TThe cryptocurrency boom has faded for now, but blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, has many possible applications and could soon save millions of lives, pave the way for a new global business boom and help fight crime over the years. to come.
In fact, while the criptos may have taken the limelight, the true story goes far beyond.
Blockchain is a database technology that works on the principle of a distributed ledger – a record shared by multiple owners – so that when changes are made by one person, all other copies of the general ledger adjust accordingly.
In theory, if properly designed, these registries can help to eradicate frauds and accounting errors and even the smallest entry into a database (for example a fruit comes from) easily traceable.
Why this should affect humble consumers, could you ask? Consider the concerns of E. coli surrounding Roman lettuce in the United States last year; with a firmer supply chain to be controlled, blockchain software could increase the quality and safety of the food we eat, to ensure, for example, that the vegetables were not heated and then reconquered on their way from farm to fork .
The American giant Walmart is already using technology to keep track of green vegetables, with over 100 farms of its suppliers able to enter detailed information about their products in a blockchain database designed by IBM.
Likewise, blockchains could be the key to making medicines safer, making it easier to track where the drugs come from. Technology could help save the lives of the million people who die each year from fake drugs or even fight human trafficking.
Once you start digging into possible blockchain applications, it soon becomes clear that technology is bigger than bitcoin.
Free shipping from documents
Blockchain could also free shipping from the endless paperwork that currently strangle the global economy, leading to an increase of up to 5% of global GDP, according to IBM's research.
The digital giant is planning a joint blockchain venture with the world's largest container shipping company Maersk, with the expectation that supply chain simplification could unlock an additional 15pc in global trade volume.
In maritime transport, blockchain could be revolutionary: there are 17 million containers on earth, of which five or six million are moving at any time. Up to 20% of the shipping cost of a container is simply the documentation necessary to track it.
Professional Services Company Accenture has tested blockchain software with a consortium of shipments, including AB InBev, and believes that documents can be eliminated altogether. The savings could amount to "hundreds of millions," says Graham Richter, CEO of Accenture for the United Kingdom and Ireland.
"Blockchain allows partners to trust their own transactions even if they can not trust the other parties," he says. "It has a huge role to play in supply chains".
Kill bad medicine
In sectors such as pharmaceuticals, the reliability of the blockchain could save lives. A PwC report estimates that every year up to a million deaths are attributed to counterfeit drugs worldwide, 450,000 of which are attributed to drugs for malaria alone *.
Richter says Accenture has worked with the DHL delivery giant to create a prototype that monitors drugs across the supply chain and adds that reliable monitoring "reduces costs, saves time and improves accuracy and could even save lives" .
Preserve the real deal
Fakes represent a constant threat to companies operating in the luxury sector and the ability to blockchain a product from its origin to its destination will provide buyers with the certainty that they are getting what they have paid for, says James Robbins, responsible for delivery information company Arrow XL.
"If the journey of a product is recorded in blockchain, from documenting the serial number in the factory to confirm the consumer's credit agreement and receipt of assets as a block, there is an irreversible sequence of information that provides absolute certainty," he says . "This can be used to provide proof of ownership for items of high value, whether for those looking to buy a vintage car or an art work."
Protect the vulnerable
Last June 2018, Reuters reported that the blockchains are increasingly tested for social causes, citing the creation of a register of workers to combat forced labor, monitoring supply chains for the minerals extracted through exploitation and even the Moldovan government process to register citizens digital identities to combat child trafficking.
The latest idea, which won a UN competition, arose from an idea of the US blockbain company ConsenSys and links the identity of Moldovan children with other family members to ensure that young people attempting to cross the border can not do it without the full consent of their guardians.
Should you buy in blockchain?
While blockchain technology is still in its infancy, with the analyst Capgemini estimating that 87% of current projects are still in proof-of-concept stage, and only 3pc is used on a large scale, Its widespread applications are undoubtedly interesting in many areas beyond the finance world.
Business logistics expert Prof Edward Sweeney, of Aston University, says the blockchain is "just one of countless potentially disruptive technological developments.The key for all companies is to stay as informed as possible in relation to developments in to be able to make informed decisions about technology investments ".
He cites other technologies, such as the Internet sensors of things in containers, as part of an evolving technological ecosystem that should inform the way companies invest in ways to make their businesses future-proof.
Even so, its ability to provide clarity and accountability in an instant, and to minimize the influence and costs of intermediaries in so many applications, must put it on the agenda of each council. How and how much could your business affect for years to come?
* PDF: Fighting counterfeit drugs: new defenses for an undervalued and growing threat, PwC, 2017