Deciphering the buzz around blockchain

Was 2016 the year of IoT? How about 2015? When was the year for big data or even hybrid IT? Every year seems to have a technology trend attached to it, and 2017 has some strong competitors for the buzzword of the year.

However, one seems to be running away with the prize: step forward blockchain.

Blockchain is the peer-to-peer ledger technology that began with Bitcoin. It has been around for years, but it’s only been the last few months where it’s truly entered mainstream consciousness. What then is blockchain, and why is it being touted as the next big thing?

Tackling the trend

Blockchain began life underpinning digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, and is a public database which stores detailed information about every transaction.

By storing the cryptographically signed records of these transactions, blockchain has enabled companies to prove the integrity of their documents by shedding light on who owned the document at any specific time, and providing proof that it hasn’t been amended or altered.

This was useful for Bitcoin as it ensured that the same money couldn’t be spent twice, unless a third-party stepped in.

>See also: Emerging from bitcoin’s shadow: The rise of blockchain

Blockchain is also incredibly transparent, thanks to its unique model in which the storage of the ledger isn’t restricted to one computer, instead it’s shared across a huge number of computers.

This distributed database model means that everyone in the network can have access to the ledger, which also means it’s extremely difficult to tamper with the documents without someone noticing.

The sense of reliability and integrity that blockchain can empower has made it de rigueur for the building of financial technologies.

However, blockchain is now starting to spread its wings, with its influence set to be more keenly felt in a number of sectors over the next few years.

Going public

Data management and security have been pressing issues for businesses of all types for many years.

As increasingly varied and complex technologies spread through organisations, businesses are finding it harder to ensure the reliability of their data, with fear of a security breach being well-founded.

Here, blockchain technology seems like the answer to many enterprises’ problems.

With its ability to supposedly prove the integrity of documents, blockchain can be used for recording almost anything, from the transfer of goods, to the buying and selling of shares. Indeed, blockchain can allow businesses to inspire something that is now so difficult to grasp: trust.

The impact of blockchain technology is being particularly felt in the public sector, where resources are tight and IT security and data management can sometimes take a backseat to other everyday pressures.

>See also: How blockchain technology will revolutionise finance in emerging markets

This is a worry, of course, as the reliability of public sector records are vitally important. Just imagine a hospital with inaccurate patient details, for example.

With this in mind, it seems that blockchain represents a solution to these issues. Indeed, the wheels are already in motion to make blockchain a more significant part of the UK’s public sector framework.

As with any new trend, however, it’s very easy to get swept up in the hype and overlook the drawbacks. Indeed, it’s not all roses and sunshine, because blockchain is stored across so many different computers, and used in so many different ways, a common protocol has yet to emerge.

Despite its supposed reliability, blockchain is still relatively new. Therefore, it’s impossible to know just how vulnerable it is to hackers.

The idea of an entirely open ledger also leads many to believe that privacy may be an issue, with some businesses shying away from this level of potential scrutiny.

Despite this, 2017 is still likely to be the year of blockchain. In fact, as more research and testing is carried out to explore its potential, it’s possible that the full capability of data ledger technology will not come to light until 2018, when more widespread adoption could take place. At this rate, blockchain may even like its chances for Trend of the Year 2020.


Sourced by Patrick Hubbard, Head Geek, SolarWinds

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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