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Blockchain and its implications

February 17, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

What do mangoes, diamonds and orangutans have in common?  A technology called blockchain. How is that, you ask?  Read-on..


What is blockchain?

Banks which were the trusted middleman of yore gave way to virtual middlemen – exchanges like eBay.  As technology and human aspirations evolve eBay might give way to OpenBazaar (based on Ethereum blockchain) which cuts out the middleman and connects buyers directly to sellers.

The Economist describes blockchain as “a shared, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no single user controls.”  Bettina Warburg describes blockchain as a public registry, a decentralized database which stores a record of assets and transactions across a peer to peer network. Transactions are secured via cryptography, the transaction history is locked in blocks of data which are cryptographically linked and secured.  Record are replicated on every computer using the network.

Think of blockchain as a global platform which stores ownership of assets like home titles, financial contracts etc.. A blockchain has 3 components: a distributed network, a shared ledger and digital transactions

What are use cases for blockchain?

Binding contracts which don’t need a third party enforcer. Today you can contest a charge on your personal credit card but what if you want this level of personal enforcement without a credit card?  This is where blockchain could help.

Another use case relevant to our times is in identifying the source of food contamination during a food safety recall.  Governments can use blockchain as a tool against money laundering by criminal enterprises.

Blockchain provides a way to combat real-estate fraud in emerging markets where unscrupulous people may alter property records thus defrauding legitimate buyers. If property records were “tamper proof” and stored in a block chain then it becomes easier for a title insurer to access the records so they may clear a title.  Buyers could buy property sight unseen knowing that they are less likely to be defrauded.

Today a music content creator doesn’t have the flexibility to change prices for music by tiers of consumers as middlemen like youtube or spotify set the rules. By cutting out the middleman, blockchain empowers the music creator and improves the content creator’s chances of personally profiting from their creation.  Case in point: Imogene Heap released her music on the blockchain

Retail use cases for blockchain


Walmart used blockchain to track the movement of Mexican mangoes in 2.2 sec vs 7 days in trials. This could help greatly when there is an e coli or salmonella outbreak that could seriously impact children or adults with weakened immune systems by helping retail giants like Walmart identify the source of contaminated food before it does its damage.

Eco friendly implications of block chain?

monkey-orangutan-animal-face-52530As a consumer, you could potentially ensure that the palm oil used to fry your chips is not derived from a place like Borneo or Sumatra where orangutans are slaughtered mercilessly to clear the forest so palm trees may be planted.

You could confirm that the diamonds you bought for an engagement ring are not “blood diamonds”– mined in a war zone to finance an insurgency using gullible child soldiers as canon fodder.

chocolateAs a chocoholic you could confirm that dark chocolate bought in an upscale chocolatier is not tainted by cadmium or lead from being sourced in countries which don’t have lead-free gasoline

You can rest easy knowing that the shrimp you bought at a seafood store wasn’t derived from slave labor in Thailand.

Manufacturers of pet food can quickly identify the source of contamination in tainted and potentially poisonous pet-food before unsuspecting animals pay the price.

As you see, the potential benefits are endless.  Blockchain might yet prove to be the technology that changes our world beyond our wildest dreams..

Categories: Big Data and Hadoop
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