Blockchain’s impact is rapidly spreading across all kinds of different industries and aspects of everyday life. Before long, it may well help to facilitate everything from how you pay for coffee in the morning, to how your latest online order reaches your doorstep, to how the most advanced medicines are developed and distributed. Within this vast and potentially limitless potential, it’s difficult to say where blockchain may be most important. But looking at breadth of impact, at least in the next five or ten years, there are some areas that jump to the forefront of the conversation.
1. Internet of Things
In taking a look at ‘Why Blockchain-Based Computing Could Be the Future of IoT’ in the past, we’ve assessed that current cloud computing infrastructure is not necessarily well equipped to handle projected growth. Networks are essentially too far extended to reliably handle data transfer at the speeds they will need to if they’re to support the next generation of IoT expansion. Already, however, we’re seeing blockchain-like decentralized networks deployed to “provide a mechanism for faster transactions” and essentially build up more capable IoT systems. The potential of this kind of solution suggests that if the IoT is to be what we imagine it will become, blockchain tech will be partially responsible.
2. Supply Chains
Supply chain management may not always be a sexy topic, but it’s actually become one of the most prominent ones in discussions about blockchain’s limitless potential. Worldwide supply chains face a lot of issues with regard to collaboration between companies, accuracy in timing, inventory tracking, and general resource efficiency. And blockchain tech can solve a lot of these problems. ReadWrite’s article on blockchain in supply chains summed up why beautifully, with the quote, “the core logic of blockchains means that no piece of inventory can exist in the same place twice.” While applications are slightly more complex than that, the quote speaks to the idea that blockchain immediately introduces transparent, wholly accurate, real-time tracking. This alone gives companies at all points along a supply chain a much clearer picture of their own operations, and allows them to make necessary adjustments to solve problems and improve efficiency.
3. Forex Trading
Forex trading may not seem like quite as big a deal as global supply chains or the Internet of Things — until you realize that it is actually the biggest investment market in the entire world, and by a wide margin. FXCM lists the daily trading volume in forex at over five trillion dollars on average, with investors from all around the world taking part at all hours. It is an incomparable, one-of-a-kind global trading network, and one that relies on cross-border transactions being carried out as rapidly and as cheaply as possible. This is a task that is essentially made for bitcoin, and to that point there are already some forex trading entities that have successfully implemented the technology. It’s likely only a matter of time before a majority of forex trades are carried out via blockchain, putting the tech at the foundation of the world’s largest market.
Blockchain has numerous applications in healthcare already, and will ultimately be vital in practices like the development and distribution of advanced treatments, as we hinted at above. But it’s the technology’s potential in pure data management that is most significant in the short term. Harvard Business Review’s article on blockchain and health data explains the core issue. It states that data in healthcare is “held in silos in many different institutions and companies,” making it difficult to organize and trace, and leaving the creators of it with little autonomy. Blockchain systems can address these problems with ease and, crucially, make the process of controlling, locating, and sharing data easier — all while keeping it secure. This will have implications in everything from basic patient care to diagnostics, contact tracing, and more.
While blockchain technology will eventually work its way into the fabric of modern life in more ways than we can keep track of, it’s hard to imagine much broader impact than what we’ll see in these four areas.