Earlier this year there were two words trending in the tech world that momentarily outshone hotly-discussed concepts like AI and machine learning: blockchain and bitcoin.
After years of being a strictly niche interest, word of bitcoin billionaires was suddenly springing up on every corner of the internet. The enabling technology behind the cryptocurrency became such a powerful buzzword that stocks were rallying based on sketchy blockchain references.
Such developments made figures as prominent as Steve Wozniak worry that a blockchain bubble was brewing; that the mistakes of the first dot-com boom were being repeated.
The wave of mainstream interest in cryptocurrency and its technological foundation died down. But the questions it raised remain important. Businesses want to know: Is blockchain really the next step in secure computing? And what can you use it for?
CompTIA’s report on blockchain use, A Blockchain Guide To The Benefits, Frameworks, Initiatives, & More For The Public Sector, can help us answer these questions.
What is Blockchain?
Traditionally, a transaction ledger is stored in a database in a single place. With blockchain, the ledger is instead distributed across a network of people involved in a given transaction. Each node of the network features a copy of the ledger and each transaction is represented by a unique cryptographic hash and verified against the transactions before and after it. The copies on each node are checked against one another every time any alteration is made to keep the whole blockchain consistent – making the technology, according to advocates, highly difficult to defraud.
Use Cases Beyond Cryptocurrency
Blockchain enthusiasts tout solutions based on the technology as potentially providing an unprecedented level of data security for such areas as medical records – allowing patients and doctors to view protected health information securely and exclusively without risk of theft or tampering, as it would create an unchanging record in multiple places of who viewed or changed the medical record and when.
And some municipalities have already begun considering the use of the technology for government-related secure transactions like tax collection and various government benefits.
However some states that were early in pursuing blockchain initiatives, like the state of Delaware, have stepped back from blockchain initiatives citing potential disruption and expense with low ROI.
The Future of the Blockchain Revolution
As the first wave of public excitement over blockchain tapers, we'll see the reality of what the enabling technology can do. Enterprises will discover and pioneer the right use-cases – the ones that will ensure security without compromising ROI.
While tomorrow’s blockchain revolution may not look exactly as it was originally imagined, there's reason to believe that this technology will continue to be worth understanding and keeping an eye on as it matures.