT and Flybridge Capital as supporters. Enigma is the developer of Catalyst, an off-chain decentralized exchange and investment platform that works without the need of a third party to act as clearing house.
Another high-profile decentralized exchange is Ethererum-based 0x.
10. education and academia
By nature, academic credentials must be universally recognized and verifiable. In both the primary/secondary schooling and university environments, verifying academic credentials remains largely a manual process (heavy on paper documentation and case-by-case checking).
Deploying blockchain solutions in education could streamline verification procedures, thereby reducing fraudulent claims of un-earned educational credits.
Sony Global Education, for example, has developed a new educational platform in partnership with IBM that uses blockchain to secure and share student records.
Learning Machine, a 10-year-old software startup, has collaborated with MIT Media Lab to launch of the Blockcerts toolset, which provides an open infrastructure for academic credentials on the blockchain.
Education organization KnowledgeWorks released a report of how blockchain could work in primary k-12 schools. The report described how blockchain technology could possibly be used to simplify administrative tasks, decentralize learning materials to make them more accessible, create a network for parents to share experiences, and store learning-related data.
11. Car leasing and sales
The experience of leasing, buying, or selling a vehicle is a notoriously fragmented process for stakeholders on all sides of a transaction, but the blockchain could change that.
In 2015, Visa partnered with transaction management startup DocuSign on a proof-of-concept project that used blockchain to streamline car leasing — transforming it into a “click, sign, and drive” process.
With the Visa-DocuSign tool, prospective customers choose the car they want to lease and the transaction is entered on the blockchain’s public ledger. Then, from the driver’s seat, the customer signs a lease agreement and an insurance policy, and the blockchain is updated with that information.
If the technology were to be implemented in practice, it’s not a stretch to imagine that a process of this sort might be developed for car sales and registration as well.
12. Industrial IoT & Mesh Networking
IBM and Samsung have been working on a concept known as ADEPT (Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry), which uses blockchain-type technology to form the backbone of a decentralized network of IoT devices. With ADEPT, a blockchain would serve as a public ledger for a massive amount of devices, which would no longer need a central hub to mediate communication between them.
Without a central control system to identify one another, the devices would be able to communicate with one another autonomously to manage software updates, bugs, or energy management.
Some startups are looking to build blockchain technology into an IoT platform as well. For example, Filament (formerly Pinocchio) provides a decentralized network for IoT sensors to communicate with each other.
By encrypting down to the hardware level and leveraging blockchain technology, Filament’s decentralized network stack allows any device to connect, interact, and transact independent of a central authority.
13. Cloud Storage
Enterprises that offer cloud storage often secure customers’ data in a centralized server, which can mean increased network vulnerability from attacks by hackers. Blockchain cloud storage solutions allow storage to be decentralized — and therefore less prone to attacks that can cause systemic damage and widespread data loss.
Dubbed the “Airbnb for file storage,” Filecoin is a high-profile crypto project that rewards the hosting of files. This could help create a decentralized version of S3 from Amazon Web Services.
The company behind it, Protocol Labs, has garnered investment from Union Square Ventures, Naval Ravikant, and The Winklevosses, among a number of prominent names. But Filecoin is just one of many projects in this area, and other token names in storage include Storj and Siacoin.
Storj offers a blockchain-enabled cloud storage network to improve security and lower the transaction costs of storing information in the cloud. Storj users can also rent out their unused digital storage space in a peer-to-peer manner, potentially creating a new market for crowdsourced cloud storage capacity.
14. Cloud computing
Blockchain-based processing projects like Golem are allowing users to rent out their CPU capacity and be rewarded with tokens. Similarly, Ethereum itself has been informally called the “world’s supercomputer” because of its ability to execute smart contracts and its mining is ASIC resistant (allowing everyday PC owners to compete proportionally with big mining operations).
Salesforce, which provides cloud solutions for businesses, recently announced Salesforce Blockchain. The product builds on the CRM software Salesforce is known for with smart contracts and blockchain-based data sharing.
As more industries embrace blockchain in a holistic way, the research, analysis, consulting, and forecasting industries could also be shaken up by the technology: with an unshakably accurate transaction record supporting their data analysis, forecasting operations will have a stronger foundation for using machine learning algorithms to cultivate targeted predictions and insights.
Even now, blockchain is creating new a new “predictions market.” Augur, built on the Ethereum blockchain, allows users to forecast events and be rewarded for predicting them correctly.
The service remains in beta, but the company says the entire process will be decentralized and will enable users to place bets not only on sports and stocks, but on other topics such as elections and natural disasters.
16. music/ENTERTAINMENT RIGHTS and ip
Entertainment entrepreneurs are turning to the blockchain to make content sharing fairer for creators using smart contracts, whereby the revenue on purchases of creative work can be automatically disseminated according to pre-determined licensing agreements.
Muzika, a blockchain-based music streaming platform, partnered with Binance, a crypto-exchange network, to try and help independent artists make money from their listeners. Muzika states that it plans to give 90% of revenue to the artists.
Before pivoting into an entertainment think tank, Mycelia was launched with a focus on producing “intelligent songs” supported by blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Ascribe.io, a product of BigchainDB, also works to provide a trackable, verifiable record of ownership between artists and their work.
British blockchain startup JAAK also has plans to work with music rights holders and other entertainment-industry stakeholders. JAAK, which provides an operating system for content, is developing a platform that allows media owners to convert their repository of media, metadata, and rights into “smart content” that can self-execute licensing transactions on the Ethereum blockchain.
17. Stock trading
For years companies have worked to ease the process of buying, selling, and trading stocks, and now new blockchain-focused startups are looking to automate and secure the process more efficiently than any past solution.
For example, Dutch bank ABN AMRO’s investment division is partnering with investment platform BUX to create a blockchain app called STOCKS. The app will keep users’ ABN AMRO money in a blockchain bank account for stock trading. The use of a private blockchain is aimed at saving money for users and the bank.
TØ.com, a subsidiary of Overstock, wants to enable stock transactions online using blockchain tech. The “t zero” platform integrates cryptographically secure distributed ledgers with existing trading processes to reduce settlement time and costs and increase transparency and auditability.
Partnerships with existing trading networks and exchanges will help blockchain take off in the space. Blockchain startup Chain (which is also mentioned below) is a leader on that front: the company helped orchestrate a live blockchain integration that successfully connected Nasdaq’s stock exchange and Citi’s banking infrastructure.
18. Real estate
Pain points for buying and selling property include a lack of transparency during and after transactions, copious amounts of paperwork, possible fraud, and errors in public records. Blockchain offers a way to reduce the need for paper-based record keeping and speed up transactions — helping stakeholders improve efficiency and reduce transaction costs on all sides of the transaction.
Real estate blockchain applications can help record, track, and transfer land titles, property deeds, liens, and more, and can help ensure that all documents are accurate and verifiable.
Propy is seeking to offer secure home buying through a blockchain-based smart contract platform. All documents are signed and securely stored online, while deeds and other contracts are recorded using blockchain technology as well as on paper.
Tech startup Ubitquity offers a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) blockchain platform for financial, title, and mortgage companies. The company is currently working with Land Records Bureau in Brazil, among other stealth clients, to input property information and record documents through the blockchain.
Companies like AirBnB, Tujia, Wimdu, and others provide a way for people to temporarily exchange assets — including private homes — for monetary value. The problem is that in the absence of a public record, it has been nearly impossible to insure assets on these platforms.
Together with blockchain startup Stratumn, which helps developers build trustworthy applications enabled by Blockchain features, professional services firm Deloitte and payment services provider Lemon Way recently unveiled a blockchain-enabled solution called LenderBot.
LenderBot is a micro-insurance proof of concept for the sharing economy that demonstrates the potential for blockchain applications and services in the industry. LenderBot, which allows people to enroll in customized micro-insurance by chatting through Facebook Messenger, enables blockchain to serve as the third-party in the contract between individuals as they exchange high-value items through the sharing economy.
In the industry as a whole, interest in blockchain is booming. A recent report from Aite Group interviewed 40 blockchain professionals from a number of major insurance companies, reflecting the growing demand for insurance employees dedicated to understanding and implementing blockchain.
Healthcare institutions suffer from an inability to securely share data across platforms. Better data collaboration between providers could ultimately mean higher probability of accurate diagnoses, higher likelihood of effective treatments, and the overall increased ability of healthcare systems to deliver cost-effective care.
Use of blockchain technology could allow hospitals, payers, and other parties in the healthcare value chain to share access to their networks without compromising data security and integrity.
To that end, startup Gem has launched the Gem Health Network, a blockchain network for the global companies across the continuum of healthcare. (Gem is using Ethereum blockchain-enabled technology to create a secure, universal data-sharing infrastructure for the space.)
Tierion is another blockchain startup that has built a platform for data storage and verification in healthcare; both Gem and Tierion recently partnered with Philips Healthcare in the Philips Blockchain Lab.
Another startup, Hu-manity, partnered with IBM on an electronic ledger that is trying to give patients more control over their data. Hu-manity’s stated mission is to create “Fair Trade Data practices” that would enable the patient to profit from consenting to share data.
21. Supply chain management
One of the most universally applicable aspects of blockchain is that it enables more secure, transparent monitoring of transactions. Supply chains are basically a series of transaction nodes that link to move products from point A to the point-of-sale or final deployment.
With blockchain, as products change hands across a supply chain from manufacture to sale, the transactions can be documented in a permanent decentralized record — reducing time delays, added costs, and human errors.
Several blockchain startups are innovating into this sector: Provenance, for one, is building a traceability system for materials and products, enabling businesses to engage consumers at the point of sale with information gathered collaboratively from suppliers all along the supply chain (and thus substantiate product claims with trustworthy, real-time data).
Others include Hijro (formerly Fluent), which offers an alternative platform for lending into global supply chains, and Skuchain, which builds blockchain-based products for the business-to-business trade and supply chain finance market.
Walmart and Sam’s Club joined IBM’s Food Trust network, which uses a blockchain distributed ledger. The retailers have asked their suppliers, especially those of leafy green vegetables, to add their produce data to the ledger. The system is used to make it easier to quickly trace the origins of food — a key advantage in cases such as trying to trace the source of contaminated produce.
In a different direction, the government of Rwanda is working with UK-based startup Circulor with the goal of tracing and removing sources of funding for conflict materials.
22. Energy management
Energy management is another industry that has historically been highly centralized. In the US and UK, to transact in energy one must go through an established power holding company like Duke Energy or National Grid, or deal with a re-seller that buys from a big electricity company.
As with other industries, the distributed ledger could minimize (or eliminate) the need for intermediaries. Startups like Transactive Grid — a joint venture between LO3 Energy and Brooklyn-based Ethereum outfit Consensys — are rethinking the traditional energy-exchange process.
Transactive Grid uses Ethereum blockchain technology to enable customers to transact in “decentralized energy generation schemes,” effectively allowing people to generate, buy, and sell energy to their neighbors. LO3 Energy also has projects that include Brooklyn Microgrid and Project Exergy, the latter being a proof-of-concept for harnessing excess heat expelled by computers.
Other companies have used blockchain as a path toward providing access to renewable energy, too. For example, two major Spanish power companies — Acciona Energy and Iberdrola — are using blockchain to certify that energy is clean by tracking its origins.
23. Sports management
Investing in athletes has generally been the purview of sports management agencies and corporations, but blockchain could decentralize the process of funding athletes by democratizing fans’ ability to have a financial stake in the future of tomorrow’s sports stars.
The concept of using the blockchain to invest in athletes (and earn returns) has not been tried on any significant scale. Yet at least one organization, The Jetcoin Institute, has promoted the idea of fans using cybercurrency — in this case, “Jetcoins” — to invest in their favorite athletes and receive small a portion of the athlete’s future earnings (as well as VIP events, seat upgrades, and so on).
Jetcoin has experimented with this approach in a partnership with the Hellas Verona soccer team in Italy, among others.
24. Gift cards and loyalty programs
Blockchains can help retailers offering gift cards and loyalty programs to make those systems cheaper and more secure. With fewer middlemen needed to process the issuing of cards and sales transactions, the process of acquiring and using blockchain-reliant gift cards is more efficient and cost effective.
Similarly, increased levels of fraud prevention enabled by the blockchain’s unique verification capability also save costs and help prohibit illegitimate users from obtaining stolen accounts.
Gyft, a First Data-owned online platform for buying, sending, and redeeming gift cards, partnered with blockchain infrastructure provider Chain to run gift cards for thousands of small businesses on the blockchain, in a program called Gyft Block.
Another startup, Loyyal, is innovating to make loyalty incentives more easily exchangeable across different sectors (think multi-branded “Airline/Retailer/Consumer” rewards) by using blockchain to support and verify their value.
25. Government and public RECORDS
The management of public services is yet another area where blockchain can help lessen paper-based processes, minimize fraud, and increase accountability between authorities and those they serve.
Some US states are taking it upon themselves to realize the benefits of blockchain: the Delaware Blockchain Initiative, launched in 2016, aims to create an appropriate legal infrastructure for distributed ledger shares, to increase efficiency and speed of incorporation services.
Illinois, Vermont, and other states have since announced similar initiatives. Startups are assisting in the effort as well: in Eastern Europe, the BitFury Group is currently working with the Georgian government to secure and track government records.
26. Gun tracking
Blockchain’s distributed ledger offers several opportunities around gun ownership and usage. If gun possession-related information were logged and connected through blockchain, it could provide a connected infrastructure for tracking where weapons came from in the event of unlawful use.
A startup called Blocksafe is focusing on creating a blockchain-based system for weapons tracking and accountability, which would enable gun owners to track their guns’ locations and stay informed as to whether lost weapons had been fired.
Long-term, other opportunities exist in creating public-private partnerships around such information, such as linking existing No Fly List information to blockchain transaction records to more effectively prevent unlawful gun purchases.
27. Wills and Inheritances
Wills are a highly specific kind of contract, providing an ideal use case for a blockchain smart-contracts solution. In addition to the challenge of verifying the deceased’s actual death, will-related litigation often involves challenges to the “genuineness” of a will — that is, whether the legal interpretation aligns with the deceased’s intentions.
While the application of blockchain would not completely remove these challenges, it would make it easier to identify factual information, provide verifiable transaction data, and dismiss claims that are without merit.
Through its Blockchain Apparatus initiative, Blockchain Technologies Corp. is developing a self-executing will system with a blockchain that will automatically check the government’s “Death Master File,” maintained by the U.S. Social Security Office, to verify that a person did in fact pass. Then, pre-programmed rules setup by the person will automatically distribute their assets to beneficiaries, eliminating the need for executors and court battles regarding the integrity of the will.
Currently, consumers’ sense of trust in the retail system is mainly linked to their trust in the marketplace where their purchases are being made. (As an example, trust is a key element of Amazon’s success with customers.) Blockchain could decentralize that trust, attaching it more to the sellers on various marketplaces and platforms than to the sites themselves.
Startups like OpenBazaar are developing decentralized blockchain utilities to connect buyers and sellers, without a middleman and the associated charges. OpenBazaar operates as an open-source, peer-to-peer network offering merchants no fees and no restrictions on what can be sold.
Customers purchase goods using any of 50 cryptocurrencies, and sellers are paid in Bitcoin — with all associated data distributed across the global network instead of stored in a central database.
Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) created a platform with Microsoft and blockchain startup ConsenSys to authenticate luxury goods through blockchain. AURA, the platform, lets customers trace their products from design to distribution. For the brand, AURA adds additional protection from counterfeit goods and fraud.
For those making charitable donations, blockchain provides the ability to precisely track where your donations are going, when they arrived, and whose hands they ended up in.
From there, blockchain can deliver the accountability and transparency to address the perennial complaints around charitable donations — including the organizational inefficiency (or even financial misconduct) that can prevent money from reaching those it was meant for.
Bitcoin-based charities like the BitGive Foundation use blockchain’s secure and transparent distributed ledger to give donors greater visibility into fund receipt and use.
The company has launched a beta version of GiveTrack, a blockchain-based multidimensional donation platform that provides the ability to transfer, track, and provide a permanent record of charitable financial transactions across the globe. By leveraging GiveTrack, charities can drive stronger trust with donors.
30. Law Enforcement
In police investigations, maintaining the integrity of the chain of evidence is paramount, so a distributed, hard-to-falsify record kept via blockchain could provide an added layer of security to the evidence-handling process. In addition, blockchain can be leveraged for flagging certain kinds of transaction patterns — giving police a heads up when an individual engages in suspicious financial activity.
Startups are innovating to bring these benefits to law enforcement. Chronicled is developing sealable, tamper-proof containers with near-field communications chips that register container contents through a blockchain system — creating an ideal solution for evidence management in law enforcement.
Elliptic, meanwhile, is developing a system to continually scan bitcoin registries, uncovers complex relationships within the transactions, and flag suspicious transactions/histories for potentially alerting law enforcement.
31. Human Resources
Conducting background checks and verifying employment histories can be time-consuming, highly manual tasks for human resources professionals.
If employment and criminal records were stored in a blockchain ledger (and thus free from the possibility of falsification), HR professionals could streamline the vetting process and move hiring processes forward more quickly.
Chronobank is one blockchain project aimed at disrupting the HR/recruitment industry, with a specific focus on improving short-term recruitment for on-demand jobs (in cleaning, warehousing, e-commerce, and so on). The startup aims to use blockchain to make it easier for individuals to find work on the fly and be rewarded for their labor through a decentralized framework via cryptocurrency, without the involvement of traditional financial institutions.
Once a person is hired, employee engagement becomes a big part of people management — and blockchain could play a role. For example, eXo Rewards uses cryptocurrency and a blockchain wallet to gamify and incentivize employees. Colleagues can send recognition to one another in the form of tokens, which can be used in a company marketplace on different goods and services.
32. BUSINESS AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
The benefits of using blockchain for smart contracts and verifiable transactions can also be applied toward making business accounting more transparent. The Boardroom app, for example, provides a governance framework and app enabling companies to manage smart contracts on the public and permissioned Ethereum blockchains.
The app provides an administrative system for organizations to ensure smart contracts are executed according to rules encoded on the blockchain (or to update the rules themselves). Boards can also use the app for shareholder voting by proxy and collaborative proposal management.
Aragon is going even further, using blockchain to “disintermediate the creation and maintenance of companies and other organizational structures.” Believing that decentralized organizations can solve the world’s worst problems, Aragon is developing tools to help companies use blockchain to manage their entire global workforce.
The company sees blockchain as a tool to welcome more employees and contractors from developing countries into North American and European businesses.
33. CREDIT HISTORIES
Lenders minimize the risk posed by loans or lines of credit to small businesses by evaluating their histories using business credit reports. These third-party reports — issued companies such as Dun & Bradstreet — are inaccessible to the small business owners (beyond the basic profile information they provide to the credit bureau).
This can make business owners feel like credit bureaus have all the power over loan terms, even though the credit bureau may be assessing outdated or inaccurate information to determine their reports.
Lumeno.us is one startup using blockchain technology to make business credit reports more accurate, transparent, and shareable. Lumeno.us normalizes semi-structured financial data using a proprietary application of collaborative tagging and advanced analytics.
From there, it provides business owners the tools to share their data in order to get a loan, find trusted partners, or manage a portfolio or network.
34. 3D Printing/Manufacturing
3D printing and “additive manufacturing” (aka building 3D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material) are highly technology-driven processes, whereby the digital files involved can be easily transmitted with the click of a mouse. Consequently, parts and products are easier to share and track — leading to smarter digital supply networks and supply chains.
Using blockchain to support these evolving infrastructures can eliminate security vulnerabilities, protect intellectual property from theft, and streamline project management, ultimately helping the 3D printing and additive manufacturing sectors to grow and scale.
Stealth startup in this area is Genesis of Things, which is working to combine 3D printing, blockchain, and IoT-sensor technologies to create more advanced manufacturing processes.
In doing so, they hope to lower the costs of 3D printing custom items (using airline parts as a case study on their website) and automate more aspects of production and transactions.
The crowdfunding industry emerged to “disintermediate” capital formation by giving backers (aka “pledgers”) or individual investors the ability to directly fund creators and entrepreneurs, providing a natural alignment with blockchain capabilities.
Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), in which companies sell cryptocurrency-backed tokens in their companies in the same manner as a publicly-traded company sells stock, are another example of blockchain-powered crowdfunding. Startups such as OpenLedger make that possible.
Individuals may soon invest in real estate using “crypto crowdfunding,” as well: Singapore-based Real Estate Asset Ledger (REAL) intends to use blockchain technology to inject greater liquidity and transparency into real estate investing.
Pledgecamp is a Kickstarter and Indiegogo competitor which aims to increase transparency (via smart contracts) and offer “Backer Insurance” by decentralizing the process. As projects reach target funding, money is transferred to a secure escrow wallet that unlocks funds gradually. Backers can see how the money they invested is being spent and can provide input about the direction of the project, e.g. voting on whether to begin a new phase of development.
36. Commodity-backed Currency
Some real-world currencies are backed by underlying physical commodities that have intrinsic value, and for a long time the US Dollar had an equivalent in gold.
In a pioneering experiment, Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro planned to create a national cryptocurrency called “Petro” that will be backed by the country’s ample oil reserves. And Vladimir Putin has commisioned his team to make a blockchain-based version of the russian currency rouble.
Many saw it as a ruse for both countries to circumvent US sanctions. However, it could be the beginning of nation-backed cryptocurrencies that are tied to commodities, especially for resource-rich countries.
Another project called BananaCoin offers tokens that can be bought with Ethereum or Bitcoin and the price is tied to the price of 1 kilogram of bananas on the international market. In a commodity-backed spin on crowdfunding, tokenholders would indirectly be supporting an organic banana farm in Laos that plans to export to China, where bananas are in high demand.
In December 2017, San José State University’s School of Information received a $100K grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to fund a year-long project exploring the potential of blockchain technology for information services.
The researchers report their findings on a dedicated blog, and SJSU faculty members Sandra Hirsh and Sue Alman will lead a national forum in 2018 with technical experts in library science, blockchain technology, and urban planning.
So far, the potential uses for blockchain in libraries include helping libraries expand their services by building an enhanced metadata archive, developing a protocol for supporting community-based collections, and facilitating more effective management of digital rights.
Hirsh and Alman’s work has caught the attention of the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries. They will work with the ALA on a book project involving case studies of how blockchain is affecting libraries and what they project will be accomplished in the future.
Blockchain could have multiple applications in the publishing industry, from breaking into the industry to rights management to piracy.
Currently, the industry is controlled by a small group of publishers, which makes it difficult for new and unrecognized writers to break in. New platforms are emerging to level the playing field for writers and encourage collaboration among authors, editors, translators, and publishers.
Authorship allows writers to publish their work on the platform. Readers can purchase the books from the platform using Authorship Tokens (ATS), an Ethereum-based cryptocurrency, and writers get 90% of royalties in ATS. They can work with translators — who are also paid in ATS — to publish their work in multiple languages.
Authors own the copyright to their work, so they have the freedom to publish and distribute it elsewhere. Publishers can also use the Authorship platform to discover writers and print their books.
PageMajik is a workflow management system designed to streamline the publishing process. The system provides a secure, centralized catalog of all files, which can be easily accessed by teams of writers, editors, and publishers. Each person’s roles, rights, and duties can be specified before they actually start using the platform to minimize errors. PageMajik is in the process of adding blockchain technology to the next version of its workflow system.
Between 20-30% of the fish sold in the US are caught illegally. Fishing is also one of the largest industries in the world using forced labor, according to the Wall Street Journal. Blockchain-based systems could help make the industry more sustainable, eco-friendly, and legally compliant.
Registering types and quantities of fishing nets on a blockchain would allow authorities to track whether boats return to port with the number of nets they left with. Blockchain can also be used to identify and track the fish themselves.
In 2018, WWF partnered with ConsenSys and SeaQuest Fiji to implement a blockchain system that verifies where, when, and how tuna fish was caught. Eventually, consumers will be able to scan a QR code with their smartphone to trace the fish “from bait to plate” and confirm that they’re buying legally caught, sustainable tuna with no slave labor or oppressive working conditions involved.
In our digital world where image theft is often a two-click process, photographers can have a difficult time getting paid royalties for their work.
At CES 2018, Kodak unveiled its plan to launch its own cryptocurrency, KODAKCoin, to ensure that photographers are paid appropriately for usage. KODAKCoin will be backed up by a blockchain ledger and image rights platform called KODAKOne, which will allow photographers to securely register new and old work.
41. Public Assistance
Blockchain could help streamline the public assistance system, which is often bogged down by bureaucracy. The UK began working with startup GovCoin Systems in 2016 to conduct trials for developing a blockchain-based solution for welfare payments.
GovCoin virtually mimics the “jam-jar method” — dividing money into separate stashes for different expenses. It gives welfare recipients instant access to their benefits — which are paid in cryptocurrency — through its app. Recipients can create their own digital jam jars for rent, utilities, etc. and distribute money among them in the app.
42. video streaming
Video is predicted to account for 82% of all internet traffic by 2021. Blockchain could help dramatically reduce the cost of video traffic by decentralizing video encoding, storage, and content distribution. This could disrupt Netflix, YouTube, and other players in the video distribution ecosystem.
The VideoCoin Network is already working towards freeing up this capital. The decentralized network provides cloud video infrastructure — encoding, storage, and distribution — in the form of a peer-to-peer algorithmic market. It runs on a new blockchain where clients spend VideoCoins to rent these services.
Livepeer is another decentralized network that allows users to share live video directly with their peers. Users can earn Livepeer Tokens by performing video transcoding. Stream is a similar blockchain-based platform that aims to “put content creators back in power” by allowing its broadcasters to accept Stream Tokens directly from their fans.
Online gaming continues to see expansive growth and is now considered a competitive sport, with coveted titles to win, major cash prizes, and even a black market.
Blockchain technology enables gamers to have a more even playing field for competing, getting rewarded, and exchanging assets across digital universes. Through blockchain, digital tokens can be securely exchanged for cryptocurrency without third-party investment.
Through blockchain’s distributed ledger, gamers can use one perfected character or set of skills and items across digital worlds. This means they can earn rewards more quickly, then exchange them through one decentralized source.
These opportunities are already popping up. The Huntercoin project is a gaming ecosystem in which players earn in-house cryptocurrency rewards (in this case, HUC coin). For eSports and sports betting, there’s Unikoin Gold. With a decentralized blockchain base, gaming platforms can facilitate more secure and transparent money exchanges.
44. Food & Beverage
E. Coli, salmonella, accidental horse meat — there have been a lot of disturbing slip ups in the food and beverage industry recently. Blockchain technology could help manufacturers and distributors avoid these mishaps.
As a decentralized ledger that records, stores, and tracks data, blockchain provides a way to monitor the food supply chain and trace contamination issues to their root. It benefits the food processor, which can avoid sending harmful items to distributors; the retailer, which can cut down on or respond more quickly and effectively to recalls; and the consumer, who can trust that what they buy is safe to eat.
So long as each party agrees, blockchain serves as an accountability platform that can help cut down on food recalls, mislabeled products, and confusion over where an issue arose. For example, blockchain-based tracking can easily be applied as a QR Code that, when scanned, shows a product’s full journey to a customer’s cart.
This is essentially how the Tattoo Wine Platform from Ernst & Young will work. Members can scan a QR code on a batch or bottle of wine to trace it from vine to glass.
45. air travel
Think of the data that goes into booking a flight: names, birthdays, credit card numbers, immigration details, destinations, and sometimes even hotel or rental car information, depending on how flights are booked.
Implementing blockchain technology to secure and reconcile this data can make for a safer journey — and one that’s more convenient for the traveler. Transforming a material ticket into a digital token provides a new layer of security. Using a smart contract as part of the ticket token can help airlines control the sale and use of tickets to provide verified experiences for customers. It can also be used to create more accurate logs of aircraft maintenance, prevent overbooking, and more.
Airline loyalty is an area where blockchain is already being executed. Singapore Airlines recently started using KrisPay, a digital wallet built on a blockchain that securely turns miles into cryptocurrency that can be used with merchant partners. This program rewards frequent fliers instantly and lets them securely use their points on a variety of purchases, not just additional flights.
46. Crops & agriculture
Beyond the safety and traceability aspects discussed in the context of the food and beverage industry, blockchain has potential to help the agriculture space evolve. A decentralized blockchain system could improve transactions, market expansions, and product-specific logistics throughout the agriculture supply chain.
In agriculture, a blockchain record establishes a level of trust between merchants who otherwise might not have experience with one another. It allows the market to expand and encourages healthy competition between sellers.
One company, AgriDigital, is already using blockchain technology to digitize the buying, selling, and storing of grain, with plans to add other commodities. It makes managing relationships, from farmers to stock traders, centralized and secure.
Online gambling has seen significant growth over the past few years. But some of its core issues — namely a huge gap in transparency — haven’t yet been solved.
Introducing blockchain technology can help establish transparency and build trust between a business and its consumers. The technology helps ensure fair games: records can’t be manipulated on the ledger, so there’s no such thing as “the house always wins.” Sites like Wagerr play on the idea of “trustless betting,” meaning that the system is so decentralized, you don’t need trust.
Decentralization makes gambling more universally accessible and reliably balances costs for online casinos. Plus, it enables anonymity, which is important for many gamblers. Sites that require too much documentation and verification hinder people from playing, and could be seen as good targets for hackers.
Pharma isn’t known for being a fast-moving industry. Despite the sector’s focus on innovation and problem solving, there’s a lot of red tape around clinical testing, FDA approvals, and more.
Using a blockchain ledger can create a more efficient system, opening the door for faster innovation, better regulated production, and smarter medical data security. For instance, research can be published earlier, without scientists worrying about their intellectual property. If a report is published through a blockchain-enabled system, there will be permanent record of its existence, preventing others from claiming it as their own.
Blockchain can also enforce safer drug production. If errors are made, they can be caught and traced to the source. This helps prevent recalls, or at least allows manufacturers to quickly contact retailers to lessen the impact of unsafe drugs on patients’ health and businesses’ finances.
The assets that can be tracked and recorded using blockchain aren’t just digital transactions — they also include physical items, like shipping trucks. And while many of the other industries discussed involve public records, private blockchain networks offer their own possibilities.
The Blockchain in Transit Alliance (BiTA) has already been formed to develop industry standards and educate its network of members. It’s the largest commercial blockchain alliance in existence, and its members are developing the frameworks that will change the trucking and transport industries.
Blockchain can improve transactions, shipment tracking, and fleet management, as well as protect assets and increase fleet efficiency. It can help track contamination in food, for example, by tracking a truck that carries ingredients and noting if safe storage conditions were maintained during any delays. Additionally, it can help optimize routes by matching truckers and items to be delivered with trucks in a certain region.
But for a decentralized ledger to work in this industry, there needs to be buy-in from every side: small and large businesses, last-mile shippers, and mega trucking companies. Without total buy in, the system won’t optimize fully.
50. waste management
Recycling is one of the best ways to reduce landfill waste — but it can be a confusing and laborious practice that doesn’t have much reward. A blockchain-based solution could help optimize recycling systems that are already in place.
Many companies are popping up to incentivize recycling. The Plastic Bank offers money or digital tokens in exchange for used plastic, and is working with IBM to expand its recycling solution globally. Recereum is a more localized platform that allows communities to reward people who properly sort their recycling with coins.
After legalization of marijuana in Canada, and growing support for legalization across the US, the cannabis industry is reaping big investments in tech and research.
The legalized cannabis industry is likely to be tightly regulated and could benefit from a transparent and secure system for tracking production and distribution. Blockchain technology could provide a record of product movement from farm to dispensary, helping to boost safety and regulatory compliance.
Mile High Labs, a producer and supplier of CBD products, partnered with Chain.io to create a blockchain-tracked supply chain for the cannabis industry. Beyond supply chains, Mile High Labs is also interested in using the ledger technology for regulation and compliance.
IBM has also proposed blockchain technology as a way for governments to control the source and sale of cannabis.
As the banking industry continues to adapt to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, accountants are beginning to follow suit.
Accountants work with a spread of documents — from tax forms to bank statements to spreadsheets — containing extensive personal or organizational information. Layering in blockchain technology could make it easier to keep track of this sensitive data as it is processed by accounting firms.
Data tracking enabled by blockchain technology may also help to automate certain accounting services using AI, which could reduce human error and instances of fraud.
Big Four accounting firms are already jumping on board: KPMG has invested in programs and projects to research and share information about blockchain; Deloitte developed blockchain-based software; while PwC created a blockchain-based auditing service.
53. Construction, Architecture, & Building
Construction is a highly regulated industry which employs a wide variety of tradespeople for often complex projects. Validating their identities, their quality of work, and their dependability can be difficult and time consuming. A blockchain-based ecosystem could help solve this challenge by making it simpler for general contractors to verify identities and track progress across multiple teams.
Blockchain technology could also help ensure construction materials are sourced from the right places and are of the appropriate quality, while smart contracts may make it simpler to automatically issue timely payments linked to project milestones.
54. Federal Mail
Even the US Postal Service is looking into implementing blockchain to improve operations and service. Distributed ledger technology could help create a tracking system which reduces costs for USPS and saves time for postal workers.
The Office of the Inspector General released a report in 2016 which summarized ways that blockchain could be used by the agency, including streamlining its financial services (like money orders), building a better “Internet of Postal Things,” improving validation of consumers’ identities, and streamlining supply chain management.
55. Public Transportation
The growth of cities has also put pressure on many transportation systems, which are often expensive to run and can be inefficient.
Employing blockchain technology could help cities better understand how their residents are utilizing public transportation options. For example, UK-based DOVU lets users share their commuting and transit data — including how they use buses, trains, bike shares, even pedestrian paths — through a blockchain-backed app which then rewards them with crypto-tokens. The company has partnered with car manufacturers as well as mass transit company Go-Ahead.
Blockchain could also contribute to a more functional and streamlined system. For instance, a public ledger can be used to store and share information on vehicle efficiency or timeliness — information which may help better optimize routes and schedules.