5 Broken Systems that the Blockchain can Fix 0 255

blockchain

5We’ve all heard the expression “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But lately that seems to apply less and less to many of our existing systems. From banking and education, to advertising and politics; wide scale reparations are needed. But how do we go about fixing these defective models? Enter the blockchain.

What’s been labeled the most revolutionary technology since the internet, many of us are still struggling to understand how it works, let alone get our heads around how far reaching its implications may be.

But just like AOL and email were to the internet, cryptocurrency is just the first in one of blockchain’s many uses. “Blockchain has legitimate potential to change the world,” wrote Drew Prindle at Digital Trends, and it seems, he could be right. Here are at least five broken systems that the blockchain can potentially fix.

The Supply Chain

The supply chain is full of gaping cracks and black holes industrywide. Product markups, missing merchandise, currency conversions, inaccurate recording keeping, or failure to comply with agreed-upon terms can all be fixed with blockchain technology. As a public ledger available to all, updating in real time without human interaction, there’s no longer the opportunity for occurances to go undocumented or unaccounted for.

By operating with an “if/then” logic, (if you provide 100 kilos of bananas, then I will transfer X funds into your account), smart contracts can enforce the terms without human interaction or manipulation. Once a transaction is made it is irreversible. Not only does blockchain have the potential to wipe out corruption and increase accountability, it can cut out the middlemen, making for cheaper products for the end user.

Cybersecurity

There have been plenty of headlines about hacking scandals and fraud. Research by Ernst & Young found that some 10 percent of all ICO funding had been stolen. The problem is not with the technology itself, however, but with the secondary software built to store cryptocurrency, including wallets, exchanges, and custodial services.

Andrew Hinkes, adjunct professor at NYU Law School and practicing attorney with a focus on blockchain, explains, “Generally speaking, blockchains create an audit trail of all activity by its participants, which simplifies access control and monitoring.

Blockchains can also be used for hardware and software version control and sourcing, which can simplify version control and updating issues. Using a public blockchain with proof of work consensus can remove the foibles of human mistake or manipulation.”

Online Advertising

Most of us hate advertising online. In fact, some 40 percent of all Millennials use adblockers when surfing the net. But beyond annoying pop-ups, the severity of the problem in the advertising industry is starting to come to light. A German court recently ruled that Facebook’s use of personal data and privacy settings was illegal. The Center for Humane Technology has been established in an attempt to protect people’s privacy and curb their tech addition.

Using the blockchain could soon put an end to these problems, as it democratizes data due to its transparency and decentralization. No one company is able to own or sell your personal data anymore. This means that not only are people allowed to manage their own data but they can monetize it as well, thanks to blockchain’s ability to record micro fragments and create new value opportunities.

Monetization of even the smallest amounts of data becomes possible, from the number of steps you’re taking daily recorded in your Fitbit, to how many times you click a certain ad. More and more companies are allowing consumers to authorize their data use, and monetize it by dealing directly with the companies who want to buy it. Advertisers get the data they need and consumers are rewarded for it, while having control over who uses it and how.

The Underbanked

The financial system has many problems, beyond high transaction fees, conversion rates, and transfer delays, many people are not being granted access. Larry Boyer, Certified Business Economist and President of Success Rockets comments, “One of the most promising uses for pure currencies is to help people who don’t have access to the traditional banking system. In the US, that is the rural and urban poor and developing countries.”

The unbanked can also engage in global commerce thanks to cryptocurrency. Currently, for example, it’s not profitable for the traditional banking system to service customers below a certain threshold. But with cryptocurrency, a poor farmer in Kenya or Colombia can prove creditworthiness by having the cryptocurrency in their wallet. This will open up the entire market for companies and allow more and more people access to goods and services.

Elections

We may never know what really happened in the 2016 elections, but with accusations of fraud being hurled from one side to the other, imagine if we could put an end to voter fraud once and for all? And in developing countries where rigged elections and violent protests are often par for the course, blockchain’s immutability can guarantee clean elections.

Companies like Follow My Vote make sure that all votes are permanent and impossible to tamper with. Thanks to the decentralization of the blockchain, it would be practically impossible for hackers to break in and skew the results. Since every block in the chain is linked, they would need to simultaneously change the entire blockchain, a virtually impossible feat.

The blockchain is set to revolutionize many areas of our lives for the better. And if we can put it to good use fixing just one broken system in our society, we’ll be on the right path to making amends for our current failings.

Previous ArticleNext Article
Christina is a technology and business communicator who has worked with high profile ICOs and blockchain influencers to break industry news.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Patent That Wants to Fix Crypto’s Volatility 0 51

The number of blockchain-related jobs posted on LinkedIn more than tripled last year, according to CryptoCoin News. And blockchain patent filings more than doubled. Companies and individuals alike are innovating, exploring the blockchain’s well of possibilities. Major fintech companies, meanwhile, are gobbling up blockchain patents like they’re going out of style. But cryptocurrencies themselves still have yet to see a mainstream embrace.

The main problem with crypto right now is the same problem people have been talking about since Satoshi Nakamoto said Let there be Bitcoin: volatility. And ever since Bitcoin’s dramatic rise and fall around the turn of last year, cryptos have become virtually synonymous with wild fluctuations.

This reputation has given Bitcoin specifically, and cryptos in general, a mixed reputation. By now we’ve all heard the songs of praises from evangelists and the sour sneers of financial titans alike. Crypto is exciting because it’s unstable; crypto is unrealistic for the same reason.

The Primary Criticism of Cryptos

According to Eric Lamison-White, founder of the investor’s crypto intel platform Pareto Network, volatility is the “primary criticism of cryptocurrencies.”

But he doesn’t think it has to be that way. What if you could stabilize your crypto accounts? Lamison-White says the risks of owning cryptos are “easily mitigated by a variety of hedging techniques that are available in all other asset classes.”

He proposes treating crypto accounts like more traditional assets. “Hedging with options, futures and swaps allow for stable value or any risk profile that an owner or even a speculator would desire.”

That’s the idea behind his patent, filed in 2014, for a structure of interconnected accounts. The system “removes volatility from owning cryptocurrencies,” Lamison-White says, transferring its fluctuations into a hedge account. Here’s how it works.

Lamison-White’s System

The system requires at least two accounts: one for your cryptos and one you’ve funded with fiat currency, let’s say $400 US dollars. These accounts connect to a network of decentralized nodes, which measure the amount of cryptocurrency you have from moment to moment. If there’s any drop in the crypto’s value, the system automatically deducts from your $400 in the other account and transfers it to compensate. When the value of your crypto goes back up, the system re-deposits back into your fiat account.

This holds the value of your crypto assets steady, while transferring its volatility to your hedge account.

What makes it unique compared to other trading systems is that crypto assets can be divided into infinitely small portions. “A futures contract on oil costs $80,000 for example, although a trader only needs to put up maybe $4,000 as a minimum,” Lamison-White says. “This is because the contract represents the price of 1,000 barrels of oil or something crazy.” He notes that even hedging stocks are usually offered in units of 100 or 1,000.

Not so with crypto, where the “infinite divisibility of the asset itself” makes hedging much more finely tuned. Because cryptos are pure math instead of physical assets, “arbitrary sized contracts can be traded just as easily with larger contracts.” One future could represent one bitcoin, for example, but you can also trade in .01 increments. With fractional futures and options, people with very small amounts of cryptocurrency can be shielded from price fluctuations in a way that had only been available to the wealthiest and investment banks for most of the last millennia.

The System at Scale

The system gets even more interesting when you make it scalable. According to Lamison-White, you could have multiple people funding and connecting to the same hedge account, each using it to stabilize their own crypto accounts. Alternatively, you could connect multiple hedge accounts to a single crypto account. Suddenly the possibilities extrapolate, like tinkertoys, developing into an interconnected network of crypto- and fiat-funded accounts, with a variety of owners controlling their assets at a variety of access points, everything regulated with the intelligence and transparency of a decentralized ledger.

Patents Like This are Attracting Corporate Giants

There’s a feeding frenzy going on for patents like these. Visa filed a patent for a B2B blockchain payment system, Mastercard developed its own blockchain patent for anonymous transactions, and Wal-Mart has come out with a few as well. But it’s Bank of America that’s gobbling up the most. With claims to at least 43 live blockchain patents, the financial giant holds more than any other person or company.

Whether they’re just trying to get a leg up on the future of tech, or positioning themselves to harangue the little guy with barrages of lawsuits for intellectual property rights, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Whether or not Lamison-White anticipated the blockchain patent arms race, he was ahead of the curve, filing for his patent in 2014. It could be the thing to finally put skeptical minds to rest about the viability of crypto assets. And with big financial institutions like Bank of America placing a premium on innovative blockchain patents, he may have spun ether into gold.

After the Death of Net Neutrality, We Need a Decentralized Internet 0 76

Net neutrality died more quietly than expected. It’s been almost two months since the FCC’s ruling to make internet access vulnerable to corporate meddling, thanks to FCC chairman and Verizon advocate Ajit Pai. And not much seems to have changed on the web browsing citizen’s end. Major ISPs Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have all indicated that they have no plans to block or throttle traffic, or to prioritize paid content. So rest easy, dear ones. The sharks have promised not to bite.

Of course, that’s really no reason to celebrate. As of June 11th, “there is nothing legally preventing companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from arbitrarily censoring entire categories of apps, sites and online services, or charging Internet users expensive new fees to access them,” notes Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, a nonprofit advocating for digital equality.

Fight for the Future is just one organization working for a free digital world. All around, and in part thanks to the FCC’s ruling, people are switching on to the notion that open connectivity should be a right and not a privilege. And some folks are getting a crazy idea: if we can’t have net neutrality, we may just have to build another internet.

Building Our Own Internet

That’s exactly what people have been doing in Detroit. To combat the emergence of a “digital class system,” and in response to the scarcity and prohibitive costs of ISP connection, residents and volunteer members of the Equitable Internet Initiative, or EII, are building their own internet infrastructure.

Over on the Pala Reservation in Southern California, meanwhile, indigenous communities are tired of waiting for a connection. So they’re taking matters into their own hands and repurposing unused analog TV channels to broadcast their own free and neutral internet across the rez. They call it Tribal Digital Village.

Efforts like the EII and Tribal Digital Village are proving that we can take control of our connectivity and decouple it from the stratification of economic privilege.

Reinventing the Internet Altogether

Radical community efforts to build DIY networks are inspiring and powerful. But perhaps we can go even farther. The internet still works on an old model that has plenty of room for improvement. Let’s say you’re sitting in a public library, messaging your zine collaborator across the table. There’s no direct internet connection between your phones, so your message has to go up into the nebulous cloud of internet before it bounces back down to their phone. Not entirely efficient, considering they’re sitting right there.

If you had a direct connection, the signal could just travel across the table. That would be possible using a mesh network, like the one proposed by RightMesh. In their mesh network model, every device becomes a hotspot in a decentralized connective network.

Why volunteer your device as a public hotspot? Because you get tokens, of course. This is blockchain! Like the EII and Tribal Digital Village, this is a cooperative and participatory system that relies on no centralized authority (like a corporate ISP). Everyone volunteers their device as a hotspot, gets rewarded with tokens, and just like that, we have a decentralized internet.

Without the need for ISPs, we would be free from Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T. We could run open-armed through the proverbial fields of digital wildflowers. The possibilities of this go well beyond urbanite convenience. A global mesh network could bring internet connection to any part of the globe where there are phones—even phones not connected to wifi. In this system, the phones create the wifi.

An Off-the-Grid Internet

RightMesh’s stated goal is to “connect the next billion people and lift 100 million out of poverty.” They claim to be the first P2P network that requires neither infrastructure nor network connectivity to operate.

That said, they’re not alone. Blockmesh is doing something similar. Moeco’s ‘global IoT connectivity platform’ uses mesh network principles for IoT gadgets. And Open Garden allows ISP customers to ‘sell’ your underutilized connection (extra bandwidth at home, or unused data from your mobile plan) to your neighbors for tokens.

All these ideas are packed with possibility. But the point is, with the grassroots efforts of groups like the EII and Tribal Digital Village, and with blockchain innovation pushing the definition of the internet forward, we’re looking at a future where the connection is universal, accessible, fast, cheap, self-generating, decentralized and off the grid. Someday soon we might be thanking the FCC for spurring these advances.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks