Despite the fact that many dismissed it as a fad just a few years ago, Bitcoin has remained relevant while gaining respect and momentum throughout 2015. More people are taking the time to learn to understand it, and more stores (online and physical) are accepting it as payment. Even with these developments, one analysis this fall theorized that currency might not be the most exciting thing to come out of the Bitcoin craze.
That's because in the past year or so people have started recognizing the incredible potential of the Bitcoin blockchain as a revolutionary piece of technology. The currency may or may not go significantly more mainstream in the coming years, but the blockchain appears to be here to stay. It has already been picked up and used by various industries that have nothing to do with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and its competitors.
The blockchain is a general log of transactions that links the worldwide Bitcoin network together while recording any and all data in a secure, public manner. Basically, whenever an individual sends or receives Bitcoin in a transaction, that transaction appears on the blockchain so any Bitcoin user can see its record. The blockchain is run by a sort of foolproof approval system engineered by Bitcoin miners, whereby they determine the authenticity of a transaction, usually within 10 minutes of its taking place.
It will be difficult for other companies and industries to replicate the efficiency and security of the blockchain, but the concept of the technology has innumerable applications. Businesses and consumers alike can appreciate the need for efficiency and transparency in financial dealings, and these are exactly the benefits that a blockchain-like log of transactions can provide. Much has been made in recent months about the fact that various banks and financial institutions have debated implementing this technology. But even more fascinating is the fact that a number of independent companies have already done so.
Here are a few to take note of.
- Everledger - In an attempt to eliminate diamond fraud, which is the foundation for a great deal of crime and hardship around the world, this company is looking to use a blockchain to log legal diamond transactions. Using serial numbers, diamonds are tracked through previous transactions that cannot be altered once they're initially recorded. Thus, buyers can be more certain of a stone's background. Everledger CEO Leanne Kemp sees the diamond venture as just the beginning, and hopes to move into luxury goods trading in general.
- Factom - Factom has become one of the bigger names in blockchain adoption across various industries, and the company is pushing numerous ventures in an effort to put the blockchain to use. The goal, in each of the relevant industries, is to facilitate transparency and make records more reliable. Factom's most interesting idea is to create a new sort of voting system in which each individual gets a single vote, and votes can be automatically tallied with math, rather than a human count.
- Coinometrics - Coinometrics is one of a number of companies working in relation to Bitcoin, but they're still using the blockchain in inventive new ways that go beyond the simple logging transactions. Specifically, this is a company looking to expand on the analytical side of the whole concept. In other words, there's a great deal of analysis to be done in figuring out trends and meanings in Bitcoin dealings, simply by way of examining the existing blockchain.