Blockchain is one of the most revolutionary technologies of this generation and has applications that spread across every sector of our economy. The technology has applications that go way beyond a means of transferring wealth.
Blockchain can be utilized to ensure efficiency and security in supply chains, data sharing and even keeping intellectual property protected. Its decentralized functionality makes it an extremely useful tool to protect individuals from not only fraud, but human error.
What Is A Blockchain?
A blockchain is exactly what it sounds like, a chain of interconnected digital blocks (ledgers) that are used to secure data. Some would describe it as a “value-exchange protocol”.
It was originally invented by Sotoshi Nakamoto (at least this is the name that inventor(s) went by) in 2008 to create the first cryptocurrency bitcoin.
The way bitcoin works is through a distributed ledger that records every transaction that is made. In order for a transaction to be made a new block has to be created within the bitcoin chain. Every new block that is created it is given a cryptographic hash of the prior block (or node) linking it to the chain. This cryptographic hash is the unique identifier of that makes each bitcoin authentic.
The new nodes are created automatically and all transaction data is permanently accounted for on every node in the chain. The transactions are then verified by competing crypto miners who are granted coins for verifying transactions to ensure that there is no double-spend.
Blockchain technology is decentralized which means that there is no entity that controls it. The nodes of each transaction are spread across many servers and computers with no centralized control.
Blockchain technology makes it effectively impossible to add, remove or alter the data on the blockchain. This is because each autonomous block (ledger) is keeping track of all past, present and future activity.
Use In Finance
The use of blockchain for a digital currency was a no brainer because it eliminates the need for a transaction intermediary (etc. bank). You can’t discuss fintech without mentioning the use of blockchain in the sector. It has the potential to make the entire financial system decentralized which has every bank and its subsidiaries scared.
The fear of obsoleting is inspiring blockchain research and development at essentially all the big banks, including JP Morgan JPM and Goldman Sachs GS. Financial service firms Mastercard MA and Visa V have been even more aggressive in their investment in blockchain technology.
Mastercard has been registering an aggressive number of blockchain IP to the World Intellectually Property Organization, ostensibly more than any other US company. Visa just debuted its first blockchain application to corporate clients called Visa B2B connect, which enable secure and frictionless transactions between businesses.
Facebook FB just announced that it is releasing its own crypto currency called Libra. This will enable a medium of exchange and banking opportunities for anyone with one of the firm’s portfolio of applications.
Libra is partnering with the biggest names in tech to develop what they hope could become a stable universally used currency. The current Libra partners are shown in the graphic below.
The applications of blockchain go beyond currency into other business functions. Blockchain is being used to create efficiencies in supply chain, allowing for secure trackability and transparency that will save companies time and money. Smart contracts are enabling companies to not have to rely on faith when doing business.
IBM IBM has been one of the biggest players in business applications of blockchain technology and is currently designated the #1 blockchain company by Juniper Research and Everest Group.
A new startup, Blockstack, is taking blockchain to the next level of application. The firm is using the technology to create an entirely new decentralized internet. A decentralized internet was pipe dream idea that a lot of us have heard about from the HBO show Silicon Valley. The premise of their technology on the show was inspired by Blockstack with both founders serving as off scene advisors.
Blockchain technology has already changed the world we live in and will continue to as more and more applications come to light. The ability to completely decentralize transactions and deals has the potential to save businesses millions of hours of unnecessary work and billions of dollars.
Watch for this technology to drive an increasing amount of revenue for the firms I mentioned above. For more blockchain stock ideas and insight into the space subscribe to David Bartosiak’s Blockchain service on Zacks.com.
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