Is blockchain all hype? In the last eighteen months, the biggest blockchain news outside of Bitcoin has been the numerous (and disastrous) ICOs that have come and gone. A study conducted by Boston College of Massachusetts found that more than 50% of all ICOs fail in the first four months. Nevermind the 80% that were altogether scams (according to Satis Group). Coupled with the bursting of the cryptobubble and the ensuing ICO winter, you’d be fair to agree with the skeptics who say yes, blockchain is all hype.
However, the reality is that ICOs, cryptocurrency and their ilk represent one small silo of what distributed ledger technology -- the very root of blockchain -- is capable of. Recruitment, supply chain, and logistics are three industries I can think of outside of cryptocurrency that have implemented, or present practical use cases for, blockchain.
I’ve worked in the staffing industry my entire career and am committed to creating the best technology to improve the hiring process for jobseekers and hirers. While the smart contract is a popular application for blockchain in recruitment, there are broader possibilities. An estimated 60 million people in the US change jobs each year and research states that at least 80% of those candidates lie on resumes and during the hiring process. References and past employment tenures are a common place for applicants to twist the truth. This may be why half of all hires fail in the first 18 months.
A public blockchain record of employment would offer a solution to this problem by creating a central repository for all of the relevant career information we have. College degrees, past work experience, awards and references could all be stored and verified on the blockchain for reference and amendment by future employers. There are questions about privacy that such a system raises of course, but blockchain’s security and modus operandi makes it one of the safest networks on which to store sensitive information. Candidates can control who has access to their information.
A blockchain employment record could be considered similar to a credit history. When you apply for a loan at a bank, you aren’t granted that loan based solely on the strength of your pitch to the loan officer and application. You’d only get approved if the bank ran a credit check and verified the information on your application.
Why wouldn’t an employer want to do the same to avoid making a bad investment in a dishonest applicant? Businesses can lose 1-2% of their annual revenue in the time it takes to bring a new hire up to speed. The last thing they want to do is repeat that process continuously due to unqualified hires. Think of work histories stored on the blockchain as a boon to honest candidates who may have been passed over for a dishonest hire who didn’t work out. This “trust ledger” builds more transparency and fairness into the hiring process.
Blockchain’s greatest untapped potential may be in the global supply chain logistics market; experts have outlined exactly how blockchain can improve the supply chain. Generally, the advice boils down to a few central points based on a chain reaction from increased automation.
As more players in logistics embrace blockchain, there will be increased blockchain-based automation. Increased automation means information and records can be input, shared, stored and verified more quickly and efficiently. It’s thought that around 10% of all invoices contain mistakes which echo down the supply chain. With increased automation, discrepancies may be spotted and corrected before their detrimental effects can reverberate too far down.
With more machines checking for inventory issues and mismanagement, loss for businesses should be greatly reduced. Loss of goods, in fact, accounts for a solid 1% of all revenue lost across global businesses. Traceability is one of the key appeals of blockchain. It’s already proved popular in the food and consumer packaged goods industries where ethical consumerism has become increasingly popular.
Everything from chickens to greens beans have been put on the blockchain. The immutability of the record as well as the security offered by it’s recordkeeping make it attractive for these purposes.
The greater connectivity offered by blockchain also results in increased efficiency within the supply chain. With more information stored securely and indelibly on the blockchain, suppliers, vendors and purchasers will be able to eliminate the friction that comes with a globalized supply chain. With a blockchain record, businesses across the world can be more confident in the accuracy of the international records of their goods.
The process improvements blockchain brings to other industries would benefit the healthcare industry as well. Patient information can be stored and shared safely in distributed ledger technology (DLT), reducing the time, effort, money and errors that come with changing medical providers. It would also give patients a modicum of control over their healthcare data. Blockchain and it’s transparent ledger properties make it an ideal technical solution for how to best store and share medical data safely.
Fraud is also another issue that could be tackled with the use of blockchain. Medical firms and outpatient centers take advantage of loopholes in insurance and Medicaid to reap enormous profits from clients, insurance companies and taxpayers. A more democratized system, with transparently and securely stored and managed data on just about everything from patients treated to the amount of pills shipped to a specific doctor, would increase transparency and accountability in the industry.
Analysts predict that spending on blockchain projects could reach $12B by 2022. It’s certainly true that blockchain was oversold in certain areas, but such is our tendency to abuse buzzwords.
The reality is we’ve just scratched the surface of blockchain’s potential. There are companies, big and small and across all industries, who are working to really move blockchain from a “buzzword” to a recognized part of “Web 3.0.”
We’re in the nascent stages of blockchain’s rise; where everyone’s got a blockchain something. The security, connectivity and near universal useability of the DLT means that it’s clearly here to stay. Soon, blockchain’s purpose will solidify and we’ll have “the AWS of blockchain.”
In the meantime, people like me across the blockchain industry will keep on innovating and advocating for our next big thing.