10 Jan 2018

The blockchain for entrepreneurs

We have put together some of the emerging blockchain applications and use-cases to inspire the entrepreneur “within us all”.

The early Internet dealt with intangibles. You sent or received emails, corresponded on forums, read and distributed articles. In contrast, the modern blockchain-fuelled Internet deals with all your assets – your most valuable immediate items that you can touch and want to protect, as well as less-tangible assets such as crypto-currencies and your private data.

These assets are stored in encoded form on a network-to-network chain called the blockchain or distributed ledger, providing immutability (cannot remove the record or transaction) and transparency, with the ability for multiple parties in a transaction to collaborate and be sure of the integrity of the records. This not only protects our business dealings and prevents theft, but, also, simplifies and speeds-up processes, reduces errors, and saves one from hiring a third party.

A key benefit of storing assets on the blockchain is that they are not subject to a central authority, and therefore not subject to the policies, security and uncertainties of a single entity (such as with a bank, marketplace or social media platform).

The blockchain literally affects every aspect of our lives, so this list cannot be exhaustive, and is focused on applications rather than the blockchain protocols and infrastructure itself (of which there are also many projects and opportunities).

 Insurance

AXA have launched a product to insure flyers for if their flight is delayed by two hours or more, called Fizzy. The product makes use of smart contract (self-executing piece of code that triggers once certain conditions are met on a blockchain) to automate payouts and thereby increase transparency and trust in the process.

Insurance smart contracts enable claims data to be shared across all counter parties. Identities and contract provisions are immediately verified. Payments are automatically made. And, as a result, less adjudication and negotiation is required and costs are minimized.

New distribution methods being enabled by blockchains include peer-to-peer insurance, parametric insurance and micro-insurance.

Cross-Border Payments

The global payments sector is error-prone, costly and slow. It takes days if not longer for money to cross the world. The blockchain is already providing solutions with remittance companies such as Abra, Align Commerce and Bitspark that offer end-to-end blockchain powered remittance services.

Ripple connects banks, payment providers, digital asset exchanges and corporates via RippleNet to provide one frictionless experience to send money globally.

Clearing and Settlement

In the world of stock trading, we often hear the term ‘T+3’. This means, a trade (T) is followed by three days before the trade is accepted (settled). There are non-blockchain ways to get this number down, but not without compromising security and risk. With blockchain technology, however, trade is settlement, and we have a T+0 equation. LedgerX is an institutional trading and clearing platform.

Healthcare

Personal health records could be encoded and stored on the blockchain with a private key that would grant access only to specific individuals (such as an authorized medical service provider), with ownership of the records vesting in the patient. Medical receipts could also be stored on a blockchain and automatically sent to insurance providers as proof-of-delivery.

The ledger, too, could be used for general health care management, such as supervising drugs, regulation compliance, testing results, and managing healthcare supplies.

The MediLedger Project kicked off in 2017, successfully bringing competing pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers to the same table. Together, they designed and implemented a process for using blockchain technology to improve the track-and-trace capabilities for prescription medicine. Robomed Network is a decentralized medical network designed to provide the most effective medical care. The project’s uniqueness lies in connecting healthcare service providers and patients, based on a smart contract, the value criteria of which are the clinical pathways.

Regulatory Compliance

Beyond just being a trusted repository of information, blockchain technology could enable regulatory compliance in code form.

In the case of banks, for example, this could mean improving efficiency in anti-money laundering (AML) compliance. Blockchain technology can be calibrated to do different things – permit transactions or report transactions of a certain type according to exact rules. This means that banks could automate regulatory reporting or transaction authorisation. Cambridge Blockchain is tackling digital identity compliance for financial institutions in Europe.

Personal Identification & Authentication

We carry a range of identifications: Our driver’s license, computer password, identity cards, keys, social security ID, and so forth. Blockchain ID is a digital form of ID that’s engineered to replace all these forms of physical identification. It is open source, secured by the blockchain, and protected by a ledger of transparent account.

ShoCard is a digital identity that protects consumer privacy and is as easy to understand and use as showing one’s driver’s license. KYC-Chain is a novel platform built over the convenience and security of DLT, allowing users to manage their digital identity securely, while businesses and financial institutions are able to manage customer data in a reliable and easy manner.

Music Industry

Key problems in the music industry include ownership rights, royalty distribution, and transparency. The digital music industry focuses on monetizing productions, while ownership rights are often overlooked. The blockchain and smart contracts technology can circuit this problem by creating a comprehensive and accurate decentralized database of music rights. At the same time, the ledger and provide transparent transmission of artist royalties and real time distributions to all involved with the labels. Players would be paid with digital currency according to the specified terms of the contract. SingularDTV is developing an entertainment app ecosystem on top of Ethereum.

Art Collecting & Trading

Democratizing fine art investment – now people who have always dreamed of owning famous paintings can buy shares in a Picasso, Warhol, Monet, etc with Maecenas

Improving provenance and reducing art forgery – by using the Blockchain, Verisart provides digital provenance to physical works that can be verified online and in real time, to improve the way art is secured and verified.

 Gaming

Blockchains facilitate users taking ownership of game assets. The ability to securely sell gamer-earned digital goods across games is a huge opportunity, as they are currently owned and locked by the game provider. MobileGo is a smart token that can facilitate peer-to-peer matchplay and decentralized tournaments for millions of competitive gamers worldwide. Blockchain based games such as Cryptokitties (collect and breed digital cats).

Social Media

One opportunity is to provide a transparent method for trading access to provide information for social media functionality or even for bitcoins.

Gems is a decentralized messaging app. The Gems network will distribute tokens, called “gems,” that will both represent the value and utility of the system, and reward users for their participation. The app will incorporate advertising, but companies will have to acquire tokens and pay them to the users in order for the ads to receive views on the network. Users will always retain the choice whether to view ads — and whether they want to add to their balance of gems by doing so (which specific ads will also be their choice). Users may also opt out entirely to experience an ad-free social networking environment. Users will be able to trade their gems for different functions on the network or within the app itself, or trade them for bitcoins on an exchange.

Identity and Ownership of Private Data

Whether we like it or not, online companies know all about us. Some companies whom we purchase from sell our identity details to advertisers who send you their ads. The blockchain blocks this by creating a protected data point where you encrypt only the information that you want relevant people to know at certain times. For example, if you’re going to a bar, the bartender simply needs the information that tells him you’re over 21. The blockchain protects your identity by encrypting it and securing it from spammers and marketing schemes. Evernym is a global, fully open-source, attribute-based, self-sovereign identity graph network built on an advanced, dedicated, privacy-enhancing, public permissioned distributed ledger.

Civic is a blockchain-based identity management platform that allows users to register and validate their personal identity information and lock their identity in order to prevent identity theft and fraudulent activity on their credit reports. Civic aims to tackle the problem of consumer identity theft and reducing online identity fraud.

Sharing Economy

The problem with the platform model is that, in most cases, the value produced by the crowd is not equally redistributed among all those who have contributed to the value production; all of the profits are captured by the large intermediaries who operate the platforms.

Blockchain technology is ultimately a means for individuals to coordinate common activities, to interact directly with one another, and to govern themselves in a more secure and decentralized manner. Akasha, Steem.io, or Synereo are distributed social networks that operate like Facebook, but are deployed on the blockchain without a central platform. 

 Smart Property

Smart property can be tangible or intangible property, such as cars, houses, or cookers, on the one hand, or patents, property titles, or company shares, on the other, can have smart technology embedded in them. Such registration can be stored on the ledger along with contractual details of others who are allowed ownership in this property. Smart keys could be used to facilitate access to the permitted party. The ledger stores and allows the exchange of these smart keys once the contract is verified. Making property smart decreases your risks of running into fraud, mediation fees, and questionable business situations. At the same time, it increases trust and efficiency.

Slock.it enables both companies and individuals to rent, sell or share any connected smart object. Since its inception in November 2015, Slock.it’s mission has been to develop Universal Sharing Network, to provide users a set of mobile and desktop applications to find, locate, rent and control any object mediated by smart contracts, from anywhere in the world.

Internet of Things

Encrypting smart sensors and appliances on the blockchain protects ownership and enables transferability.

The Internet of Things enables devices to send data to private blockchain ledgers for inclusion in shared transactions with tamper-resistant records. The distributed replication of IBM Blockchain enables business partners to access and supply IoT data without the need for central control and management. All business partners can verify each transaction, preventing disputes and ensuring each partner is held accountable for their individual roles in the overall transaction.

Sensors give companies end-to-end visibility of their supply chain by providing data on the location and condition of the supplies as they are transported around the globe. The blockchain stores, manages, protects and transfers this smart information across multiple parties. All the big vendors such as SAP, Oracle and IBM are in this space.

 Cloud Storage

Decentralized cloud storage, to provide the security, privacy, and transparency that’s missing. Storj is building an open-source cloud platform, that aim to fundamentally change the way people and devices own data.

 Document Management

 A blockchain based collaborative document management platform such as Factom can eliminate lost documents, reduce audit time and prevent costly disputes.

 Government

The blockchain could make record keeping more reliable by encrypting land registries, incorporation of business entities, birth, wedding and death certificates birth, and empowering citizens and other interested parties to access this crucial information. Digital passports and national IDs could also be secured by the blockchain.

Blockchain could be applied in a number of areas to reduce the administrative burden and collect tax at a lower cost, while improving transparency, security and access to real-time information.

Polys is a blockchain-based voting system that makes voting completely secure and immutable. Voter anonymity is guaranteed by transparent crypto algorithms.

Conclusion

The blockchain is going to change our lives from the way we transact business or manage assets, to the way we use our machines, vote, rent a car, and even prove who we are. Along the way, it will transform banks and other financial institutions, hospitals, companies, and governments among others.

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