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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How blockchain will change the world

“I am usually busy trying to decentralize defences and after digging deeper into Blockchain and decentralized systems, I’m excited to join SIRIN LABS as an ambassador to make Blockchain more friendly with their upcoming operating system for smartphones!”
These are the recent words of none other than Lionel Messi. Whether the Argentinean and FC Barcelona footballing legend understands the deepest intricacies of blockchain remains to be seen. But his promotional post on behalf of a promising blockchain company shows just how far distributed ledger technology has come over the last few years, in terms of global awareness. And it suggests that blockchain is going to play a hugely influential role in the world during the years to come.
On the surface, one might be tempted to ask what all the fuss is about when it comes to blockchain. After all, when we boil all the hype down to the technology’s decidedly unglamorous core function – that of being an improved, distributed ledger – the revolution doesn’t sound particularly exciting.
But it’s the ability of this ledger to provide an unfalsifiable, singular version of the truth that is now enabling a multitude of processes to become faster, safer, more accurate and more efficient.
And with blockchain crucially eliminating the need for central intermediaries, it will fundamentally change the traditional models and infrastructure upon which industries, governments and even individuals have functioned for decades, if not centuries.
To date, it’s been the cryptocurrencies that have stolen most of the headlines as far as blockchain use cases are concerned. And many would say “rightfully so!” – after all, it’s not every day that a new tradable asset generates four digits of annual percentage gains, as Bitcoin managed in 2017.
But over the next few years, it’s the distributed ledger technology itself that will end up transforming much of the world’s economic, political and cultural landscape. It seems almost every day that another industry is gushing over what blockchain can unleash for its future.
Here we take a look at a few specific examples of where the technology is expected to be particularly instrumental…
Insurance
We have already discussed the potential for blockchain to transform the financial services industry, mainly within sub-sectors such as trade finance, payments, clearing and settlements, and compliance and regulation. It also looks set to cause major upheaval in the insurance world. Many of the industry’s biggest names are testing potential blockchain applications, including Allianz, AIA and Swiss Re. and are likely to emerge with blockchain-based solutions for both improvements in internal processes which should generate efficiency gains, cost reductions and top-line revenue growth; as well as more general industry use cases that could benefit sectors right across the industry’s value chain.
In this regard, there is much anticipation over the introduction of smart contracts– self-executing protocols on the blockchain that all parties involved in an insurance contract can trust. Claims data, in particular, will be drastically improved, especially given the multitude of inefficiencies currently pervading insurance organisations, agents and third parties (for example, repair shops) in this area, as well as the fact that manual data entry processing methods remain widespread, and are thus subject to human error.
The use of blockchain, in contrast, could automate the claims payments process by filing and adjudicating claims based on secure information that is recorded using smart contracts. As recently observed by Deloitte, smart contracts “could provide customers and insurers with the means to manage claims in a transparent, responsive and irrefutable manner”. As such, the smart contract would lower costs, increase payment speeds and provide a new and innovative business model for the insurance industry.

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    • article at 2 discusses supply chain and reducing corruption and at 3 humanitarian problems and politics
      According to recent EU budget publications relating to the EU pilot project, Horizontal Task Force on Distributed Ledger Technology, lawmakers are considering just such a proposal" “One specific use case that ought to be explored is the potential of [distributed ledger tech] based solutions for the management of the situation of refugees. Many refugees, and people in refugee-like situations, are unable to prove their identity or access essential services.”
      Ostensibly, such an initiative would help refugees to gain a formal ID, which in turn would be of benefit when opening a bank account, accessing healthcare and seeking legal representation.
      The news follows reports earlier this year that the United Nations is using Ethereum to provide funds to refugees from the Syrian War. Since then, it is believed that 7 UN groups are exploring how blockchain could solve problems relating to identity and micropayments.
      Indeed, the Finnish government has already gone one better. In conjunction with a company called MONI, Helsinki is providing prepaid Mastercard debit cards to refugees who do not have bank accounts. Each card contains a unique identifier stored on the blockchain, which means there is no need for a third party required for identity verification purposes. The card also functions as a bank account by having the ability to receive direct deposits from users’ employers; and the account’s private keys can only be accessed by the cardholder, which thus allows identification to be easily and securely carried out. With blockchain storing all transactions made by each cardholder, therefore, local immigration services can also easily monitor cardholders and expenditures.

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