Surprising applications for blockchain technology

From online gaming and gambling, tracking food and medicines, and even how we vote in large-scale elections, we take a look at some of the potential applications of blockchain technology, as well as some of the fascinating projects already underway that could ultimately revolutionize life as we know it. 

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/134828531@N06/32445645840

Casting your vote

Whether it’s tampering by external parties, straight-out rigging by dictators, ballots getting ‘misplaced’ or simply through the risk of good old human error, our fundamental human right to vote has long been under fire. It’s strongly believed that blockchain technology has the potential to put an end to vote rigging once and for all. Through a combination of e-voting backed up by a secure and transparent append-only blockchain ledger, it would become infinitely harder for anyone with nefarious intentions to hack, let alone alter the information contained on the ledger. Because blockchain systems work over a large network of computers, you’d need to hack every single one of those computers simultaneously – rather than just one network, as in the case of the State of Illinois’ confirmed database breach during the 2016 US elections.

Aside from being a more secure way of registering votes, there’s also the real benefit of convenience – such as citizens who are out of the country, physically disabled or elderly, or simply by encouraging more people to vote because the process is so much faster and easier, particularly in poor weather. While there are naturally many issues to consider and iron out, many countries already have some form of online voting – most notably Estonia, which has allowed e-voting (backed up by their state-of-the-art digital ID system) since 2005. In the eight elections since then, there have been zero serious security issues. One has to wonder why those so dead-set against its use in the US are protesting quite so loudly.

Food recalls and sourcing

In the case of a foodborne illness, tracking potentially affected consumers over a vast network of suppliers, distributors and retail outlets is incredibly difficult and time-consuming, a major concern when alerting customers in time could literally be the difference between life and death. Blockchain could make that process quick and painless – and US giant Walmart is in fact trialing a new method of tracking its products from supplier to customer as we speak. Working with IBM and Tsinghua University in Beijing, blockchain is being used to track a huge variety of data, such as farm of origin, shipping details, expiration dates, and even storage temperature and who performed inspections.

Aside from its use in food recalls, this kind of technology could give individuals greater access to the sourcing and origin of their food, allowing them to make more informed decisions about what they buy – such as supporting local producers rather than importers or food which has been transported a great distance.

Games and gambling

Because cryptocurrencies allow users to gamble anonymously, incur smaller fees and can be transferred virtually instantly, their appeal for the gambling industry versus their fiat counterparts is clear. For international casinos, cryptocurrencies can make their games accessible to players from countries who don’t have direct access to the fiat currency they operate in. Bitcoin casino games already have massive appeal.

The same applies to the online gaming industry as a whole, where some titles such as FIFA Ultimate Team already reward players with their in-house cryptocurrency, FUT coins, as a reward during the game. While not themselves useful outside of the game, their perceived value means they could potentially be traded for other cryptocurrencies outside the game on an exchange – which can then be sold for cash if the player chooses. If game developers were to use blockchain tech in their network, they could create a secure, free marketplace to buy and sell rewards, skins, and even entire accounts – rather than players turning to the black market to do so. 

Tracking medicines and prescription drugs

Similarly, to how blockchain could be used in tracking food products, it could also be a powerful tool in combating the scourge of counterfeit medications, allowing pharmacies, drug companies and customers to access information and verify the real product from a legitimate supplier is being dispensed to the right person, all via one decentralized network. Merck is in fact already testing this kind of system for prescription drug returns. On a larger scale, blockchain could also be used to track medical procedures, ensure compliance with regulations, and act as a proof-of-delivery system for health insurance companies – removing the time-consuming paperwork process altogether.

Image Credits: blockchain technology from Production Perig/Shutterstock

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