While popular media discusses how blockchain could be more relevant now than ever, there are still many who don’t understand what, exactly, blockchain technology is or why it matters.
If you’re not familiar with blockchain – or you need more clarity – here’s a simple guide on what it is, what it does, and why you should care about it.
What is blockchain?
Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that records transactions securely and transparently. Its true value is in its ability to secure data against fraud and misuse. Once data is on the blockchain, it’s there forever. If you want to remove or change data, those changes are visible to all those with permissions.
Some blockchains are public and permissionless; others are private and permissioned.
‘Public’ (or permissionless) means that anybody can access the blockchain itself. All information displayed on the blockchain is widely accessible.
‘Private’ (or permissioned) means that you need permission to access the blockchain. There may also be a hierarchy of access, where certain people are granted admin, editor or other access.
Permissioned blockchains are more relevant to corporate business, whereas permissionless blockchains are ideal for public use of data such as cryptocurrencies and platforms in the public domain. Bitcoin, Ethereum and other popular cryptocurrencies are considered permissionless and public blockchains.
An example of permissioned blockchain use may be in government, business, supply chains, or in any other situations that involve sensitive data.
What can it do?
Fundamentally, blockchain technology itself can’t do much – on its own. It acts as a kind of database for data storage. Companies are creating platforms that interact with the blockchain. This can enable anything from data tracking and supply chain management to online shopping and gaming.
Blockchain’s decentralised, transparent, and traceable nature is what makes it unique and valuable. It provides the underlying groundwork for platforms, to encourage trust and reduce the need for intermediaries.
Blockhead Technologies is implementing blockchain into platforms for supply chain and fuel tracking. You can find out more here.
With the recent pandemic, there’s been interest in blockchain’s potential for healthcare. Blockchain technology has massive potential in health and medical services, from tracking medical supply chains to the secure storage of patient data. In a world supported by blockchain, pandemics would be more globally understood, and communication would flow easier.
Blockchain also enables secure, traceable and anonymised collection of patient data. In the case of medical records, it can ensure that medical data is only transferred between certain doctors and medical professionals, allowing patients safety without compromising their personal data integrity.