Five blockchain use cases: from property to sustainability

Blockchain is touted as a game changer technology. But, without industry blockchain use cases, it will never reach its predicted potential.

The technology has already been proclaimed a potential saviour in industries, such as the supply chain, logistics and finance, or rather a number of use cases have been identified, but — really — it will have an impact on a wide variety of industries, in a number of ways.

Below, five experts explain how blockchain technology can impact their respective industries.

1. Property

Nicole Anderson, former chairwoman of MIRIS AS and CEO of Redsand Ventures, explained:

“Real estate projects require substantial amounts of time to complete which means investors are financially bound to projects for long periods before they can earn a return. Added to that, investors lack visibility of project progression.

“By using ‘smart contracts’ and asset-backed tokenisation of real estate projects, platforms based on blockchain will reduce conflicts, increase oversight, and reduce the need for intermediaries. In addition, investment in real estate projects will be fractionalised, meaning investors who do not have deep pockets can participate in opportunities and be ‘part’ of a project. This is expected to have huge implications for the retail investment market.”

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Geoff Dunnett, managing director at secure payments solution, Shieldpay, added:

“The integration of digital solutions is breathing new life into the property market and offers to innovate the buying process for prospective home owners. While other sectors have adapted to, and met, changing consumer demand, the property market has remained relatively stagnant, until now. The future is undoubtedly digital and technology will revolutionise the sector over the next few years. Digital escrow is already enhancing payments in the property market and the adoption of blockchain technology in combination with this could change home buying as we know it.

“In the UK, a main reason for delayed completions, which can leave people waiting on the doorstep, is the movement of funds as payments go from one law firm’s bank account to another and then to the ultimate beneficiaries. Chains can be as long as 12 individual property transactions and, if any of the payments do not happen on the agreed day, the chain can fall apart, and it’s back to the start; a game of snakes of ladders.

“The use of a blockchain conveyancing system has the ability to change this. It removes the need for solicitors, estate agents, banks and home buyers to chase payments up and down a chain and instead gives complete visibility over the status of the funds at any point during the transaction.

“Buyers will be able to move home on any day they choose, including Bank Holidays and weekends, with confidence that their move will happen. All with an added layer of security which verifies the identities of all parties and the payment instructions involved, stopping fraudsters in their tracks.”

2. Oil and gas

Mohamed El-Masri, founder and CEO of PermianChain Technologies, suggested:

“Blockchain could significantly enhance upstream, midstream and downstream operations throughout the oil and gas sector. It has the potential to make a great deal of the sector’s bureaucracy significantly more efficient, for example making it easier and quicker to confirm when third-party suppliers complete tasks so that funds can be released in a far more timely way. It can also be used to monetise reserves in a way that has not previously been possible, tokenising confirmed but not yet exploited deposits to help investors, exploration and production firms, and refining and processing operations, manage their activities and balance sheets.

“The deeper we look at the potential of the blockchain in the oil and gas sector, the wider the range of opportunities from digitalising global oilfield datasets becomes. Distributed ledger technology allows for permanent transparency on a trust-protocol that integrates cloud-based servers. The approach that we are taking requires graphic processing units and high-performance computers. This would normally have a significant power requirement, but by using flared natural gas that would otherwise be wasted, we are simultaneously delivering massively enhanced business efficiency while also making better use of natural resources.”

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This article from Tobias Mathiasen (Vice President, ICO Advisory, Standard Kepler) will briefly introduce the core value proposition of blockchain, and explore when integrating this new ledger technology makes business sense in existing processes. Read here

3. Enterprise sustainability

Vincent Manier, CFO at energy and sustainability management provider ENGIE Impact, said:

“To understand, and report on, the carbon footprint of an enterprise is a highly complex undertaking. But businesses must get to grips with it as quickly as possible, given that there are 40 countries that have either established or are in the process of implementing a carbon pricing system, which includes cap-and-trade or a carbon tax.

“One technology offers a solution to this challenge: blockchain. This decentralised, communal record of information maintained by a computer network is ideal for carbon reporting.

“At present, this process is one of self-reporting, with little validation from external parties and it rarely covers the supply chain, value chain or the footprint of products. Blockchain will turn the tables and enable the participation of other stakeholders, whether internal or external, and allow for near real-time insight into an enterprise’s entire carbon footprint, including those of suppliers, distributors and customers.

“It will eliminate the possibility of window dressing statistics and ultimately provide greater transparency and control, helping the C-suite to achieve sustainability goals, ensure compliance with sustainability regulations, and minimise exposure to carbon-related activities.”

Don’t let blockchain hype become your excuse for inertia – blockchain supply chain can ensure trust

Is blockchain coming of age? Maybe we are moving beyond the hype associated with cryptocurrencies, and onto a real world of practical applications, such as ensuring trust between digital partners, with blockchain for the supply chain. Then again, Gert Sylvest, of GM Tradeshift Frontiers says that we must be realistic, blockchain on its own is not enough. Read here

4. Supply chain

Gert Sylvest, co-founder of supply chain network Tradeshift, explained:

“All transactions within the supply chain are subject to questions about trust and transparency. The first generation of B2B networks were fire-and-forget networks, where messages were sent between two or more parties and then stored individually within each party.

“Blockchain makes hiding data on one side or the other of that relationship impossible. Instead, transactions between shippers, sellers, buyers, manufacturers, their banks and insurers are stored in a single, shared, immutable distributed database which no single participant controls and tampering is virtually impossible.

“The additional level of transparency blockchain helps facilitate is particularly useful in applications like trade finance. An enormous amount of money is trapped between buyers and suppliers – up to $9 trillion according to some analysts and only around 10-15% qualifies for financing. One of the main reasons this figure is so low is a lack of information. Banks don’t have ready financial information from most small to medium enterprises, whether it’s credit scores or receivables collateral, to assess whether an enterprise is worth the risk of financing.

“By utilising blockchain technology, we can share robust and relevant information to a potential financier, without there being any question on the validity of the data. What you’re effectively creating is an open marketplace where banks and other financial institutions can compete for access to a tokenised volume of receivables.

“Blockchain can play a role in facilitating the move away from the traditional ways of estimating risk towards a more real-time, transaction-based finance model where you can finance the individual dollar as it’s moving through the supply chain as opposed to the whole company.

“There’s an important caveat in all of this however. Technologies like blockchain are only useful if the underlying processes are fully digital. Right now that is simply not the case. While blockchain offers some interesting potential applications for supply chain, the more immediate issue businesses should be focusing on right now is how to become digital by default.”

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5. Copyright infringement and protecting IP rights

Joe Naylor, co-founder and CEO of ImageRights, concludes:

“In the beginning, Bitcoin stole the show when evangelists would proselytise the impending revolution brewing with blockchain technology. But blockchain’s raison d’être is to secure information and prove something existed at a certain point in time. Blockchain’s advantages are therefore not confined to the world of crypto and financial services, but rather can be applied within a multitude of industries.

“As such, blockchain is gaining traction in the world of copyright. The immutability of data inscribed into a blockchain underlies it’s fundamental function: proof of existence.

“Proof of existence is essential when establishing proof of authorship, proof of copyright ownership, and proof that the evidence presented when enforcing one’s copyrights is true. By inscribing hashes into a blockchain of the data and links between a photo, its copyright management information and registration with a court-recognised registry, such as those operated by the United States Copyright Office, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, or the Copyright Protection Centre of China, copyright holders have an impregnable claim of copyright ownership and can pursue the remedies available to them by statute.

“Copyright infringement threatens the livelihoods of creators worldwide; blockchain is enabling welcomed new solutions to help them tackle these unpleasant challenges head-on.”

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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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