Mainstream knowledge of blockchain typically revolves around Bitcoin, but the technology itself has grounds to seriously disrupt industries like real estate. An early example of the technology’s wide-range of utility lies in Estonia, a country which recently re-did its entire health care system putting all of their national health care records on a blockchain.
- Blockchain technology has game-changing potential
- It could transform a variety of industries, not just cryptocurrency ventures
- All transactions on a blockchain are transparent and secure, eliminating the need for a middle-man
At its simplest level, a blockchain is a public record for transactions between a network of people. To visualize it, just think of one square (a block) connected to another. Each block represents a transaction, and each time two people on the network need to make a transaction, the technology packages all of that information into a block and simply appends it to the end of the chain. There are quite a few nuances, however, that make the technology special.
Arguably the most important part of a blockchain is that it is decentralized, meaning there is no single person that has authority over the blockchain. Decentralization is at the core of blockchain technology’s value. The way it works is that all members in the blockchain network work together in order to maintain the public record. Each user has their computer run complex algorithms that maintain and verify each transaction on the blockchain–a process most people refer to as “mining.”
This process not only makes each transaction publicly available, but provides a secure way for users to exchange currency without using a middle-man. Once a block is added onto the chain, nobody has the authority to alter it because the blockchain itself is decentralized. In addition, a permanent record of the blockchain is replicated across the network of computers with each transaction.
Today, blockchain technology is primarily used for new investment startups and the exchange of cryptocurrency. Its applicability stretches far beyond such applications, however, and Estonia is a great example of a blockchain’s utility. Estonia recently put all of their health care records on a blockchain system. It allows citizens to track their public health records and tell who has accessed their information, and when, writes Tom Krazit at Geek Wire.