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What is blockchain and why does it matter?

Now more than ever, consumers expect their online transactions to be secure, private and reliable. Technologies like blockchain emerged in response to this mega-trend, greatly impacting ecommerce companies. Find out what Blockchain is, how this technology is revolutionizing several areas of our society and how to deploy it in your company.

What is blockchain?

Simply put, blockchain is a massive upgrade to the old-fashioned ledger books used to keep track of transactions, payments and debts. This technology can record transactions for just about anything, from a pair of shoes to a house or intellectual property patents. What makes blockchain different from the old method of ledgers, or even bank records, is that it is decentralized – which means data is stored on multiple computers simultaneously around the world.

This unique feature makes blockchain technology revolutionary. Scattered across multiple devices, but accessible only to the user with the key, Blockchain safeguards users against natural disasters, fraud, phishing crimes, identity theft, and even financial crises like those that shook the world in 2008 and 2012. Information is immediately available and (theoretically) inviolable, increasing security and efficiency, and ushering in a world of new opportunities.

Blockchain is often confused with cryptocurrency or Bitcoin, but these are very distinct concepts. Blockchain is the technology that makes cryptocurrencies possible, in the same way that an engine generates the movement of a car. However, Blockchain also has some limitations, starting with the fact that information is not protected by traditional means – such as the Bank of Portugal, the media, or the police. Data leaks can be hard to detect. If you are the target of a crime of any kind, whether you are a merchant or a consumer, you won’t have the same levels of protection as with traditional banks. Yet, this brave new world is not the future, but the present – and has plenty of practical applications.

6 practical applications of blockchain

Several industries have already begun using blockchain in ways that go far beyond the initial financial transactions that popularized the technology, from healthcare to retail.

1. Finally the digitization of medical records?

The healthcare industry faces decisive challenges when it comes to digitization of medical records and pharmaceutical control. As a result, many healthcare systems are turning to blockchain. But Blockchain goes far beyond efficiency gains stemming from easier access. According to a study published by Johns Hopkins University, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US, among which are those that result from omissions in patient records. Blockchain allows each new medical record to have a unique feature (such as a certificate, a prescription, or a test result), providing a holistic view of the patient.

Alongside this, several companies that are using blockchain to make medical records more secure, complete, and accurate. What’s more, it is being used to track every step medicines go through from the moment of manufacturing. Full transparency about the production chain is especially important in an industry where adulterated drugs cause over 1 million deaths annually worldwide.

2. Blockchain is making travel more secure

Blockchain technology is also revolutionizing the tourism sector with new concepts of data recording and storage, solving many travel security issues. Take the TUI group, using blockchain as the basis for “smart contracts” – contracts that are confirmed without intervention on a certain date, as long as underlying requirements are met.

Currently, all contracts (aka bookings) are recorded in a private blockchain, which reduces the probability of error or loss of reservations. There are also advantages in baggage management, as it is possible to track its location from the moment it is dropped off at the check-in counter.

3. The future of mobility relies on blockchain

The automotive sector is also benefiting from the blockchain revolution. This technology makes it possible to manage deliveries and payments with smart contracts effectively, identify the origin of materials and certify compliance with regulations. It also enables new methods to track vehicle history, transfer ownership, share trips, make claims, and, of course, payments.

The Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI), an organization that includes members such as BMW, Ford, Hyundai or IBM, is using blockchain to bolster the autonomous vehicle sector, specifically regarding vehicle identity, usage-based insurance, tokenization of carbon credits and more.

4. Payment confirmations in seconds

Blockchain technology is solving many of the main problems customers face when shopping online. Adopting blockchain technology allows, for example, better control of the production and supply chain, automatically reducing process costs. Real-time tracking, data visibility, faster and more efficient deliveries translate into significant savings reflected in more attractive shipping costs for customers. According to a European study, this is an issue that can cause seven out of ten online shoppers to abandon an online purchase.

Blockchain has also revolutionized online payments. Where conventional transactions can take several days to be clear and show up in a bank statement, especially international transfers, payments made with blockchain technology via cryptocurrencies take only a few seconds. This means that customers can enjoy a faster and more secure checkout. For businesses, this means payments can be automatically confirmed and allows merchants to proceed immediately with order preparation and shipping. In addition, businesses avoid having to request (and manage and protect) sensitive information, such as credit card data. Amazon, IBM or Nestle have already implemented this technology to make their transactions faster and more secure.

5. Blockchain as ‘cyber police’

In recent years, fraud of the most diverse types has crippled the financial market. Cases range from the extremely complex ransomware attacks with millionaire ransoms to release data, to simple situations of card cloning, phishing or identity theft. Many financial institutions have already began introducing blockchain to increase the security of their networks and extend the ability to process and verify transactions.

With blockchain, transferring and storing money is faster, safer and even cheaper, as it is more efficient and less reliant on manual labor compared to traditional methods. Also, “smart contracts” increase efficiency and transparency – imagine the concept applied to mortgages or other financings. Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, and HSBC are just a few examples of companies already using blockchain to streamline their loan verification processes.

6. Blockchain at the service of the planet

Energy producing, supplying, and trading companies are recognizing the transformative impact of blockchain technology. This sector has been driven by several innovations, such as the use of solar panels, electric vehicles, and intelligent real-time data management. Blockchain follows this evolution with, for instance, the creation of so-called “carbon credits.” Carbon credits are securities that increase in value by not emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and can be traded (bought and sold) on specific platforms, as is currently the case with stocks. The goal is to promote an economy based on the reduction of emissions.

But perhaps one of the most direct applications is in production chain management. Blockchain provides more transparency by recording transactional data throughout the production process of commodities such as oil, with reliable data from the source all the way to the end consumer. This transparency creates an opportunity to optimize supply and demand and makes production, logistics and consumption more sustainable.

Innovative payment solutions with Easypay

Blockchain is an essential tool for innovative companies – but it is far from the only one. Easypay makes the latest payment methods conveniently available to merchants at checkout. With a single integration, you can access the latest payment solutions for your online store. Contact us and elevate the shopping experience of your website and increase sales.