What’s Blockchain and Can It Help You Trust Your Data?

It first appeared in 2008 with the Bitcoin currency, this year, Blockchain technology achieved the summit of Gartner’s “Hype Cycle.” While many economists or policy actors have expressed their interest to use the technology (i.e. the government of Honduras, Ghana and Georgia wish to secure their land titles in a Blockchain and, in the private sector, several financial institutions have begun to experiment), we see that concrete and real applications are not common place. Even if the market associated with this technology is estimated by Gartner to reach 10 billion dollars in 2022.

Uberizing Uber

However, Blockchain’s potential for disruption is unprecedented. By negating the need for a trusted third party to set up a direct relationship between two groups and by ensuring the security of this relationship and generating an unfalsifiable historical (thanks to its distributed character), Blockchain may well contribute to uberiserizing Uber! A system based on “smart contracts” would, in fact, make it possible to place drivers and customers in direct contact, while securing payment. The collaborative economy, currently dominated by intermediates, i.e. Blablacar, AirBnB, Drivy, and Uber, would enter into a second phase of de-intermediation.

For certain observers, it’s only a matter of time. While it took 30 years between the first e-mail and the advent of online banking, Big Data only needed ten years to appear at the top of marketing, logistics, and even HR priorities. Digital transformation requires Artificial Intelligence, and predictive analysis that were only a short while ago Hollywood clichés, but are now very real and in fact at the heart of the fight against terrorism.

Ensuring traceability of data

One of the primary concerns associated with Big Data resides in their governance. What data do we use? Where do we store them? How can we ensure usage is compliant with the regulations? Who updates them? etc. The failure of initial projects is often explained by the eternal silos slowing down business agility. But recently, the appearance of “data lakes” has helped to break down those silos, finally giving access to the data that is relevant to business users, or even partners and customers, in real time.

In the same way, Blockchain appearance could make it possible to secure some processes in a Big Data approach (e.g. the authentication and traceability of data). The prospects are endless: In the field of health, first and foremost, where confidentiality issues are tied to personal data, but also in the financial sector, where disintermediation is already in progress yet is still coming up against security and regulation issues. Or another prospect is in the insurance sector, where Blockchain is a new momentum for the first peer-to-peer models and establishing the foundations of the automated insurance contract.

Very small businesses and SMBs are also concerned: A library can administer its book loans and subscription fees; a startup can manage its financing, etc.  With the emergence of Smart Cities, consumers can even generate the use and distribution of the electricity produced by solar panels.

Generating trust

Beyond the business world, society itself can take advantage of this technology (e.g. to secure online voting and set up a framework of trust which would make it possible to multiply direct consultations with citizens, such as in the case of a referendum), thus reinforcing participatory democracy.

Trust. The word means “reveal”. According to IDC, around 30% of the decision-makers decline to use their company’s data due to a lack of trust and governance. With Blockchain, a trust catalyst, the use of data could be considerably amplified. Like artificial intelligence, industry 4.0 and the collaborative economy may, as we have seen, bring about major changes both business and social. And these are the organizations that must contribute to it, through their experiments and by discovering new uses that will forge the society of tomorrow.

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