Mention blockchain and most people think Bitcoin. But innovators are constantly unlocking new uses for the technology, which has the potential to revolutionise how we do business and even the ways we govern and organise our societies.
Blockchain’s peer-to-peer database system simplifies and democratises all kinds of transactions by keeping a tamper-proof running record of them. Each new set of transactions makes up a “block” and is added to the chain of previous blocks (hence the “block + chain”). No data can ever be erased.
Trust and transparency
The key to blockchain’s appeal is that no one person or entity owns or controls it. Rather, a multitude of participants all keep a copy and a consensus is needed to confirm transactions, giving it unhackable security and creating trust, transparency and ease of transacting.
This enables people and organisations to come together in borderless communities and manage their assets, financial or otherwise, free from influence of governments, banks or other authorities. As a result, disruptors around the world are building global platforms that transcend sovereign lines and allow consumers and service providers to interact directly on their own terms.
Blockchain promises a future of purpose-built micro economies and value exchanges where individuals can do business with each other and with companies and brands, trusting that they will be true their word, provide the product or service as specified and not let the customer down.
On top of this, blockchain and cryptocurrency technology allows any software engineer or developer to effectively be their own bank, and quickly integrate a means of finance within any program or system they develop. This is unlocking doors for small-time fintech operators, who may have otherwise struggled to implement their innovative fintech platforms with existing, rigid, banking structures.
A great example of how blockchain is empowering consumers is Fizzy, a new genre in flight insurance that automatically pays travellers out if their flight is delayed.
Fizzy is connected to global air traffic databases and recorded in the unhackable network of the Ethereum blockchain, which allows developers to create their own “smart contracts”.
As soon as a delay of more than two hours is recorded, payment is automatically triggered — no agent, no claims form and no delay. Anyone who has ever tried to lodge a claim for traditional flight insurance will appreciate just what a game-changer this is.
Australian-born Power Ledger shows how blockchain can create new micro communities with shared interests. It brings homeowners together to trade renewable energy amongst themselves, linking people who own solar panels and home batteries on a P2P trading platform. This gives them the opportunity to cut their power bills while sharing low-carbon benefits with their neighbours.
Power Ledger is currently on trial in cities around the world including in India, Japan and Thailand.
Blockchain may even prove to be the solution to the internet’s most pressing problems: data security and identity verification. In the physical world, we can prove our identity with documents like a driver’s licence. But on the web, we rely on a patchwork of username-password systems to establish who we are.
Blockchain, with its encrypted and immutable record, is being used to create to universal digital identities filled with information that only we control.
Tech giants like IBM are now joining the Sovrin Foundation, a private-sector, international non-profit using blockchain to establish the world’s first permanent digital identities that don’t require a central authority and can protect personal data, making life tough for cybercriminals.
Such identities could be used for everything from online shopping to banking, healthcare or even voting,
Blockchain has also made it possible for agile innovators to build their own payment platforms, rapidly disrupting long-established markets for the benefit of the consumer.
Australian fintech start-up Liven recently launched the pre-sale of its own cryptocurrency, LivenCoin, which will be the world’s first global digital currency for food.
Liven’s lifestyle rewards program allows users to pay their bar and restaurant bills with a swipe of their phones and earn a portion of their spend as credit in their digital wallets. This can then be saved, spent on their next outing or donated to charity.
Liven’s app already links hundreds of thousands of Australian consumers with some of their biggest national food and beverage brands, and is currently expanding into the US and the UK.
LivenCoin will be built on Ethereum when it goes live later this year, and will trade on public cryptocurrency exchanges. Part of the token sale will be earmarked for investors, and the balance will be offered to the public for use on the Liven platform.
This will enable Australians to use cryptocurrency in their daily lives on a large scale for the first time, buying food and drink at thousands of outlets. It will be the world’s most advanced purpose-built payments economy, a borderless ecosystem for lifestyle spending.
LivenCoin will provide an intrinsic store of value and have its own internal exchange rate backed by transactions with real brick-and-mortar businesses, guaranteeing its purchasing power.
As the Liven economy expands globally, its universal currency will be enable it scale up much faster than if it were required to establish payment gateways and deal with foreign currency in every new market.
At the same time, innovations like LivenCoin will help accelerate the uptake of blockchain technology by those who have yet to experience its benefits.
LivenPay is building a cryptocurrency for the real world and making the capabilities and benefits of blockchain technology accessible for brick and mortar businesses and everyday consumers - see this announcement for more.