While most associate the word ‘blockchain’ with tokenized cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ether, the practical applications of decentralized ledger technologies are much more far-reaching than you might think.
Whether it’s revolutionizing food supply chains or rethinking real estate investment, blockchain offers a host of powerful benefits that could fundamentally change the way we live.
Join us as we explore a variety of use cases for blockchain technologies and offer expert insights on how different industries can unlock the power of decentralized ledger technologies.
The Duality of Blockchain Technologies
Before we dive into specific examples of blockchain examples, it’s important to appreciate that there are two main components when talking about blockchain technology:
- Network of nodes
- Digital currencies & tokenization
While some use cases rely purely on the IT infrastructure of a decentralized peer-to-peer network as a shared and immutable database, others also leverage the power of tokenization to easily transfer and account for specific assets.
Blockchain is a multipurpose technology with exciting applications in both the developed and developing world. While blockchain in the northern hemisphere typically serves as an evolutionary process to streamline existing processes, we’re also excited about the revolutionary possibilities of decentralized and permissionless technologies for developing societies.
Just as we saw the internet blossom from an academic utility to an international phenomenon that crept into all areas of our personal and professional lives, blockchain has the versatility to disrupt many sectors and will further accelerate the digital transformation of the world.
So, let’s take a look at how blockchain came to be and how different industries are harnessing decentralized technologies to shape the digital societies of tomorrow.
Early Blockchain Use Cases & Cryptocurrencies
The earliest applications of blockchain emerged from native cryptocurrencies that leveraged decentralized ledger technologies to create easily transferable and tradeable tokens. These still serve as the foundation to guarantee the security of public networks such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.
The widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies provided a secure network that could host a variety of other blockchain applications. In the early days, initial coin offerings (ICO) harnessed these networks to fund startups that were yet to create a tangible product. Instead, these startups would pitch a value proposition that people could choose to support by purchasing tokens.
Blockchain-enabled crowdfunding moves investment to the front of the equation and provides everyday consumers with the ability to participate in early-stage investment.
In recent years, we’ve seen the maturity of this market through the introduction of regulated Security Token Offerings (STOs) and Initial Exchange Offerings (IEO), which serve a similar function, but in a more professional and secure environment.
To limit the exposure to the highly volatile market prices of cryptocurrencies, stable coins play a very important role. These are generally pegged 1:1 to traditional fiat currencies such as the US Dollar or the Euro. While some use fiat reserves in banks to back the stable coin (e.g. Tether, USDC), others rely on other crypto-currencies as collateral (e.g. DAI). These coins are a crucial bridge to onboard more retail and business users, as they are easier to grasp (“digital dollar”) and help facilitate everyday spending of cryptocurrencies for goods and services.
An animated Story of Token Sales. Source: Elementus.
Blockchain Financial Services Use Cases & Decentralized Finance
The applications of blockchain in the finance sector present established institutions with endless opportunities to streamline outdated processes, address new target groups, and cut costs on administrative tasks.
For example, blockchain consortium Finledger was formed by four leading banks in Germany (DekaBank, dwpbank, DZ BANK, and Helaba) to digitalize the streamlined issuance and particularly the settlement of bearer bonds.
The Finledger consortia are hoping to set a new industry standard of delivering faster and more affordable settlements using decentralized technologies, and we are happy to support their endeavor.
Outside the established financial institutions, there is a whole new segment evolving:
Did you know that over $875 million is already locked in decentralized finance (“DeFi”) or ‘open banking’?
With DeFi, the actual processes of lending, borrowing, investing, and trading are the same as in the established financial industry. However, DeFi is open for everybody’s participation as no bank account or passport identity is necessary. Also, DeFi is censorship-resistant as government sanctions cannot be imposed and the different projects can generally be used as permissionless building blocks to drive innovation. For this reason, DeFi has earned the nickname of ‘money Legos.’
Trade Finance Blockchain Use Cases
Trade finance refers to the movement of finances and goods between different components of a supply chain. Blockchain tokenization leverages immutability by providing certainty over the physical whereabouts of an asset, the status of a transaction, and clarity as to who has ownership of a particular good.
Blockchain technologies can play an important role in meeting capital requirements for banks, bolstering loan requests, and improving the audibility of an organization through increased financial transparency.
For example, consortia like the Hong Kong Trade Finance Platform have partnered with 21 banks to digitize supply chain record-keeping and encourage cross-border trade via global trade networks like Marco Polo and we.trade.
Blockchain Real Estate Use Cases
One of the most promising applications of blockchain is the fragmentation of property assets into liquid tokens. While property investment is traditionally a slow process that requires significant capital investment to purchase a single property as a whole, blockchain allows investors to diversify their property portfolio by claiming a partial stake in lots of different properties.
While the concept of sharing a stake in a property is nothing new, the efficiency gains of using smart contracts to accelerate the issuance processes and streamline settlements help to boost liquidity while remaining financially viable.
Blockchain Insurance Use Cases
Insurance companies are beginning to explore the applications of peer-to-peer blockchain networks to gain efficiency and transparency over insurance claims.
In 2017, AXA launched an Ethereum-backed flight compensation project called Fizzy. The insurance giant was interested in using blockchain to boost customer confidence by removing the human element from the compensation process. For parametric insurance cases, blockchain provides enhanced clarity that payments will be approved if a predetermined trigger is met.
Insurance presents blockchain experts with an interesting challenge to streamline the synergy between off-chain and on-chain events. If a blockchain doesn’t know about off-chain events, it’s impossible for insurers to make a fair assessment of a claim.
Oracles like Chainlink are programmed to observe off-chain events and feed this information to the blockchain. Whether it’s collecting satellite images to make an assessment of flood damage or fetching news updates to verify a claim, oracles help insurers accelerate their processes and improve accuracy. Anyblock has been running multiple Chainlink nodes and services since the summer of 2019.
Another important consideration can be seen on the Anyblock Fizzy dashboard: Any use case needs to balance the benefits of blockchain transparency with the necessary protection of confidential business metrics. We can help with Competitive Analysis as well.
Blockchain Supply Chain Use Cases
One of the biggest challenges for the food industry is tracing the movement of goods throughout the supply chain.
Whether it’s improving the audibility of suppliers or certifying the origins of a specific ingredient to inform a product recall, blockchain helps to improve transparency across the supply chain and boost buyer confidence.
For example, Walmart teamed up with IBM to improve the traceability of goods and improve safety at all stages of their supply chain. Following the successful application of blockchain, Walmart has collaborated with the likes of Nestle and Unilever to create the IBM Food Trust. These pioneering brands are embracing blockchain to build an ecosystem of producers, suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers that are committed to creating a smarter, safer, more sustainable food system.
Blockchain Energy Sector Use Cases
The rise of renewable energies, electric vehicles, and increased public awareness about reducing carbon footprints present the energy sector with a host of new challenges.
Both the tokenization of assets and the management of complex datasets using peer-to-peer networks offer exciting benefits to manage the energy grid and to certify the detailed sources of energy.
Crucially, permissionless peer-to-peer trading enables the vision of smaller energy communes and the devolution of control from the big energy suppliers. While distribution service operations remain a regulated market to ensure the reliability of existing energy infrastructures, blockchain has the potential to radically change the energy market.
For example, a German public utility company launched Tal.Markt to allow consumers to choose where their energy comes from and conduct peer-to-peer trading across multiple energy sources.
Interestingly, by developing this blockchain solution, the ordinary public utility company was able to establish a completely new business model of IT licensing as other public utilities are willing to pay for a white-labeled version of their blockchain-enabled infrastructure.
Blockchain for Good
Possibly the most impactful blockchain use case lies in the use of decentralized ledger technologies to support humanitarian causes.
Whether it’s securing the transfer of financial aid to war-torn regions or improving the administrative steps of rehoming refugees, the ability to track and record real-time events in a secure and trustworthy network has the potential to change people’s lives for the better.
Most notably, the World Food Programme has launched a project called Building Blocks to harness blockchain technology as an effective means to empower refugees and expand their choices in how they access and spend their cash assistance.
The Future of Blockchain: Machine-to-Machine Communication
Here at Anyblock Analytics, we’re particularly excited about the role of blockchain to process Big Data for machine-to-machine communication.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to capture data points from almost every aspect of our lives, decentralized ledger technologies provide a fast and reliable in-between to administer and exchange data into reliable insights. These insights can then fuel intelligent machines to learn from Big Data and feed learnings into the real world. Just think about the immense volume of data, both originating and consumed by autonomous vehicles.
We’re confident that blockchain will continue to reveal powerful solutions to enhance digital experiences and change people’s lives. To learn more about our services and how we can help your organization embrace innovative blockchain solutions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Interested or questions?
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Originally published at https://www.anyblockanalytics.com on June 24, 2020.