Blockchain is the technology that underpins bitcoin, but it has many other applications.
LAS VEGAS — One of the many buzzwords at this week’s CES technology show is “blockchain” — the technology underpinning the bitcoin craze. While bitcoin is the flash of the moment, there’s growing excitement about how this concept can move beyond digital currency and affect people’s lives.
Simply put, blockchain is like a ledger book that can be group-edited by people in the cloud. There’s no central company or government that has to verify a transaction, which means thing can move more quickly. As changes are made, it keeps a public log of what changed, when and how. For that reason, it’s very difficult to fake a change or gain access to the log if you’re not supposed to. The records also aren’t tied to your name, so it makes blockchain another more secure way that people can exchange data.
“It’s not really about bitcoin at all,” said Halsey Minor, a founder of CNET and Salesforce who’s now focusing his attention on blockchain and video. Blockchain is as important a new technology as the Internet, he said, and anyone who doesn’t see that “is missing the point.”
Some places and companies have already started using blockchain in ways that go beyond currency changing hands. Estonia relies on the blockchain technology to run its national identity card which is similar to a U.S. Social Security number, and Nasdaq allows Estonians to vote online using the technology in shareholder meetings. Kodak will start using it to keep track of who owns photo rights. Blockchain’s security features also help companies such as Augmate, which started as a wearable technology company, guarantee that smart devices in the home are talking to one another securely, and that people can see what information’s getting transferred.
And now at CES, entrepreneurs are touting more applications of the technology. Here are some ways people I spoke to at CES envision how we could use blockchain technology in the future: