Blockchain in action: 5 interesting examples 

We look at five areas where blockchain projects are showing tangible progress, including supply chain, real estate, and healthcare
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What will help catalyze more blockchain projects? More real-world examples of blockchain in action. Better still: More examples of blockchain delivering measurable business value in some form, whether cost reductions, new business models, or other tangible benefits that tend to grab the CEO’s attention. Most organizations haven’t seen those examples yet, though.

Ed Price, director of compliance at Devbridge Group, says his firm is kicking the tires on blockchain both internally and in various proof-of-concept projects for its customers – but it has yet to encounter a case where blockchain is the solution rather than one possible solution.

“We always look for the best products or solution to fit the problem and with blockchain, we haven’t found one that required it yet,” Price says. “Given the hype and the customer interest, we continue to look for a good application candidate versus just doing blockchain because we can.”

That’s not a solitary perspective, as shown by some recent Gartner survey stats and other points of view on this emerging technology. As Red Hat technology evangelist Gordon Haff wrote recently, a shipping executive he spoke with saw significant potential in her industry, but not universal adoption, in part because of some key industry challenges.

[ Can you explain blockchain to non-techies? Read our related story, How to explain blockchain in plain English. ]  

That doesn’t mean, of course, that blockchain’s potential isn’t significant. As the hunt for tangible business value continues, Price, Haff, and other experts point to a growing list of compelling real and potential use cases for blockchain.

As Haff told us recently: “In deciding whether to use blockchain, it is helpful to think about whether [its] unique characteristics provide business value. For example, if an industry has no system of trusted middlemen – or if existing middlemen are expensive or otherwise add friction – blockchain might be a good fit.”

So let’s look at some of the most interesting examples of blockchain in action.

A quick note: We’re not covering examples from the financial services, banking, fintech, or related industries here; they’re a blockchain story (or many of them) unto themselves. Rather, we’re turning our focus to other industries and applications where blockchain may offer significant potential, or already offers some interesting case studies.

“Blockchain is not just about digital money and finance – there are applications that are relevant in the early stages of exploration in every industry,” says David Schatsky, managing director at Deloitte.

1. Supply chain management

Supply chains are pretty much by definition full of middlemen. International trade, in particular, comes with a dizzying array of complicated logistics. Global trade is also notoriously dependent on a vast amount of paperwork.

Multiple trials and proofs-of-concept have already begun and include some of the major names in global shipping and logistics. A recent blockchain trial on a land-and-sea trade route between Australia and China was declared a success, for example, and a significant proof-of-concept backed by PwC Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Port of Brisbane recently launched as well. 

Expect to see and hear plenty more blockchain buzz in supply chain management, shipping, logistics, and related industries.

“Supply chain management is a significant growth area for blockchain, as a supply chain is a networked phenomenon that tends to be global and complicated in nature, with many participants,” Schatsky says. “At its core, blockchain can foster greater connectivity, trust, communication, and reliability in a networked setting like that.”

Further reading (curated articles from other websites):

2. Food distribution and safety

As a specific subset of the massive supply chain category, there are considerable potential uses of blockchain technology in food distribution and safety.

Maryanne Morrow, founder and CEO of fintech blockchain startup, points to a pilot program in China, a partnership of Walmart, IBM, and Tsinghua University in Beijing, that is testing the efficacy of blockchain in the country’s massive supply chain for pork and food distribution and safety in general.

As Haff and Schatsky both note, blockchain may be a fit where trust is a potential issue – and it’s a huge issue in food supply: where your food comes from, how it was farmed or produced, the veracity of label claims, and so forth. (If you doubt trust is a big issue with food, pay closer attention to the news coverage of the next major food recall.)

Further reading (curated articles from other websites):

3. Contracts and law 

Aside from blockchain work in the financial sector, so-called “smart contracts” are arguably the biggest innovation to date, according to Christian Kameir, managing partner at the VC firm Sustany Capital, which focuses on blockchain-related investments.

“A smart contract is a blockchain function intended to digitally facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract,” Kameir explains.

A lot of the actual use of smart contracts to date has been connected directly to initial coin offerings, or ICOs, and the creation of new cryptocurrencies; Kameir notes that thousands of such digital assets have been created during the past couple of years. He adds that the creation of new cryptocurrencies or tokens isn’t something that necessarily convinces business leaders of the value of blockchain and smart contracts, but he still thinks the potential is there. He points to rewards and loyalty programs as a good example.

“Many businesses maintain loyalty systems to [give] incentives [to] clients to favor their product or services when making buying decisions,” Kameir examples, pointing to points programs (of the sort commonly offered by credit-card issuers and other loyalty programs) and airline mileage programs as common examples where a customer accumulates some kind of virtual asset for future use. “This is where a token created on an existing blockchain could replace a system which is difficult to maneuver and does not provide easy methods to be redeemed for rewards by the issuer.”

Further reading (curated articles from other websites):

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.


Step one is to understand the difference between blockchain and crypto -