Blockchain set for widespread growth
To date, blockchains have most commonly been discussed as a central technology in the rapidly emerging cryptocurrency area. However, the ability of blockchains to essentially provide secure, digital logs of electronic transactions means they have a wide range of potential uses, so much so that analyst firm Gartner has included blockchain as one of its top 10 technology trends for 2018.
A blockchain is a continuously growing digital log that provides a secure record of digital transactions. Each individual block within the chain contains transaction data and a timestamp and is linked to the previous block in the chain.
Critically, blockchains are considered to be secure, in part because they are encrypted but also, most importantly, due to their distributed nature - multiple copies of any blockchain are typically distributed throughout a peer to peer network. This means that there can be no changes or additions to the blockchain without all copies of the same blockchain also being changed.
Interest in blockchain technology is growing rapidly across a number of different industry areas and it could well be on the verge of moving from emerging to mainstream technology given its ability to provide a secure, digital ledger without the need for reliance on a central trusted (i.e. vulnerable) party.
Beyond the obvious cryptocurrency market, potential applications areas as diverse as digital identity verification, back office bank settlement systems, online voting, medical records, secure data storage, and digital art are all being discussed. As the need for securing digital interactions grows, blockchain is looking like it has an increasingly important role to play.