Is enterprise blockchain right for your company?
No matter the industry, ensuring the security of all our digital transactions is everyone’s biggest concern. Aside from bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, enterprise blockchain technology has the potential to overcome many current (and potentially future) hurdles digital transactions must face.
So how do organizations determine if blockchain is right for their business? How do companies know when is the best time to implement and start using blockchain? Before we answer these questions, let’s first provide some background on what blockchain is and how it works.
Blockchain is an ever-expanding list of ordered "blocks" that are logged publicly and in chronological order. Each block is time-stamped and connected to the previous block, constituting a "blockchain." The reason blockchain is attractive to organizations across multiple industries is because "blocks" cannot be changed, deleted or modified. They are a permanent record that a given transaction has occurred. Which is what companies and IT executives find so exciting. Its open and decentralized structure lends itself to securely managing transactions and validating user identity. As opposed to a centralized database, a blockchain record is distributed and shared across networks, allowing credentialed users to add to the transaction log, but not delete or alter it. These transactions are encrypted and must be verified by the network.
Keep in mind, blockchain technology is nothing new. It was first introduced in 2008 by the financial industry for use in cryptocurrency transactions. But with the continuous evolution of technology -- including blockchain technology -- the potential benefits are great. Following are some examples of how blockchain can deliver value for the financial and healthcare industries.
Emerging Use Cases
Since its 2008 introduction in the financial industry, advancements in blockchain security features -- including multi-signature verification -- help ensure trust in digital financial transactions (e.g. electronic wallets). Additionally, faster blockchain networks mean reduced latency in financial transactions which means faster mobile payment transactions overall.
Healthcare organizations and executives feel two of blockchain’s biggest benefits are data interoperability and security. For example, blockchain could assist the move toward interoperable, comprehensive health records (e.g. master patient index, smart contracts, EMRs, etc.) securing data as it is exchanged between organizations in a format that is usable for healthcare professionals throughout the healthcare realm.
Now let’s get back to our original question: "How do we know if blockchain is right for our company?"
As mobile strategists, we always advise clients to proceed cautiously when adopting any new technology. Developing a prototype or a proof-of-concept in order to test the waters before jumping in with both feet will help minimize investments in time, resources and money in something that might ultimately prove to be the wrong solution.
Here then are some options companies can consider (and experiment with) before making the leap into blockchain:
- Blockchain-as-a-Service. Cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure and AWS allow organizations to develop blockchain applications in a sandbox environment to see how blockchain may (or may not) benefit them. This is a great option as it requires limited commitment and lets companies test the blockchain waters while avoiding any big upfront investment.
- Public Blockchain Platforms. Publicly available platforms such as bitcoin and Ethereum may be used to host blockchain transactions and applications. The benefit is these platforms are open, allowing anyone to interact with your blockchain application without you having to open your network to outside parties. The only drawback is it’s not free. There is a minimal cost per transaction for the use of these platforms.
- Build your own from scratch. Again, since this isn’t a new technology but rather one that has already been tested (and proven) for almost a decade in the financial sector, a well-established developer community exists that can be leveraged when developing your own blockchain solution. The obvious benefit of this approach is you can go ahead and develop your blockchain any way you want. The challenge with this option is that, as with anything developed from scratch, you must continuously troubleshoot, debug, and fix any issues yourself.
Blockchain can make a big difference in the enterprise in countless ways: by reducing transaction costs between organizations, by eliminating the need for third parties and labor-intensive manual verification processes, by enabling authentication and verification across large networks, and by creating new efficiencies in project-collaboration between departments in large enterprises.
As more organizations and industries begin to explore and use blockchain technologies, a myriad of new possibilities and use cases will be revealed.
James Hoshor is a Senior Mobile Strategist & Solutions Architect for Propelics, an Anexinet company. He has over 20 years of experience in executive leadership, strategic planning, marketing and business development in information technology. For the past 10 years James has worked with many clients across multiple industries, including financial services, insurance, retail and manufacturing, approach mobile strategically to identify and deliver solutions that result in market differentiating solutions and great user experiences.