The blockchain is the technology that powers cryptocurrencies. You can think of it as a kind of digital ledger. Copies are spread across thousands of different computers and every time a new entry is added to one ledger, every copy of the ledger is updated.
By creating smart contracts that are triggered by ledger entries, businesses can automate processes. A shipping company, for example, could automatically issue a release document as soon as a customs receipt is written into the ledger.
The most famous use of the blockchain is to track the movements of Bitcoin to ensure that no one’s creating their own coins. But plenty of businesses that you know are already experimenting with the blockchain. Here’s a few of the latest examples:
Now It’s Easier to Buy a Lamborghini
Imagine that you own a Lamborghini. Enjoy that thought for a moment but now imagine that you want to sell it. (Maybe you want to buy a Ferrari instead.) A two-year-old Lamborghini Aventador costs about $500,000 so the buyer will want to be sure that he’s getting the real thing. At the moment that means putting the car through up to 1,000 certification checks that take place at the company’s headquarters in Italy. Technicians have to work through material provided by photographers, auction houses, dealerships, repair shops, newspapers, and magazines to curate the car’s history and verify each part of each vehicle. It’s a long and expensive process.
Lamborghini has now announced that it’s working with Salesforce to use blockchain technology to manage the authentication process. Each vehicle will come with an unchangeable service record that describes previous ownership, restoration, repairs, and so on.
“Blockchain is changing the way companies approach trust and transparency,” said Adam Caplan, SVP, Emerging Technology, Salesforce. Expect a similar system to roll out to other high-value collectibles.
Walmart Delivers Faster
Just as the easiest use for a distributed ledger is to keep track of money, so the most obvious industrial use for the blockchain is managing supply chains. That is happening. Recently, Walmart Canada announced that it would be using “distributed ledger technologies” to track deliveries, verify transactions and automate payments.
Walmart Canada moves 853 million cases of merchandise every year. The company has its own fleet of 180 tractors, 2,000 trailers, and more than 350 drivers. It also uses third parties who generate 200 data points per shipment. The company expects that automating this data collection using a blockchain will produce a significant cost-saving. It will also eliminate disputes and decrease transaction time. Other big firms, including Coca Cola, are already conducting similar experiments.
If those savings are passed onto customers, expect to see lower prices—or at least slower price rises.
Blockchain Certified Vets
Products traveling down a supply chain need to be certified at every stop. But it’s not just objects that make a journey. People do too. As we study, we learn, and we pick up certifications. VetBloom, a digital learning system that trains vets, has now teamed with IBM to produce a permanent record for professional certifications. When vets apply for jobs, potential employers will be able to check their qualifications.
The technology is still in early development but collaborators already include the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, the International Council for Veterinary Assessment, and the American Animal Hospital Association.
If this usage takes off, it’s likely that more colleges will pick it up, allowing schools to manage demand for credentials and jobseekers to chart their career tracks.
The USAF Flies the Blockchain
One of the biggest benefits of the blockchain is its security. The digital ledgers are unhackable. That makes the technology a tempting tool for organizations that prize security. The US Air Force is now working with blockchain firm Constellation Network to secure data from sources including drones, planes, and satellites, while still making it available to those who need it.
The company points out that while people aren't buying blockchain off the shelf, purchases by government organizations can help to drive innovation in technology. It does show that it’s not just private companies that see the value in the blockchain, and as governments and big companies continue to put money into it, we can expect to see more advances and more creative ways to use it.
Joel Comm is New York Times best-selling author, blockchain enthusiast, futurist speaker, social media marketing strategist, live video expert, technologist, brand influencer, and eternal 12-year old. His latest project is as co-host of The Bad Crypto Podcast, a top cryptocurrency show making the future of digital payments easy to understand.
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