It’s Time to Start Thinking About the Blockchain
For all the buzz out there how new technologies will “revolutionize” the business landscape, the blockchain has real potential to make it happen.
Starting with the Bitcoin boom back in 2009, the world began to realize the potential of this new technology. And since then, things have certainly taken off—a report by the World Economic Forum predicts that 10 percent of the world’s total GDP will be stored on blockchain technology by 2027.
Users don’t need to understand how it works to use it, but companies should be aware of how it’s changing the game. And if you’re a tech professional hoping to land a job in this fast-growing field, it’s time you get familiar with it.
Just what is the blockchain?
Blockchain is a type of decentralized database that can be used to record nearly any type of transaction.
The easiest way to visualize the concept is an Excel sheet duplicated and shared across millions of computers. This is the blockchain “ledger”. Every time a new device joins the blockchain network, it receives a copy of the ledger with all of its data. Users who join will gain a crypto-protected private key to update their owned portions of the ledger.
The real trick is that the blockchain ledger is self-auditing and reconciled in real time. The platform automatically performs an update once every ten minutes and refreshes its ledger with any new changes, complete with timestamps of when each change occurred.
The blockchain is transparent
Its self-auditing nature is one of the key benefits of blockchain: Complete transparency. While you can’t see what data is being processed, you can see that data is being processed. And as the ledger is updated for everyone just minutes after changes are made, it holds users accountable with public transaction records that are sent to everyone within minutes.
The blockchain is independent
As a decentralized ledger, the blockchain is inherently safer from third-party influence. The platform uses a peer-to-peer network of data distribution, and processing is done through the shared resources of the collective network. There’s no central server managing things—meaning that there’s no single entity controlling the blockchain’s movement.
The blockchain challenges the status quo
The above characteristics form another key benefit: It’s an inherently trustworthy system that challenges the status quo. Unlike our current financial systems, the blockchain doesn’t use banks as middlemen between transactions, and there’s no need for third-party companies to validate payments or verify the authenticity of holdings.
In the simplest terms, blockchain takes power away from the centralized sources of authority and distributes it in pieces to the collective:
“Whereas most technologies tend to automate workers on the periphery doing menial tasks, blockchains automate away the center. Instead of putting the taxi driver out of a job, blockchain puts Uber out of a job and lets the taxi drivers work with the customer directly.”
– Vitalik Buterin, co-founder Ethereum and Bitcoin Magazine
Which industries are using it?
Naturally, industries of all kinds are finding uses for the blockchain. We’ll list a few of them here, although the possibilities are nearly endless.
The blockchain gained its public footing via Bitcoin, and companies are finding plenty of new ways to leverage the technology in financial services. Money transfers are a great example—Ethereum recently completed a trial where over 10,000 refugees received resources via cryptocurrency-based vouchers, proving blockchain’s viability in disaster relief.
One of the biggest industries being affected by blockchain is healthcare, with blockchain ledgers being deployed for everything from medical record authentication to consent verification to digitized payments—all through a system that’s HIPPA-compliant and private.
The broad retail industry is ripe for blockchain investment, with possibilities that include redefining consumer payments, monitoring supply chains in real time, reducing paper and plastic waste of digital rewards programs, and more.
While there are plenty of uses of blockchain for government agencies, a particularly trendy one is using blockchain to prevent voter fraud. The inherently secure and visible nature of the blockchain ledger creates new possibilities for recording user votes without any worry of hacking or misrepresentation.
The blockchain is out there, and it’s not going away. The doors are open to all kinds of new possibilities—including plenty of great job opportunities for developers interested in being a part of the revolution. In part 2, we’ll review job opportunities in blockchain and provide more details about how blockchain developers can get a foothold in the industry. Stay tuned!