Blockchain, when broken down well enough, isn’t too difficult to understand.

It’s essentially a spreadsheet of transactions, except it doesn’t belong to any one party or institution; instead, computers around the world have a record of the transactions. (Think of it like Google Docs.)

It’s been made famous because it’s the technology that’s behind cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, but the distributed ledger technology can do so much more than that.

Why are people paying attention to blockchain?

Because the blockchain doesn’t belong to any one party, the information on the ‘distributed ledger’ can’t be edited or hacked into by anyone. It makes it a very secure method of transferring information, which in this day and age counts for a lot.

Because of its inherently transparent nature, several industries are starting to explore the applications of blockchain. Here are some of the things blockchain technology is being used for:

1. Payments

Since blockchain isn’t centralised, it’s being used to transfer funds as banking institutions don’t get in the way. Not only that, but it means transaction times reduce from a matter of days to seconds.

2. Digital ID

“Certain aspects of personal information can similarly be anonymised and embedded into a blockchain,” Blockchain Australia president Adam Poulton told Yahoo Finance.

“This information can then be used to verify or prove one’s identity or could be used to allow others to access that information when utilising services such as health services.”

3. Supply chains

The way that information is transferred across supply chains is being transformed by blockchain, which streamlines and stores logistics information and documentation on shipping, customs, and certificate of origin in the one place.

“Information such as location, route, temperature history and other critical information can be recorded by sensors and embedded into a blockchain,” explained Poulton. “This information can then be used by an end user to verify the supply route of their products or by a business to understand their supply chain and manage contracts, payments or quality control.”

Blockchain is simplifying and streamlining supply chains. Photo: Getty

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has successfully trialled an experiment in which it used an Ethereum-based platform to send 17 tonnes of almonds from Mildura, Victoria to Hamburg, Germany in partnership with five other trade partners.

4. Voting

Just like supply routes can be embedded into a blockchain, so too can a vote, the Blockchain Australia president pointed out.

“Applications already exist that allow people to use an application to vote on specific issues with the vote being recorded, digitally signed by the unique identifier of
the individual and send to a blockchain were it can be verified and easily tallied, making the result of the vote secure, private and verifiable.”

5. Content creation and social media sites

Decentralised social media platforms and content sites have popped up, with users rewarded with cryptocurrency just for engagement or posting.

New blockchain-based social media content platforms have become more popular. Photo: Getty

According to Joseph Purdy, the community manager at blockchain-based content platform Primas, the idea flies boldly against the ‘click economy’, fake news and clickbait headlines, meaning that only genuinely valuable content created by users gets rewarded by fellow users.

The blockchain infrastructure means data is secure and protected in a pointed shift away from platforms like Facebook that have undergone a widely publicised series of data and privacy breaches.

6. Tracking weapons, medical records, prescription medicines, wills or inheritances, tax compliance, food, and more

Blockchain keeps a record of everything and also affords security and safety, lending itself well to the purposes of medical record-keeping and wills or inheritances whereby people’s information would be protected and only unlocked with their key.

Blockchain is changing the way we keep medical records. Photo: Getty

Its transparent and unchanging network also means you can reliably track weapons or the origin of food products, for instance, making food-borne illnesses easier and quicker to trace. Legal drugmakers can also use blockchain to prove the legitimacy of their products in a world where counterfeit medications are rampant.

7. Real estate transactions

Since you can’t erase information on blockchain, the chances of fraud or theft are significantly lower on the blockchain platform.

“Just as transactions on a blockchain can represent the movement of money or
other digital assets, blockchain tokens can also be used to represent real estate, allowing titles to be verifiable and to allow movement of titles in a fasted and more efficient manner,” Poulton told Yahoo Finance.

8. Cloud storage and data sharing

For those who want to go a step further with storing their data and don’t trust third parties which can be prone to hack attacks, storing data on blockchain can be an attractive option since the records can’t be tampered with.

But the applications don’t stop here – all around the world, blockchain hubs, organisations and startups are exploring how this technology can be used to make our information more secure or to speed up processes in a way that will make our lives better.

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