By now you may have heard of blockchain in one form or another from colleagues or even family. Those within the industry are, at the least, acquainted with the Bitcoin phenomenon and the frenzy it has caused amongst financial markets and governments around the world. Yet, ask the average Joe on the street and you’re likely to get a blank stare and maybe a vague comprehension that this newest of buzz words has something to do with computers and maybe file sharing?

As technology goes, blockchain has had an unusual incubation period. Early adopters achieved unprecedented levels of enthusiasm for the wealth management potential of decentralized systems, yet lacking any "real world" applications, the world at large remained mainly oblivious. This lack of viability for blockchain beyond finance is a misunderstanding of epic proportions. Bitcoin gets the attention for rising in value thousands of percent over short periods of time. It’s true that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin built on the blockchain system are forcing a massive change in how banking and money management are being viewed by individuals and governments alike, but the underlying technology is the real game changer.

Increased Security

Blockchain technology relies on a trustless, distributed ledger system that eliminates the old client-server configuration virtually every bank, government and corporation in the world utilizes. The current system relies on robust security protocols and extensive oversight to fend off constant attacks from outside threats — threats that have found their ways into the largest, most secure networks in the world. It has become clear this system has run its course. Eventually, almost every network will find itself exposed to potentially destructive threats as technology advances. Staying one step ahead of the competition is a 24-hour, 365-day effort; an effort that costs more every year to keep up with.

Blockchain technology presents a leap forward in cybersecurity, file management and unprecedented levels of interchangeability amongst diverse business systems, all within a cheaper, more accessible system. The technology that drives blockchain is a distributed ledger. This means that all of the information within the network is copied and maintained on every single node of the network since the beginning of time. All of this information is secured and verified via a system of cryptographic checks and confirmations of the work independent of a centralized server. For a user to attack the network, they would have to gain access without the convenience of a single point of attack and crack an algorithm more advanced than anything previously possible in information technology. The probability of an outside attack becomes much more remote.

Enhanced Data Accuracy

Utilizing this security and the assurance of extreme accuracy in data across all nodes, financial institutions such as banks and exchanges can use blockchain to track and trade commodities, but it doesn’t stop there. Medical networks can completely overhaul the complicated record-keeping system that currently struggles with miscommunication between unique management systems and languages, separate hosted networks and lack of cooperation between suppliers. A blockchain base unifies and self-verifies patient data, reducing costs and improving accuracy by leaps and bounds.

Universal Application

Blockchain offers features that bring every business into the modern age. Maersk and IBM have teamed together to use blockchain to track shipments across global networks with down-to-the-second accuracy. Microsoft is using their Azure network to improve cloud computing for businesses with distributed applications that increase productivity at every level. Several startups are leveraging the power of blockchain to outsource computing power on a need-based basis to save costs on expensive equipment and provide revenue streams for willing providers. The Australian government has recently provided a multimillion dollar contract to construct a power grid based on blockchain technology that renders antiquated systems obsolete in a greener, more environmentally conscience world.