Five Surprising Use Cases for Blockchain

Charles Warnock
Dec 9, 2019
Exponential Enterprise

It seems that the financial services sector has gone all-in on blockchain technology. Since the birth of blockchain in 2009 as the platform supporting the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, interest and investment in blockchain has taken off. Businesses are projected to spend $2.9 billion on blockchain products in 2019—an increase of nearly 90% from the prior year—and blockchain investment is expected to reach $12.4 billion by 2022, according to IDC.Beyond banking and finance, blockchain technology also has found significant applications in energy, government services, healthcare, and real estate. Now, startups in industries ranging from insurance to gaming to cannabis are starting to jump on the blockchain platform. Here are some ways creative entrepreneurs are applying blockchain technology in all sorts of industries—some of which might surprise you.

  1. Cannabis: In the US and around the world, the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use has brought cannabis to center stage. Weed's newly legitimate status has encouraged blockchain entrepreneurs and innovators to jump into the growing industry to bring order to chaos. Several cannabis industry startups are testing the potential of blockchain to make the growing, distribution, and compliance processes more efficient. For example, if you're feeling social or looking to purchase, Toronto-based CannaSOS is a blockchain-enabled social platform that enables users to interact with others in the global cannabis community browse, and review various dispensaries and marijuana varieties.
  2. Jewelry: The jewelry trade is sometimes subject to fraud and theft. Today, most jewelry provenance—the process of proving ownership and authenticity—is costly, cumbersome, and unreliable. In the case of a gemstone, for example, details like mining site, jewelry makers, previous owners, and price histories are important in establishing value. While paper documents are sometimes forged and subject to dispute, a recent IBM project called TrustChain aims to end all that. TrustChain is designed to create a blockchain-powered supply chain that will track gems and precious metals from mining through manufacturing and retail delivery. The TrustChain initiative currently is seeking various jewelry industry companies to join its consortium.
  3. For weddings and funerals: "For better or worse, ’til death do us part, because the blockchain is forever." So went the vows when David Mondrus and Joyce Bayo decided to record their marriage on the public record using blockchain at a 2014 bitcoin conference held in Orlando, Florida. Since this first recorded instance of a blockchain-based marriage, the idea of using smart contracts in weddings, divorces, and even funerals has gained traction. Instead of written documents and signatures, smart contracts on the blockchain can be executed automatically through software. For example, you can purchase a flight insurance policy that would automatically be paid out when an electronic notice of a flight cancellation is received. In the same way, smart contracts have the potential to make the management of major life events less costly and more secure. For example, electronic health records on the blockchain can enable patients to have more control over their personal medical data and have it available regardless of which healthcare provider or facility they use. Likewise, electronic wills using smart contracts could be used to ensure a loved one's wishes are carried out with a minimum of inconvenience and expense during a difficult time.
  4. Democratic elections: While opinions on the effectiveness of blockchain-based voting are mixed, that has stopped startups including Votem, Voatz, Follow My Vote, Boulé, Democracy Earth, and Agora from bringing voting platforms to market. Since blockchain technology is designed to collect and securely share an immutable database of records across computer networks, the technological underpinnings to support secure electronic voting are in place. Blockchain-based voting has the potential to eliminate fraud and enable secure voting from remote locations, with completely transparent and auditable results. In reality, many government officials are cautious and adopting a wait-and-see attitude before moving ahead. Limited deployments such as a West Virginia pilot test to enable military personnel stationed abroad to vote using their smartphones, have showed promise. Mobile elections platform Voatz says that both West Virginia and the city of Denver were able to increase voter turnout using blockchain-based mobile voting.
  5. Crime prevention: Fans of the movie Minority Report will remember when things went wrong for the movie’s hero John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise. Anderton is accused of a “PreCrime” he has not committed. Today, a blockchain-powered facial recognition startup called Faceter is looking to enable real-time crime prevention in the near future. Unlike today’s surveillance technologies that typically are used after the fact to solve crimes, Faceter aims to automatically trigger alarms and contact the emergency services at the moment crimes occur. Crime prevention that relies on facial recognition is a lightning-rod technology that’s sparking a fierce debate. Proponents tout facial recognition’s powerful law enforcement potential, while privacy advocates decry what they consider an unacceptable lack of transparency and accountability from government and private organizations using the technology.

What about your industry?

Blockchain is just one of the transformative technologies that is shaking up the status quo in every industry—including yours. Here are some benefits blockchain is bringing to finance and beyond:

  • Eliminating the traditional middleman to facilitate deals
  • Increasing transparency and trust for all parties
  • Enabling customers to control sharing of their information
  • Delivering microtransactions and financial services to the underserved
  • Reducing the need for legal services with smart contracts

Currently, more than 60% of blockchain’s value is focused in the financial sector, but creative use cases like the ones we’ve seen here are driving broader adoption across all types of industries. And though some of the buzz around blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies has faded, early applications of blockchain are showing the potential to become an industry-changing force for years to come. To learn more about blockchain, visit our exponential guide.