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Editorial Articles


Issue no 32, 04-10 November 2023

 

Blockchain: Disrupting Technology and Transforming Industries

Bhupendra Kumar

Blockchain technology, often associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, has undergone a significant evolution, extending well beyond its origins. It has emerged as a trans-formative influence in a multitude of industries. When encountering the term 'blockchain,' a common question that arises is, "What precisely is blockchain, and why is it significant?" In simple parlance, a blockchain is a decentralised database or ledger shared across nodes within a computer network. The term 'block' signifies its resistance to alteration, a crucial attribute in the context of cryptocurrency systems, as it facilitates the maintenance of secure and decentralised transaction records. However, while this definition provides a fundamental understanding, it may not yet fully elucidate the technology's functions and mechanisms. To illustrate, let's consider a straightforward example:

Suppose there is a needy farmer and a greedy landlord. The farmer borrows money from the landlord and agrees to a monthly repayment plan with added interest. However, the landlord habitually tampers with the record book. This is where blockchain technology steps in. It provides a shared, immutable database accessible to both the landlord and the farmer. Any transaction, (for instance, involving bitcoins), will be recorded in this shared ledger, making any changes or discrepancies instantly visible and correctable by both parties, thereby significantly reducing the likelihood of record forgery.

 

Types of Blockchain

Even though different types of use cases require different types of block-chain, they are primarily divided into four categories - Public, Private, Consortium, and Hybrid. Let's discuss each of them individually:

 

Public Blockchain: This is the original platform where cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, were created, and it played a pivotal role in popularising Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). DLT stores data as distributed bits across a peer-to-peer network, effectively addressing issues related to security and transparency.

 

Private Blockchain: It is controlled by a single entity or organisation, meaning that all actions are governed by the administrator. These are typically used within smaller, closed networks.

 

Hybrid Blockchain: As the name implies, it combines features from both public and private blockchain types. In a hybrid blockchain, an organisation or institution sets up the network, enabling the public to control which data remains private and which is accessible to the public.

 

Consortium Blockchain: This can be viewed as an extension of the hybrid blockchain, with the key distinction being that multiple organisational members collaborate within the decentralised network. Consortium blockchains incor-porate "validator nodes" responsible for initiating, receiving, and validating transactions.

 

Common Applications of Block-chain

In recent years, blockchain technology has found its footing in numerous industries. Its tamper-proof and decen-tralised nature has made it a reliable solution for sectors such as finance, healthcare, supply chain, and more. Here are some applications and a few success stories to negate the belief that it is just theoretical:

 

Finance: Blockchain technology has fundamentally transformed the financial sector. In addition to cryptocurrencies, blockchain's applications include:

 

·         Remittances: Cross-border money transfers have become faster and more cost-effective with blockchain. Services like Ripple's XRP and Stellar have revolutionised international remittances.

·         Tokenisation of Assets: Real estate, art, and even stocks can be "tokenised" and traded on blockchain platforms. This enables fractional ownership and democratises invest-ment.

·         Success Story: “BitPesa”, now known as "Aza Finance," provides blockchain-based financial services across Africa. By allowing users to send and receive money across borders, it's a game-changer for financial inclusion.

 

Healthcare: Blockchain's impact on healthcare extends to:

·         Electronic Health Records (EHRs): Patients' medical records can be securely stored and accessed with their permission. This enhances interoperability among healthcare providers and improves patient care.

·         Drug Traceability: Ensuring the authenticity and safety of pharma-ceuticals is crucial. Blockchain aids in tracking drugs from production to distribution, reducing the risk of counterfeit drugs.

·         Testimonial: Estonia, often cited as a pioneer in digital healthcare, uses blockchain to secure healthcare records. Patients have control over their data and can grant healthcare professionals access when needed.

 

Supply Chain: Blockchain aids the efficiency of supply chain management in the following ways:

·         Food Safety: Companies like IBM Food Trust use blockchain to trace the source of contaminated food quickly, preventing outbreaks and protecting consumers.

·         Diamond Certification: Blockchain is used to verify the authenticity of diamonds, reducing the trade of conflict or synthetic diamonds.

·         Testimonial: Walmart's Food Trust, built on blockchain, enables the tracking of food products from farm to store shelves. Customers can scan a QR code and see the entire journey of the product, ensuring its authenticity and quality.

 

Smart Contracts: Blockchain facili-tates smart contracts in the following ways:

·         Real Estate: Buying or renting property through smart contracts streamlines the process, reducing the need for intermediaries and minimising fraud.

·         Insurance: Claims processing becomes automated with smart contracts. When certain conditions are met (e.g., flight delays or weather events), the contract self-executes payouts.

·         Testimonial: Lemonade, a digital insurer, relies on blockchain and AI to provide instant payouts, often processing claims in seconds.

 

Other Notable Success Stories:

·         In 2019, Sierra Leone conducted the world's first blockchain-based presidential election. The transparency and security provided by blockchain reduced the risk of election fraud and tampering.

·         “TradeLens”, a blockchain platform developed by IBM and Maersk, enables the secure sharing of shipping data, reducing the administrative burden and enhancing the transparency and efficiency of global supply chains.

·         Platforms like Mediachain are helping artists and content creators protect their Intellectual Property Rights.

·         Google provides solutions for Web3 business and ecosystems, such as its Blockchain Node Engine, which can streamline smart contracts and reduce blockchain DevOps needs.

·          “BurstIQ's” blockchain platform helps doctors securely manage and gather insights on sensitive health information. Each smart contract gives users full data ownership, letting them decide how their data is used in personalised healthcare products, services, and marketplaces.

 

A Peek Into the Future

The future of blockchain technology holds immense potential. Some areas to watch out for include:

 

Blockchain in Government: Governments are exploring the use of blockchain for voting systems, identity management, and more. This presents opportunities for professionals well-versed in the technology's intricacies in the following ways:

·         Voting - If personal identity is held on a blockchain, that puts us just a step away from also being able to vote using blockchain technology.

·         Database - Blockchain technology can be used for maintaining databases in hospitals and other government facilities to get up-to-date information on patients or applicants.

 

Cross-Industry Integration: Block-chain's ability to enhance security and transparency will lead to its integration in more sectors, creating job openings for experts who can bridge the gap between technology and industry needs.

·         Interoperability Standards - As blockchain matures, the need for interoperability standards will become increasingly vital. Experts in blockchain protocol design and integration will be in demand to ensure different blockchain networks can communicate seamlessly. This will enable cross-industry data sharing and collaborative projects.

·         Industry Consortia- Cross-industry blockchain consortia are forming to explore shared blockchain applications and standards. These consortia will require professionals who can represent their respective industries and collaborate effectively with others to develop common blockchain solutions.

 

Blockchain for Sustainable : Practices: As sustainability becomes a priority, blockchain can be used to track and verify eco-friendly practices, leading to opportunities for professionals in environmental and ethical blockchain solutions:

·         Artist Royalties - Music and film files distributed over blockchain can make sure that artists are paid for their work.

·         Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) - It can be thought of as ways of owning digital art in a way that blockchain prohibits the data from existing in two places.

·         Decentralised Finance (DeFi): DeFi, built on blockchain, is revolutionising traditional financial services. It includes lending, borrowing, and trading without intermediaries, borderless, and effi-cient financial system.

 

Blockchain in Gaming: Blockchain is making inroads into the gaming industry, allowing players to truly own in-game assets. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are being used to represent unique in-game items, characters, and land ownership, creating new job opportunities for game developers, designers, and blockchain experts.

·         Play-to-Earn Models:- Blockchain enables play-to-earn models, where players can earn cryptocurrency or tokens for their in-game achievements. This opens up opportunities for game designers, economists, and blockchain developers to create rewarding in-game economies.

·         Tokenised Game Assets:- Blockchain enables the creation of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), which represent unique in-game assets such as skins, weapons, characters, and virtual real estate. Professionals skilled in token creation, game asset design, and blockchain integration will be in high demand to drive the tokenisation of in-game items.

·         Blockchain in Energy: The energy sector is exploring the use of blockchain for tracking and trading renewable energy. By securely recording energy generation and consumption data on blockchain, it's possible to create more efficient, transparent, and sustainable energy markets.

 

 

Market Share and Job Creation

According to market research firm ‘Polaris’, the global blockchain technology market is expected to reach $1,235.71 billion by 2030, from $5.85 billion in 2021, representing a compound annual growth rate of 82.8 per cent. While North America is expected to dominate the global market throughout the projected period due to the presence of numerous huge players such as Microsoft Corporation, IBM, AWS, and others, the Asia Pacific region is anticipated to grow at the fastest pace due to the increasing adoption of these technologies in emerging nations, including India and China. The popularity of the emerging tech can be gauged from the fact that in 2021, funding to blockchain start-ups surged 713 percent YoY to reach $25.2 billion. Further, the technology is listed by the World Economic Forum as one of seven technologies that are anticipated to revolutionise various aspects of our lives.

 

The rapid adoption of blockchain technology has opened up a wealth of employment opportunities in a rapidly evolving landscape. The blockchain industry encompasses various career paths, each with its unique demands and potential. As this transformative technology gains momentum, the demand for blockchain professionals has skyrocketed, shaping a dynamic job market. Blockchain developers serve as the architects of this digital revolution, crafting and managing blockchain networks and applications. Blockchain analysts, on the other hand, navigate the sea of blockchain data, offering crucial insights into network behaviour and user activity. Legal experts play a pivotal role in interpreting and applying evolving regulations to this digital realm. Project managers coordinate the complex world of blockchain projects, ensuring timely and budget-friendly delivery. Blockchain data scientists delve into the wealth of blockchain data to uncover insights, optimise processes, and inform decision-making. Finally, blockchain security experts protect decentralised systems from cyber threats, maintaining trustworthiness. Whether your interests lie in the technical, legal, analytical, or managerial aspects, the blockchain field has a place for you.

 

Conclusion

In a world where technology continually reshapes our lives, blockchain has emerged as a dynamic force of change. Its applications span from revolutionising finance to safeguarding our healthcare data and enhancing supply chain transparency. The impact of blockchain technology is profound and widespread, leaving no sector untouched by its transformative power.

As blockchain technology continues to evolve and adapt, it's simultaneously re-shaping the job market. The career landscape is diversifying, offering opportunities for blockchain developers, analysts, legal experts, project managers, security professionals, consultants, educators, and many others. The blockchain industry is not confined to a single skill set; rather, it welcomes a multitude of talents and specialties.

The key takeaway from this exploration is simple: blockchain technology is not just a fleeting trend; it's a gateway to innovative and meaningful technology that promises to disrupt, challenge, and create. As we look to the future, the prospects for blockchain are promising. It will continue to extend its influence into new industries and applications.

(The author is Joint Director, Speech and Natural Language Processing Group, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Noida. Feedback on this article can be sent to feedback.employmentnews@gmail.com).

Views expressed are personal.