As the price of Bitcoin has jumped around, it’s often overshadowed its underlying technology, blockchain. An open network backs the cryptocurrency, and it was the first of its kind. But over the last decade, blockchain has grown into virtually every field imaginable, promising efficiency and trust in its applications.
In a typical computer network, transactions are verified at a central point or node. The existence of this central node, as secure as it may be, is a weak point. Gain access to the top computer, and you can alter the network. Blockchains are decentralized networks whose security is derived from its users. To “hack” the system, the transaction would have to be verified by every computer in the network. Each transaction on a blockchain adds to its complexity, so blockchains become more secure as they grow. This makes large, more-proven blockchains like Bitcoin virtually unalterable.
In Bitcoin, mathematical models also incentivize users’ fair and honest building of the network, allowing for a free and anonymous system. But not all blockchains are built the same. Private blockchains also chain together permanent records, but the network is closed, and users may have varying degrees of access. Only computers in the system can join the network. These capabilities make private blockchains appealing to businesses and governments alike.
Potential applications range from improvements to banking and healthcare efficiency to changing the way governments operate. It’s even being used as a possible way to contact trace COVID-19. IBM is also using blockchain to help address medical supply chain shortages. In this season of COVID-19 economic disruption, companies are looking to technologies like blockchain to help innovate and solve problems.
Blockchain Security: Not All Blockchain is Created Equally
The technology is capable of allowing ultra-secure global transactions, but not every blockchain is created equal. Hackers in 2017 managed to steal $32 million worth of Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin. Voates, a blockchain-based voting app, has come under fire by some university researchers across the country for being susceptible to hacking.
In many ways, blockchain not unlike the internet in the nineties. It’s still in its infancy, and not every blockchain company and network will stand the test of time. But, along with the internet of things, blockchain has created endless possibilities across sectors and industries. The demand for talent to develop blockchain technology and apply it to new industries continues to rise, as well. Developers, programmers, engineers and program managers are all being tapped by companies developing a variety of platforms. Blockchain is becoming more commonplace within programming, supply chains, data analysis, and emerging technology and intelligence jobs. With the brain (and computer) power behind it, expect blockchain to continue to grow in government, business, healthcare, and beyond.