Blockchain technology is only about 12 years old, and as a result, most of the innovation in this space is happening at small start-ups. Unfortunately, unless you have venture capital money, you won’t be able to invest in this segment in a meaningful way yet.
However, there certainly are a few large companies that are putting blockchain technology in high volume applications that benefit large swaths of people. Accenture (NYSE: CAN) is bringing businesses together with smaller private companies offering blockchain tech. In addition, Accenture has developed some of its own blockchain technology as part of its cloud computing consultancy.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) shows commitment to offering its own blockchain technology to other companies. Through its Azure Cloud Computing platform, Microsoft started offering the Azure Confidential Ledger blockchain service at the end of September 2022.
IBM (NYSE: IBM) seems to have achieved the most in deploying blockchain technology outside of cryptocurrency. In 2019, it worked with Ford (NYSE: F), RCS Global, LG Chem Ltd, and Huayou Cobalt Corporation to deploy its blockchain capabilities to eliminate harsh child labor from the cobalt metal supply chain.
Cobalt has recently become a high priority metal due to its use in lithium-ion batteries used by electric and hybrid vehicles. However, most of it comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where unfortunate child labor is sometimes involved with its extraction.
By using blockchain technology, it’s possible to track cobalt all the way from the ore extraction to the manufacture of lithium ion batteries. This means that IBM’s blockchain technology has made it possible to ensure that EV manufacturers are using ethically sourced cobalt.
IBM also worked with Danish shipping container giant Maersk Line (NASDAQ Copenhagen: MAERSK A) to develop a blockchain that offered immutability, transparency, and traceability of all the various shipping documents used to document cargo import / export. The program was named TradeLens, and although it ultimately failed because container shipping companies outside of Maersk would not commit to using it, the effort succeeded in proving proof of concept.
Finally, Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) also offers blockchain tech as part of its cloud computing business. Most of this business is aimed at improving flexibility, transparency, and traceability of whole supply chains.
More Applications of Blockchain Technology
The applications for Blockchain are vast and probably too large to include an exhaustive list here, but here are a couple of interesting ones.
Although the traditional banking industry in the US hasn’t necessarily embraced crypto, they are beginning to embrace the use of blockchain technologies as a ledger for more traditional currencies. The big advantage from blockchain technology for the banks and their customers is speed.
We all know that even today, sometimes it takes multiple days for checks to clear, or even for digital wallet transactions (e.g. Venmo) to process. Blockchain offers nearly instant financial transactions.
In addition, its distributed nature means that if a given bank’s computer system goes down, no data is lost if it’s saved on a blockchain. It also dramatically improves protection from cyber threats.
Video gamers are benefitting from blockchain technology. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) allow gamers to trade unique images, or obtain one-off tools that enhance their gaming experiences. Blockchain technology is being used as a ledger for the NFTs because it affords the ability to limit their numbers and thus bolster their value by limiting supply.
There are also start-ups that are working to offer blockchain technology to medical and insurance companies. This will enable more efficient tracking of medical records between hospitals, doctor’s offices, and multiple insurance companies. It also ensures that medical records are effectively engraved in stone and can be shared between organizations at nearly instantaneous rates.
Given the pervasive deployment of blockchain technology and BaaS from major public corporations, it is clear that the technology is at the very early stages of becoming a MegaTrend. The technology is relatively young and has tremendous upside. The expected growth in retail blockchain services of 91% CAGR between now and 2030 is an investment worth considering.
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