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How is blockchain being used today?

How is blockchain being used today?

Blockchain may remain an industry in its infancy but it is starting to be used across more and more industries. There are a number of ways it is being used right now, which tends to get lost in the wider hysteria over rising prices. These are some of the smaller (and a couple larger) projects you may not have heard of:

Distribution of energy

Brooklyn Microgrid is a New York based project which aims to allow residents to buy and sell power generated through rooftop solar panels and the use of an accompanying app. It was formed partially in response to Hurricane Sandy, which knocked out power, with the microgrid designed to provide emergency reserves but also to allow for the more efficient distribution of renewable energy. The blockchain part of the project is run by LO3 Energy and their ‘TransActive Grid’. This ledger provides a record of all transactions and is also integrated with the project to allow for commands to be given i.e. once someone buys energy from you, the energy is automatically released from your battery onto the grid. LO3 Energy are now expanding this project worldwide, including in Germany and Australia.

Providing transparency for refugee programmes

One of the clearest uses of blockchain is its ability to record transactions transparently. This makes it a natural ally of charities, with one example of its usage being the World Food Programme’s cash assistance initiatives ‘Building Blocks’. Utilising the Ethereum network, this project aims to ensure that money intended for refugees and other disadvantaged people goes to them in its entirety. Rolled out in a number of countries, it was used in Syria earlier this year by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to authenticate people and allow them to receive Building Blocks funds. Once people were authenticated through an iris scan, the platform would permit them to be given their WFP funds. These can then be spent on food in their refugee camp supermarkets, with every authentication and distribution stored on the Ethereum based ledger. According to the programme, Building Blocks has reduced their money management costs by 98% as it now pays vendors directly rather than having to use intermediary services.

Reducing overfishing

The fishing industry provides millions of people worldwide with their livelihood but is plagued by overfishing, fraud and a lack of transparency in catches. Earth Twine is aiming to solve this through a partnership with Stratis, a blockchain platform, which allows for tracking applications to record who, what, when and where fishing catches were made.

Automatic insurance payouts

Axa, the global insurance giant, is using the Ethereum network to automatically pay out policy holders of flight insurance. The insurance purchase is recorded and the smart contract connected to global air traffic databases – upon confirmation from this database of a delay of over two hours, compensation is automatically paid out to the holder. This benefits both Axa, by reducing administration costs, as well as policy holders who no longer have to put in a claim for reimbursement. Currently in pilot, Axa aims to expand this programme in the coming months.

Instant cross-border financial transactions

American Express and Santander partnered to utilise Ripple as a means to settle cross border payments from the US to the UK, saving on both time (transactions are now instant rather than days long) and money. This is again of benefit both to the banks involved and the end user.

Verification

Zonafide is an app which allows for verification of trust. The company are currently partnering with Local Authorities across England and Wales, allowing people to have life events (such as marriage) automatically updated to service providers. For example, upon getting married in the UK you have to inform a number of parties that you are now married. Zonafide would automatically update all these providers upon getting married. 

A common theme all of these share is that they are either in a pilot stage or operating on a very small scale. It is a good reminder of the fledgling nature of blockchain in day to day operation. The constant price increases and the global scale of the market sometimes help to obscure that blockchain as a technology is very much in its infancy, but it also hints to the huge real world applications it possesses as platforms and projects develop.

Questions to ask when starting out

Questions to ask when starting out

The future

The future

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