This expert from Infosys breaks down how blockchain is changing the way enterprises do business

If you are as much of a music lover as I am, then you will definitely agree that with digital streaming, we are possibly living in one of the greatest times in the history of music. But the same system that has successfully managed to fight piracy, has been quite unfair to artists. Industry estimates account the artist’s share, paid by the labels to be just about 15 percent or so. [1] The unfair days may soon be over thanks (again) to the technology breakthrough that is on everyone’s radar. Yes, I am talking about blockchain. The same technology that is currently sending ripples across the financial sector is being leveraged by music start up PeerTracks to allow artists claim 90 percent of their sales income. [2]

Blockchain technology, which emerged through Bitcoin in 2010, did not gain prominence until 2014 when the underlying concept that powers Bitcoin, came into limelight. People are fast realizing that limiting blockchain to Bitcoin would be like limiting the Internet to email, simply because these underlying technologies have so much to offer. Peer to peer ledger, consensus, and auditability, the fundamental concepts that define blockchain technology, bring a host of attractive options for businesses valuing real time data visibility, data auditability and security.

The financial sector seems to be the obvious beneficiary of blockchain as the technology makes it possible to transfer and exchange value securely, without the need of a costly intermediary. But this ability to conduct secure transactions without a middleman is bringing disruption to traditional notions of currency, authority, and ownership—and this is being picked up by diverse sectors ranging from healthcare to real estate.

In healthcare, for example, blockchain solves the problem pertinent to the healthcare system-the maintenance of secure medical records. Factcom, based in Austin, Texas, uses blockchain technology to provide secure access to globally distributed patient records, from any location with just a smartphone. [3] In the real estate industry, blockchain can coordinate disparate third parties through the creation of ‘smart’ contracts, which is nothing but a digital document drafted with specific actions and verified by third parties. Such a move, which can cut red tape and eliminate the risk of fraud, is already being pursued by Cook County in Illinois. Collaborating with California start-up all transfers of real-estate property titles will now be securely backed by blockchain technology. [4]

These are just two examples where blockchain is currently in use. The implications of blockchain will reach much further. Sharing or gig economies, which rely heavily on online identities, can leverage blockchain systems, which will ensure identities can't be tampered with or duplicated. Peer-to-peer lodging sites like Airbnb, for instance, can satisfy concerns about safety and security for the guests and property damage for the hosts. Another controversial subject that blockchain could bring a solution to is online voting. Blockchain can offer transparency of database records as well as allay any fears of
pace, still has vulnerable spots open to hacking. Integrating blockchain technology can protect against tampering of IoT devices, by providing early warning on any hacks or changes made on your system.

Blockchain systems, which essentially are a hyper-secure record of digital events, distributed among many different computers, has immense applications for the benefit of society on a large. They range from authentication of art pieces by assigning each piece with a unique authenticity code, to the stopping of counterfeiting of medicines by using the blockchain to track pharmaceuticals throughout the supply chain.

At Infosys, we believe that blockchain will hugely impact all industries across geographies and segments. Our vision is to help enterprises create, manage, and govern trusted blockchain ecosystems to accelerate the realization of blockchain by achieving interoperability between existing and new system architectures and enabling trusted ecosystems for value creation. Through our blockchain practice, we have created more than 50 use cases and POCs across industries.

Blockchain is a nascent technology and we have just scratched the surface in terms of understanding, by applying it to problems around data management, transparency, and accountability. For blockchain to realize its full potential, businesses and societies need to look at blockchain from a problem perspective rather than a solution driven approach. And finally, the onus lies on the technology and business community to adopt blockchain and create the internet of trust that will benefit generations to come.

(The article is authored by Prasad Joshi, Vice President and Head, Infosys Center for Emerging Technology Solutions, Infosys)

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