When you come across the word ‘blockchain,’ the first thing that probably comes to mind is cryptocurrency.
Yet blockchain will also create new gateways to another frontier that also begins with the letter C: collaboration.
Blockchain brings a lot to the collaboration table. It’s peer-to-peer, so there’s no middleman involved. With no third-party required to approve or authorize blockchain transactions, they are completed much faster than traditional ones, even in near real time.
The blockchain is a permanent, digital record (or ledger) that’s infinitely traceable and trackable, so it can’t be changed without the immediate authorization of both parties.
Arguably, this degree of authentication and verification injects more security into digital processes, so that even the most sensitive legal and financial transactions can occur remotely without signatures or physical witnesses.
With all those attributes, blockchain might just turbo-charge collaboration tools like VoIP and UC&C.
“What makes blockchain compelling is the potential to ensure trust when using the Internet and to protect our identity when communicating,” analyst Jon Arnold recently wrote for No Jitter.
“It’s really not a big stretch to see collaboration vendors using blockchain at some point as a differentiator or value-add to make communications truly secure and private.”
Arnold envisions blockchain bolstering security in “collaboration scenarios that are highly sensitive and must be 100 per cent private, or … situations where some team members are in countries where VoIP is prohibited or monitored by government agencies. Extend that to mobile workers, who might be using Wi-Fi networks or messaging platforms that aren’t very secure.”
Beyond enhancing security for communication tools like VoIP and UC&C, blockchain could foster a more collaborative approach to cybersecurity as a whole.
“The challenge of cybercrime is so huge now that working in a disparate, uncoordinated way isn’t an acceptable strategy anymore,” writes Craig McDonald, CEO of Australian cybersecurity firm MailGuard. “A collaborative approach is the only way forward.”
McDonald said his company is developing “a blockchain-based mechanism for real-time collaboration on cybersecurity challenges” that will use blockchain to “leverage massive scale collaboration” against online threats.
And in InfoSecurity magazine, Savaram Ravindra expounds on how the collaborative, transparent nature of blockchain could protect network data against hackers. (Brackets below are his, not ours.)
“If someone who is not the owner of a component of data (such as an attacker) attempts to tamper with a block, the entire system examines each and every data block to locate the one that differs from the rest. If this type of block is located by the system, it simply excludes the block from the chain, recognizing it as false.”
Secure data sharing
In today’s enterprise environment, organizations share vast amounts of information among several users in locations across the world. How could blockchain enhance this type of collaborative data sharing in specific industry verticals? Here are some examples.
Healthcare: Security and privacy are paramount when sharing healthcare data. To address that, MIT Media Lab and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre have tested a blockchain-based ledger to share patient medication data, according to ComputerWorld.
Although healthcare-related enterprises — including research institutions, hospitals, insurance companies, drug makers and drug retailers — often use their own data management systems, a joint MIT/Beth Israel report concluded blockchain could potentially surmount interoperability snags.
Accounting: Ledgerium, as described by MailGuard’s McDonald, is a “transparent multi-client ledger” platform for accounting: “Whereas traditional double entry bookkeeping only allows for bilateral verification of transactions, accounting in a blockchain environment can coordinate verified transactions between multiple partners simultaneously and in real time … making complex transactions automatic and visible.”
Real Estate: As reported in Newsweek, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington completed the world’s first blockchain real estate transaction last fall by using the Ethereum platform to buy a $60,000 apartment in Kiev — without setting foot in the Ukraine.
Ethereum processes ‘smart’ contracts when terms mutually agreed upon by the buyer and seller — whether they’re in Ukraine, Utah or Utica — are met and verified by both parties via blockchain.
Me? I can’t get over the fact that any apartment can be had for just 60 grand when the average condo here in Toronto goes for half a million bucks. The real showstoppers of the Kiev transaction, of course, are the ease, speed and security of the whole thing, courtesy of blockchain.