Exploring the Many Applications of Blockchain Technology

Moderator: Hilary Crow, Vice President of Programs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

As the world digitally evolves, blockchain technology has been looked to for its seemingly limitless potential applications and real-life uses. This technology has been harnessed to tighten security networks and is already implemented in many areas of business.

During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Tech Forward series, moderator Hilary Crow, Vice President of Programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, sat down with Jerry Cuomo, the Vice President of Blockchain Technologies at IBM, to break down the blockchain. Together, they looked at the impact and importance of blockchain technology in a digital future and discussed the latest trends in the industry.

Defining Blockchain and Understanding Its Many Uses

Cuomo provided his definition of blockchain — a shared database or ledger where information is stored electronically — and noted that there’s more to it than just cryptocurrency and NFTs.

“There’s not just one blockchain,” Cuomo said. “There are different ways to use blockchain for different applications. … You wouldn’t be wrong to associate blockchain with Bitcoin because it is certainly one use, but you’d be missing out on the other 999 uses.”

He explained how the blockchain has more uses than most people realize, including potential applications ranging from health care to trusted identity to food safety.

“[Businesses in multiple industries are] using the same underpinning technology blockchain to implement that secured, shared ledger where you can actually pinpoint back origins without fear that the data has been accidentally or maliciously tampered with — bringing a platform for trustworthy computing,” explained Cuomo.

“If there are a thousand applications for blockchain, cryptocurrency and Bitcoin is just one,” Cuomo said. “You wouldn’t be wrong to think of blockchain as a type of database, but you wouldn’t be a hundred percent right [either].”

Upping Digital Security with the Help of the Blockchain’s Cryptography

On the blockchain, information can only be appended — nothing can be deleted or altered. Cuomo highlighted how this impacts the blockchain’s security, making it so information is securely stored without many risks.

“Unlike a database where the administrator can change records in the ledger … this is not so in a blockchain,” Cuomo said. “Once the group consents that this is a valid transaction, the blockchain is append-only.”

This added level of security means that information can remain secure while on the blockchain, as it can never be decrypted. However, the information is still accessible — it’s just a matter of how it’s used.

“You can only write to a blockchain,” said Cuomo “You cannot delete, [and] you cannot update records. When that block is ready to be committed, it is cryptographically secured with other blocks in the ledger. This is the notion of a block forming a chain. This immutability is a really big deal because it creates what you would call an audit log [where] you can go back in time and look at the provenance of data where it came from.”

The Blockchain Can Benefit Both Large and Small Businesses

While many larger companies are currently utilizing blockchain technology, it’s not restricted to just them — small businesses can effectively implement blockchain technology too.

“It’s not just for large corporations,” Cuomo said. “There’s everything on a very wide scale. There are explicitly creating digital assets, and from a small to medium business perspective, look at what Nike and Kellogg’s and several companies are doing around NFTs to build their customer loyalty.”

Cuomo went on to describe a possible application of blockchain technology small businesses can take advantage of.

“Think about, in this new digital world, what are the digital assets that build customer loyalty?” Cuomo asked. “We all know loyalty points — the problem with the loyalty point is they work with enclosed ecosystems. The nice part about NFTs is that there is a much opener ecosystem …. by participating in an open NFT, you can now build loyalty perhaps across ecosystems.”

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