B for Benefit. Stop talking about blockchain.

Anna Flach 29 January 2020

You might find this an unusual statement by someone who works in the blockchain space – but there I said it: Stop talking about blockchain.

Yes, the technology is fascinating. Blockchain is a distributed database amongst several devices (i.e. nodes) that uses cryptography to ensure tamper-evidence when transferring value within a network.

However, we shouldn’t forget that this technology has been around for a while. While many of the innovations in the space are new, they’re actually built on decades of work that led us to this point. It’s important to remember that cryptography has a history dating back decades. It was first used by secret military or intelligence agencies and later by the cypherpunks – an open forum to discuss some of the world’s seemingly most vexing programming and cryptographic issues and where personal privacy and personal liberty were valued above all. Then blockchain was reborn through Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper in 2008.

But why should anyone care?

Most modern data repositories are siloed – your tax records, health records, and financial records all keep similar or replicated data. Today’s systems are unintegrated, often inefficient and ledgers are reconciled manually. Whilst keeping data isolated made sense historically as a security measure, the data-driven world in which we operate today demands greater transparency and collaboration.

In addition, there are some serious concerns around cybersecurity for businesses and people. In this increasingly digital age, we need to ensure we can trust people are who they say they are online, and that what they say is true.

Blockchain can solve the above.

In my view, the real value of blockchain lies in automation coupled with the three ‘T’s’: transparency, traceability, and tamper-evidence:

  • Automation: Blockchain puts an end to tedious manual reconciliation of ledgers and repetitive tasks and reduces duplicating efforts between entities and therefore cost. The framework enables people to encode business logic – sometimes referred to as smart contracts – in a manner which is enforced by computers and code.
  • Transparency: Blockchain brings the single source of truth in real-time. By nature of being distributed, i.e. the databases are held by multiple parties who continually have an identical view of the current state, the ledgers allow for a fully transparent version of events across the entire network. When information is updated, it’s updated for everyone in the network at the same time – a bit like Google Docs.
  • Traceability: An aspect of blockchain, which is particularly valued in supply chain industries, is traceability. Whilst supply chains for physical goods are seamlessly integrated, the data capture isn’t and is conducted on different systems. With blockchain, members of the network can verify and prove states of every data entry or transaction. This applies to physical goods as they move through dozens of intermediaries from the point of production to the point of sale or digital transactions.
  • Tamper evidence: Blockchain technology has built-in cryptography. Data cannot be added, deleted or modified without being detected by other users. The audit trail shows any retrospective changes – timestamped and attributed to a verified cryptographic identity, paired with a real-world identity.

Cryptography and public-key infrastructure have been around for decades. It’s been ten years since Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin whitepaper. We have seen many inspiring live examples of companies solving real problems with blockchain. And we are still mainly talking about the technology used under the hood and its limitations.

I get it. Technology and how it works is fundamental – but it became too much about blockchain and not enough about the specific use case behind it. Blockchain brings a new level of trust, which has huge potential for business, coupled with the benefits of automation, traceability and transparency.

We use technology on a daily basis without really knowing how it works. However, we know exactly how the tech impacts our daily lives and the benefits it brings to how we live, work, communicate with each other and exchange value.

Public-key cryptography is a great example. Anyone who owns an iPhone already uses it as a practice of secure communication. Your public key is stored on Apple’s servers, your private key on your phone. When someone sends you a WhatsApp or iMessage, they fetch your public key from Apple’s servers and their message gets encrypted in a way that only your device knows how to decrypt. Find a detailed decryption, err description, of how it works here on Crunchbase.

And that’s how solutions should be built – intuitive and seamless, whilst all the complexity that is inherent to the technology used is securely locked in “under the hood”. At Qadre, we like to think that we do the hard work internally to deliver seamless solutions to our clients.

Blockchain will become a thing when we don’t talk about blockchain technology anymore. It could have happened years ago as the technology existed already. However, it takes time, a spark – and a shift of mindsets.

There are some compelling parallels to the initial scepticism before the rise of the internet. At the end of the day blockchain technology is about the impact on the real world: driving efficiency, lowering cost and delivering certainty for both business and people.

So let’s stop talking about blockchain – and start talking about the benefits.

This is part of a wider series: The Blockchain glossary by Qadre.

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