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Readers of this blog are undoubtedly familiar with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and perhaps even with their blockchain underpinnings. Blockchain is the distributed encryption system that makes digital currencies possible.  And while this technology has revolutionized currency, it has potential for uses far beyond digital payments.

Blockchain will soon transform the way that we execute stock trades. It will improve our ability to remotely control machinery, including life-saving medical devices.. It will make it easier for companies to manage supply chains, and will even change the way we buy digital music as well.

More likely than not, you, your business, your government, and the companies you rely on will be using blockchain technology as a matter of course. The sooner you understand this technology, the faster you could put its unique applications to work.

Here are for ways that blockchain is already proving itself to be a game changer.

Better Banking

A recent report on international banking systems noted gross inefficiencies inherent in some of the largest, most influential banks, despite significant reform following the Great Recession. The same report found that blockchain might offer solutions to improve and secure critical banking systems around the world.

Blockchain’s security, coupled with its distributed nature, could dramatically streamline how banks compile, reconcile, and secure data. This would improve banks’ speed and accuracy in executing transactions, and also aid with compliance and transparency. The aforementioned report indicated that greater adoption of blockchain would likely save banks $8 to $12 billion annually, and help to cut operational costs an average of 30 percent each year as well.

As banks adopt blockchain technology more widely, it will speed up the time it takes to execute trades, and make it easier for consumers to accurately track account balances. It will also make it easier for regulators to monitor banks’ compliance, and reduce some of the risks that are inherent within the system. It may even help to eliminate some of the paperwork associated with more complicated financial transactions, such as providing remittances, or international money transfers as well.

Improved Remote Automation

While the Internet of things is, as of yet, not fully realized, it is nonetheless coming. And blockchain, with both its unmatched encryption and its decentralized, distributed nature, is going to play an important role in it.

Blockchain will enable users to securely monitor and control devices remotely, and eliminate concerns about hacking or privacy.  You will be able to turn things on and off through the use of a smartphone or tablet; you will even be able to receive payment in a secure transaction using blockchain, and then subsequently unlock a device for the paying customer’s use upon payment.

Blockchain will also help improve medical care. The technology will enable parameters to be set to allow only certain doctors to have access to key medical devices critical to patient care, and allow sharing of the information these devices produce based on defined parameters. This would improve point-to-point care, and protect patients’ privacy at the same time.

More Effective Governance

Once the scourge of governments, particularly their finance and law enforcement arms, blockchain is now helping to improve the delivery of government services around the world. Much like banks, the use of blockchain in our government bureaucracies will almost certainly grow over the next decade.

In Honduras for example, the government has already begun using blockchain to transfer property from one party to another, and record the transaction. Similarly, in the UK, one mayoral candidate proposed using blockchain to more effectively (and transparently) track exactly how all public funds were used. Applications like this will make it easier for governments to record important data, and also help the public hold their elected officials more accountable.

The state of Connecticut recently instituted a system using blockchain to securely capture data from business surveys. The state will use this information to craft more effective policies.  Blockchain could also be used to help create more secure and responsive voting systems as well. However, sensitivities related to voting and politics will likely keep the United States from rapidly adopting blockchain technology for this use any time soon.

Smarter Supply Chains

Inventory and supply chain management is a challenge, especially for companies who move raw materials long distances and across multiple borders. Fortunately, blockchain is set to dramatically improve companies’ ability to manage every facet of their supply chains, and improve their situational awareness along each step of the chain as well.

Multiple companies are beginning to incorporate blockchain technology into supply chain management. Using blockchain, separate entities responsible for each stop on a supply chain. Everything connected via an encrypted ledger. This will enable companies to purchase, sell, and forecast inventory requirements much more accurately than they can today.

Blockchain will help businesses make more ethical choices.. It will also increase business’ ability to protect the public as well. A company producing coats could require goose down suppliers to certify their birds were treated humanely in the ledger. Better supply chain visibility will help companies locate a source of contaminated food,. Companies, or regulators overseeing them, could  remove it from the chain before it becomes a threat to the public.

Improving the Music Industry

The flagging music industry could definitely use some help, and blockchain may be the answer. The same technology that made Bitcoin possible will likely make it easier for artists to license and distribute their music.  It will also offer piracy protection as well.

Blockchain technology will make it easier than ever for musicians to register ownership of the content they create. Much like with contracts, artists will be able to do this without costly intermediaries, thus saving themselves money and time. Similarly, they will be able to transfer ownership of the music they create. Same with sell songs to the public without an agent or record label as well.

Music transferred over blockchain will be encrypted. This will offer artists much better protection from piracy and other forms of intellectual theft. Companies are already developing peer-to-peer platforms to enable the transfer of music using blockchain. This will be a boon to independent artists everywhere, as well as the fans that enjoy their music.

Final Thoughts

Blockchain technology enabled a revolution in the way we pay for things. Soon, its encryption and distributed nature will dramatically change many other everyday transactions. From banking, to medicine, to the way we purchase music. Innovators will likely continue to find other uses for it as well.

The sooner you understand this technology, the faster you can put it to use in your life. So start learning more about blockchain today.

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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