When thinking of the application of blockchain technology, thoughts of the finance world understandably come up first. Still, one cannot name an industry to which people aren’t working to apply distributed ledger technology (DLT). The prospect and potential of the technology is so promising that companies are even applying it to their names when it doesn’t apply at all.
When investing in the technology, it is good to see just how impressively it is being applied in the sectors aside from that of finance. Following is a list of industries outside the financial sector that are expanding on the strength of DLT and blockchain technology, and some of the companies that are at the forefront of the movements.
Blockchain Development and Infrastructure
A vibrant and active blockchain-based ecosystem is growing and certainly bodes well for the wide-ranging application of the technology. The major players provide solutions such as blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS), open-source blockchain, and application development, among others.
- BlockCypher is doing so much to expand the blockchain ecosystem that the company alone is enough to warrant greater faith in the technology’s potential. A 2014 start-up launched by Boost VC, BlockCypher provides a platform for multiple blockchains, applications, and analysis of blockchain transaction data. With a blockchain infrastructure that supports various applications (Internet of Things (IoT), BaaS, and predictive analytics among them), the BlockCypher system runs both closed and open blockchains on the same infrastructure. The API is a mostly RESTful JSON API, which interacts with blockchains over HTTP and HTTPs. The API supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and the company’s own test chain, among others. The company has also partnered with the Department of Homeland Security. Medium calls the company’s infrastructure “enterprise grade for scalability, performance, and reliability.” The API can be accessed at api.blockcypher.com.
- Blockchain Foundry – The $3.3 million that Blockchain Foundry raised at the end of 2017 is going to allow all of the company’s staff to become full-time employees as well as fund hiring new staff in various areas to improve the software and develop the company. A 2016 creation of MIT’s Syscoin development team and a product of the Microsoft Azure platform, Blockchain Foundry is the marketplace based on Syscoin. Touting itself as the first decentralized marketplace, the wallet expanded to include BlockMarket Desktop in 2017, and is poised to release BlockMarket Web soon. The wallet aspires to be a site that will allow anyone to sell anything to anyone in the world, working not unlike Amazon, but without a middle man eating into the profits. Currently available on both Windows and Mac PCs, the platform hopes to be one more step in bringing the unbanked and underbanked into the world economy. The team has also launched Syscoin Full Node, which allows access to Syscoin’s full suite of decentralized blockchain business tools. The future promises the shift from a blockchain-based marketplace to a total blockchain development platform. Blockchain Foundry has a goal of including decentralized databases and file storage, faster POS and MC/Visa capabilities, and unlimited Turing–complete smart contracts. All applications are available through the API.
Digital Identity, Identification, and Authentication
Detractors of the blockchain might alter their stance if the technology continues to make the strides it’s making in the realm of digital identity. If companies like the ones listed continue on their current path, companies and individuals will all have control over their own identities, and identity theft will be a thing of the past.
- Civic’s platform applies the blockchain to provide on-demand, secure, and less expensive access to identity verification. The data so stored, background and personal information checks won’t have to start from scratch every time one is required. The company’s identity verification product is already live worldwide, and the company won the Best New Startup award at the 2017 K(NO)W Identity Conference. The platform incentivizes only trustworthy Identification Verification (IDV) providers, which reduces the overall cost of KYC, while making processes more efficient. The CVC token is an ERC20 token, and it can be purchased with both Ethereum and bitcoin. The company’s successful token sale ended in June with the company selling all 333M available tokens (one-third of the total amount that will be available) for a funding of $33M.
- Identifi – If any application of blockchain technology is worth rooting for, it might be the Identifi app. The app, created by 17-year-old Anmol Tukrel, allows visually impaired people to take a picture of an object or a text and have it described back to them in complete detail. The app works in 27 languages and in more than 80 countries, and it has won a long list of awards. The app is free to download on IOS systems.
- UniquID Wallet – Applying the principles and assets from the most successful decentralized apps, UniquID is solving the challenges of the IoT as they grow in number. It does so by providing a productive, secure, and interoperable infrastructure for no-boundaries communications between smart devices. This keeps their identity and data removed from potentially vulnerable points of concentration. Providing secure identity management that is integrated with fingerprint identification and other biometry on personal devices, the UniquID system even works on low-power devices and when the Internet cannot be accessed.
When thinking about spaces where the tamper proof nature of the blockchain can be best applied, elections and voting come to mind. Would we have ever had the problems of the 2000 presidential election if the voting was being done by distributed ledger instead of paper ballots? There are no hanging chads on the blockchain. For most of the world, the application of the blockchain to the process of voting is at least a little while down the line, but there are companies delving into the application, and one Eastern European nation is already applying the technology successfully.
- NASDAQ and the Republic of Estonia – In January of last year, NASDAQ completed a successful test of blockchain-based voting on its Estonian partner exchange, the Tallinn Stock Exchange. Investors who own shares in companies on the exchange were allowed to vote during investor meetings or to pass along their voting rights to a proxy. This test shows that, if the technology can be applied to voting in this manner, it can be applied to voting in elections.
- Follow My Vote – FollowMyVote.com states the company’s objective as the building of a secure online voting platform that will allow for greater transparency. So stated, it’s again easy for the mind to go back to Florida in 2000, and then again to the recent FBI pronouncements that two states’ election systems were hacked by foreign countries. The company believes that blockchain technology and elliptic curve cryptography can solve both of the major problems facing our elections, that of transparency and security. Its open source platform is secure and verifiable from end to end. The company presently needs funding to develop its vision further, and when you think of the vast numbers of people who can’t make it to the polls on Tuesdays in November or those who simply don’t vote because they have no faith in the processes, success here could really show us what happens when we get a voting class that is truly representative of all citizens.
- Ethereum – The work that Vitalik Buterin and his team at Ethereum may prove to have a more positive impact on the energy sector than any of the companies in the space. If the Ethereum team successfully moves from a proof-of-work protocol to that of proof of stake, the amount of electricity saved stands to be substantial. It won’t have the impact that would occur if Bitcoin were to somehow make that transition—which doesn’t seem possible—but it will mean that all coins based on the Ethereum blockchain will be able to verify themselves without the need of mining, which will indeed be substantial. You have to think that Buterin and his team will be successful in this endeavor, which makes one wonder what the naysayers will use to replace the amount of energy used as the number one reason they come out with when talking about how blockchain is the great evil.
- RMI and Grid Singularity – Also on the strength of Ethereum, the Rocky Mountain Institute and Grid Singularity have established the Energy Web Foundation (EWF). Joined by numerous energy companies that span the globe, the foundation has come up with some 200 potential use cases of blockchain in the energy sector. Now, they are in the process of deciding which applications have the most potential benefit. Customer billing, renewable energy certificates, and P2P energy sharing are all on the top of that list. If these efforts succeed, the potential to put money back in consumers’ pockets is more than noteworthy.
One could create a list as long as a Michener novel of potential applications of blockchain technology and not even scratch the surface. Thus, these are just a few notable ones.
Written by Paul Keenan.