What Might Blockchain Technology Mean for Your Business?
If your organization is one of the growing number of companies diving into the world of cryptocurrencies (or maybe it’s more of a cautious toe-dip), you’ve probably heard of a “blockchain”. But if you’re not all that familiar with the technology – and trust me, there’s a lot to learn – you could probably spend a good few days reading about it.
For now, here’s a pretty basic description: a blockchain is a public ledger that is overseen and maintained by a wider community, instead of by one central authority (like a bank or government). When used with Bitcoin and other digital currencies, a blockchain records transactions, which are confirmed by a distributed network of computers. Each transactional record is represented by a “block”, and a “chain” links them all together, pairing each new entry with a previous entry. Technology makes the blocks nearly impossible to alter or undo, thereby creating a peer-controlled, self-regulated and fully secure decentralized system.
While it’s most currently used for cryptocurrencies, thanks to its versatility and security many companies are seeing many new potentials for blockchain technology. Here are a few blockchain applications that have benefits for small businesses:
Bitwage is a way to pay your employees their wages that will save your company money quite a bit in banking fees. Other benefits: payment is sent and received within 10 minutes, so employees can be paid on the day they wish to receive it. And if you’re making international payments, the fees and processes are exactly the same. It’s a win/win for employer and employee.
Uproov has designed an application that immediately timestamps, geo tags and locks an image as soon as it’s taken. It provides 100 per cent proof of an event or the condition of something, preventing fraud and assuring your customers that what they see is what they get.
Filament is a secure long-range wireless network with built-in security that lets you build your business from anywhere. They offer a wide range of products, including the Smart Vending app that enables you to stay on top of stock levels in vending machines. Asset Tracking allows you to track the location of equipment in remote areas using GPS receivers. Filament has also designed patch-enabled devices that can be placed in safety equipment like hard hats and safety clothing. The devices can detect an accident (like a fall) and even monitor the environment for potentially dangerous materials.
Storj is a decentralized blockchain-based storage solution. It’s like a cloud the community shares, and may be the largest, most cost-effective and most secure cloud available. It takes your file, shreds it, encrypts it, and then spreads all the little bits across its network. Only you have access to the encryption keys, preventing anyone else from accessing your information. There’s no downtime and you get a faster speed without having to pay extra.
While many companies and technology experts see blockchain technology as the next big game-changer, there are, however, still a few wrinkles:
· While it will be cost-effective in the long run, blockchain technology relies on expensive hardware and has high up-front costs. It also requires qualified people who know how to work with the technology. That could mean having to pay larger salaries as the newness of the technology means qualified people aren’t easy to find.
· It may be difficult to integrate a blockchain-based system with your existing system without a complete overhaul. And because blockchain is relatively new, it may not do everything your existing system can do, making it a less than smooth transition and potentially costly in terms of time and money.
· It’s very techy! While blockchain technology is becoming less difficult to understand, it’s still not easy to wrap your head around, at least not for the average layman. For all its benefits, if it’s too complicated for business owners to understand, it will be difficult to get buy in.
Will blockchain technology be the next big thing? The current consensus seems to be a firm “maybe”. Its potential is exciting, and if its issues are addressed – and new and better technology doesn’t come along and blow it out of the water -- blockchain could become the go-to technology for how you do most of your business.