Since its introduction a decade ago, few things have been surrounded by as much hype as bitcoin and the crypto currencies. Investor speculation in these crypto currencies has captured headlines and led to wild swings in value. Today, the market capitalization of crypto currencies sits at $248 billion.
But crypto currencies are only one application of blockchain - a revolutionary technology that is poised to change the world of business. Joe Fuqua, chief data scientist for Midtown Consulting Group, provided an introduction to "Blockchain: Beyond the Hype" Thursday as part of the Charlotte Regional Business Alliances Data and Analytics Lunch and Learn Series.
While blockchain enables bitcoin and other crypto currencies, the underlying technology has many more applications that cut across all industries. Said simply, blockchain restores trust in untrusted environments. Instead of one central clearing house validating information exchange, a decentralized network of peers validates transactions and stores that information as part of a chain, which in turn can be verified by peers in the network. Bitcoin and other crypto currencies operate on open blockchains, but closed blockchains can allow businesses to create their own digitized validation procedures to improve contracts, supply chains and payments, while allowing access only to necessary partners. One example is shipping company Maersk's TradeLens, which uses IBM blockchain technology to empower multiple trading partners, like shipping agents, banks, port managers and other to share a single view of the supply chain.
Companies in the finance, HR, staffing, Internet of Things and health care industries have also implemented blockchain solutions. In health care, blockchain, paired with other technological advances such as artificial intelligence, holds potential for early disease detection by integrating data from across the spectrum of providers from doctors, radiologists, lab techs and researchers.
Blockchain is still in its infancy, and there are many more applications to come.