Technology has been rapidly advancing over the past few decades and it is changing our lives dramatically. Whether you agree that it’s for the better, with technology like the internet making our lives more convenient, or you think that technology creates more problems than it solves, there’s no avoiding tech in our everyday lives anymore. Mobile phones have changed the way we communicate, contactless cards have changed the way we pay and AI technology has the potential to change how we drive. But what is next?
Blockchain technology has been described as one of the most revolutionary and exciting technological concepts in recent years. For those who haven’t heard of it, blockchain technology is commonly associated with the digital currency bitcoin as it is the distributed ledger which makes the cryptocurrency possible. As bitcoin increases in popularity, it is more widely accepted. The currency has many uses including bitcoin versions of popular casino games, retail transactions and online gaming uses. There are several popular bitcoin applications, including games, payment apps and wallets where the storage can be stored. However, while the technology’s primary function was to make bitcoin transactions fast, efficient and decentralised it also has many other uses. There are a number of blockchain applications which could potentially use blockchain technology to change society and social norms.
With its current application in cryptocurrencies, the most natural progression for blockchain’s use is within the financial industry. Where traditional systems are slow, vulnerable to both human and technical errors and tedious blockchain technology can make financial services more transparent and more efficient. Introducing blockchain technology for asset management could remove the need for careful management and problem resolution, which costs both time and money, by encrypting records which makes it harder to for errors to be made. Blockchain technology can also make global payments faster and more affordable. The international bank Santander is already experimenting with blockchain technology, it created a payment app which allowed customers to make payments around the world 24 hours a day. In the future, this could see physical transactions becoming obsolete in favour of digital ones, changing the way we pay for things completely.
The development of the Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic at the moment. This technology has the potential to connect everything in our homes, from the kettle to the thermostat, and blockchain technology could accelerate its growth. There are a number of ‘smart devices’ already available on the market, including security devices, voice-controlled speakers and remote heating controls. At the moment, the IoT faces several challenges which are hindering its progress. The top concerns for developers are security, data storage and finding a network which is fast enough to cope with thousands of devices being connected all day every day.
Blockchain technology could help to secure the IoT by encrypting people’s personal devices so they are not easily accessible by those without the security key. The uses for smart devices throughout the home are endless, imagine if your washing machine was able to send a notification to your phone to tell you that your laundry had finished, or if your alarm clock could be connected to your coffee machine so you’d have a fresh cup waiting for you when you got up. There is still a long way to go before the IoT becomes widely used but it will definitely change the way we run our homes and communicate with technology.
Smart contracts are going to change the way we do business. At the moment, most contracts have to be managed by an intermediary who makes sure that all terms and conditions are met. Smart contracts are a digital application which is embedded with an IFTTT code, allowing them to self-execute. If smart contracts combine with blockchain technology, it can remove the need for third parties as all the information can be stored in the distributed ledger, meaning that everyone involved has access to the details of the contract and the terms.
The contract is also able to become active as soon as the conditions are met. This could change not only the way that businesses operate but could also apply to other industries, such as allowing medical records to be shared securely. However, security remains a concern for many people when considering the potential for personal data to be stored in a distributed ledger, even if it is encrypted or anonymised. Cyber security remains an issue as more people are using smartphones and computers, putting them at risk of cyber-attacks. Only recently people’s mobile phones were targeted via Bluetooth, in a cyberattack which could steal personal information.
In the UK, we have already seen the introduction of digital passports, which allow us to pass through border control using face recognition. Despite this advancement in technology, we are still required to carry our physical passports for identification purposes. In the future, we could see blockchain technology being utilised to allow us to have completely digital passports, which store our identifying information in an application in a similar way to how you can store eTickets for events, flights and public transport already. This would completely transform the way we travel, making passing through the airport quicker and easier. However, this technology is still a long way off as there are a number of complex security issues to resolve to ensure that the technology works efficiently as our current system.