What is Blockchain and Why is it Useful?

As the term ‘Blockchain’ appeared more and more frequently during my initial research, it seemed to be the logical next topic to explore, especially;

What is Blockchain?

 

To quote ‘s article on computerworld.com..

First and foremost, Blockchain is a public electronic ledger that can be openly shared among disparate users and that creates an unchangeable record of their transactions, each one time-stamped and linked to the previous one. Each digital record or transaction in the thread is called a block (hence the name), and it allows either an open or controlled set of users to participate in the electronic ledger. Each block is linked to a specific participant.

Why would it be useful?

Blockchain can only be updated by consensus between participants in the system, and when new data is entered, it can never be erased. The blockchain contains a true and verifiable record of each and every transaction ever made in the system.

This TED seminar entitled: How the blockchain will radically transform the economy, by Political Scientist, Entrepreneur and Activist, Bettina Warburg, served as a great introduction to the subject and the role it could in our modern lives.

Miss Warburg’s talk, explains why we stand to benefit from using Blockchain technology, however this and many other videos on the subject all focus on the financial / economic effects. This is evident in brief online searching, with the rise in popularity and media coverage of blockchain backed ‘cryptocurrencies’ such as Bitcoin, more viewers as switched onto and convinced of the potential financial gains to be made.

Jessi Baker’s startup company Provenance however seem to be exploring the benefits this technology could make to supply chains and product lifecycle applications.

As a platform, Blockchain can help aid data transparency along a supply chain, a trait which Miss Baker believes could be used to enhance retail experience, certifying a brand’s identify and core beliefs and give more power to consumers.

From my initial reading, I feel this technology and framework could be tailored to enhance the security in the digital manufacturing chain, when combined with the file integrity techniques currently championed by software companies like Identify3D.

Manufacturing organisations currently have plenty of options for securing and distributing their content to chosen vendors, but NDA’s and the threat of legal ramification are still relied on to ensure this data is not misused or shared without permission.

If a system existed, where encrypted digital manufacturing assets were distributed across a network, with access limited to select users and crucially the system would prevent unauthorised file use or modification, this could revolutionise the industry and simply thousands of workflows around the world.

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