The 1980s gave us personal computing. The 1990s networked systems. The aughts enterprise applications. More recently, 2010-2020 gave us cloud migrations. Now we’re at the precipice of what will likely be the next era of computing history: distributed computers and blockchain.
The Next Chapter in Computing History
Like most technological eras, it started almost unnoticed. Developed by a Japanese engineer in the early 1990s, it took years before this transformative solution—recording information in ways that make it difficult, if not impossible, to change or hack—went mainstream, adopted for use as contracts with distributed ledgers by the 2010s and handling cryptocurrency transactions by 2021.
Gartner estimates that at least one $10 billion+ blockchain-based business will be up and running by 2022 and the solution will grow to more than $3 trillion in business value by 2030. With numbers like this it’s time to take a closer look at blockchain’s potential. Below are just a few examples of transformative uses in several industries and sectors:
Can trace a piece of equipment or a part within the unit. Maintains records showing supplier, in-service data, maintenance records, hours of operation as well as change of ownership.
- Auto batteries, tires and brakes, clones and non-OEM parts
- Key performance data, maintenance records and repairs
- Vehicle ownership and transfers
Chain-of-Custody and Control
Tracks movement of documents and items through collection and safeguarding. Analysis lifecycle by documenting each person who handled evidence, date/time it was collected or transferred as well as transfer purpose.
- Food (from farm-to-fork)
- Law enforcement evidence
- Cross-border trade and tariffs
- Art, diamonds, collectibles, sports memorabilia, trading cards, sports
Contracts & Records
Tracks records requiring storage, multiple signatures, authentication, periodic recall and access. Storage can be in digital vaults reducing fraud, mis-location as well as multi-party signatures.
- Legal records, lawsuits and notifications
- Government records, voting records, passports and licenses (birth, marriage and death records)
- Financial recording and records, purchase order and receipts
Track-and-trace of food products and ingredients throughout the entire lifecycle. Capable of tracking point-of-origin, shipping, logistics, temperature controls, time in location, shelf life, inspection records.
- Seafood, meats and proteins, ingredients and additives
- Kosher, halal and vegan
- Processing facilities, cold chains and handling
- Regulatory records
Tracks products from introduction to final use points. Critical capability as these highly regulated products and solutions require special attention for temperature control, regulatory tracking, serialization and identification.
- Vaccines, prescriptions, treatments
- Clinical trial data and reporting, product use effects and trending
- Country-level compliance serialization
- Contract manufacturing and distribution
- Medical reporting and documenting
Supply Chain & Asset Management
Provides visibility and asset status in storage or in process. Capable of tracking usage, run-times, availability as well as ownership records.
- Railcars and trailers
- Industrial heavy equipment
- Company-owned computers
- Logistics services
- Medical device equipment and monitors
- Utility and telecom network assets
[Blockchain has] the disruptive potential to empower new operating models, but its initial impact will be to drive operational efficiencies and security, harnessing the power of multiple verifying computers, in multiple locations, ensuring no single point of failure, or focus for a targeted attack.Nick Ismail, Editor of Information Age, July 2020
What does this mean for business? Lots. Imagine a manufacturer savings millions on warranty recalls. Or a food manufacturer tracing tainted produce. Or importers ensuring their supply chain is OEM-authentic. All of these actions become much easier—and much cheaper—to do because of blockchain’s secure track-and-trace capabilities.
What If?… Tylenol
On a human level, it can also mean saving lives. Some readers may remember the Tylenol poisoning in the early 1980s that killed seven people and resulted in a massive $100 million recall of 31 million bottles nationwide. That single incident almost sank one of America’s most venerable pharmaceutical concerns. Thanks to their fast-thinking, however, they not only saved the company, their actions changed the way virtually all products are packaged to this day.
Now imagine if they had blockchain back then. They would have been able to target the specific distribution locations of their product. They would have had less financial damage. And just as important, less brand damage done due the public perceptions in lack of product and distribution controls. Brand equity and loyalty takes years to develop, but only one incident to diminish it, and it’s very expensive to recover.
Poised for Exponential Growth
Finally, like most eras in tech history, new technology growth is basically linear—until real-world applications are found. Then growth becomes exponential.
Blockchain is today at the cusp of just such exponential growth. That same Gartner study mentioned above puts blockchain value-add at $175 billion in just the next three years alone. As companies begin imagining how this solution can be applied to their day-to-day business, it will also likely mean tech history repeating itself: early adopters can get significant advantages over competitors while those who delay may end up scrambling.
Plan now before your competitors use blockchain to their competitive advantage. As Benjamin Franklin famously said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Blockchain is no exception.