If we were to trace the origin of blockchain, it would lead us to the first white paper on peer-to-peer payment system written by Satoshi Nakamoto. This peer-to-peer payment system also known as bitcoin was built on a technology that is today called blockchain. It was only years after the bitcoin whitepaper that the technology fraternity decided to explore the standalone capabilities of the blockchain. Today every IT company or even new age startups have at least one product built on blockchain and that too addressing issues other than finance.
Even though the idea of blockchain shook the very concept of a central authority for due diligence, multiple businesses have today jumped the bandwagon to reap its benefits. With companies building their own blockchains and bitcoin counterparts, crypto transactions are entering a new horizon and reaching the masses. Last October, McDonald’s Thailand entered into a strategic partnership with Omise, an Ethereum based payment gateway infrastructure provider, to implement its payment gateway on both website and app. Food retailers are not only looking at blockchain as a payment service enabler, but also at using it to aid a transparent supply chain. In India, where farmers are dealing with the problem of overproduction, Farm2K has developed a network of farmers to understand the food consumption trends and plan production for the next harvest. The platform also has a blockchain solution that could identify an entire batch of infected produce that will help in ensuring food safety. Especially with growing veganism and clean eating, blockchain is set to differentiate grain from chaff.
One other application of blockchain is in helping consumers make informed and ethical purchase decisions by assisting authorities in regulating illegal trade. As per 2015 Nielsen report, 43% of consumers are willing to pay more for brands with social value and this percentage is on an increase at a substantial rate. Last month, IBM announced its, Trustchain initiative, collaboration with a consortium of gold and diamond industry leaders to follow the source of finished jewelry along the supply chain for improved transparency. The initiative provides digital verification, physical product and process verification, and third-party oversight. This is aimed at creating and bringing together a community of responsible and ethical organisations along the complicated jewelry supply chain. Applying the same concept to apparels and fashion industry can ensure virtuous brands and may even shut sweatshops altogether putting an end to modern day slavery.
Sustainable shopping is not the only social-cause blockchain is contributing to. ID2020 a global public private partnership is leveraging blockchain in helping world governments identify millions of faces around them. As per 2017 update of the World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) Global Dataset, 1.1 billion people worldwide cannot prove their identity. It is to overcome this crisis that United Nations along with other organisations such as Accenture, Microsoft and the Rockfeller Foundation has formed the ID2020 partnership committed to improving lives through digital identity. In association with this effort, Accenture has come up with a solution integrating biometrics and blockchain to empower individuals to access and share appropriate information anywhere anytime without the need for paper documentation. This could be our answer to refugee crisis, fair voting and even a lost passport in a foreign country.
Given the changing consumer base, increasing population and economic and behavioural changes, blockchain seems to have a long way to go in exploring frontiers yet to be addressed by existing technologies. Though the concept was developed for eliminating third parties in financial transactions, today it has seen extraordinary traction across industries and use-cases. The more we innovate in this area, we are set to lead a simpler and hassle free life but how it would affect the changing cognitive biases is something to wait for.
*This article was first published in Medium by the author