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Cyber Security Cyber Security

Blockchain for everyone

W By Sarah James Senior Consultant for CSC

ith every new day comes new headlines about the complex and mind-blowing technology of blockchain. It seems everyone, from established companies to venture startups, national governments to international agencies, is jumping into the arena and investigating ways to put blockchain to use. The possibilities for transformation in industries as diverse as energy, insurance, finance, retail and health are huge – but mainstream audiences, those readers outside the blockchain bubble, may be wondering: What is blockchain? To start, blockchain is the underlying technology for something you probably have heard of: Bitcoin, a digital-only currency. Blockchain enables peer-to-peer technology that permanently records transactions in a distributed ledger. Imagine writing a line in an old accounting book; now imagine that line taking digital form. A transaction or set of transactions (a few pages in your accounting book) constitute a “block,” which is placed in the blockchain in a linear and chronological order. Once the transaction is complete, the block is formed, and a new block is ready to be created. (Consider this the equivalent of having different accounting books for different purposes, clients, etc.) In order to remain connected with the previous block, the new block contains a “hash” (reference) of the prior block. The blockchain ledger is “distributed” because it resides across a network of servers, which can be served in the cloud, instead of a single server with multiple replicas. So instead of multiple copies of the same accounting books being held by multiple people, a single book can be accessed by everyone. Furthermore, in blockchain, the recorded transactions are not erasable. When a modification occurs for a particular transaction, another connected transaction is required in order to ensure the ledger is correct. In our analogy, this would be equivalent to finding the invoice and linking to the payment. Now, imagine if you had a way to record information with impeccable accuracy, keeping track of the digital transactions completed by all users of the system – and without the need for a central database. Think about the speed and value that drives. We’d all want to give it a try, right? Well, that is blockchain. Why is it useful? The technology (and our analogy) can be applied to any industry where data transactions are occurring. Blockchain creates a way to manage data much more simply and effectively, and in the cloud. Data can take many forms. For instance, in energy, there is the exchange of watts with the grid or the flow of oil and gas; in insurance, there’s the exchange of claims; in finance, currency; in cars, mileage. We could go on forever. Blockchain boils data down to the pure essence of a commodity and helps users make better use of it. It also opens up the marketplace whilst authenticating users. The source-of-truth becomes the chain itself, and trust is built into the technology. This idea turns the marketplace on its head and forces us to think about the way in which we do business very differently. The socio-cultural evolution

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bound to take place as countries and companies embrace this technology will be dramatic, and the consequences are not yet fully understood. My instinct tells me the disruption will be up there with Artificial Intelligence. What’s next for blockchain? The magic is in how really smart people will use blockchain to change the world. Bitcoin has thoroughly disrupted the way people think about currency. The same can happen with digital assets, identity authentication, claims, financial transactions, healthcare records, utilities, public records and more. Right now, most uses are in the pilot and exploration stages, but we’re likely to start seeing real-life use cases take shape in the near term. These will have to be scaled up quickly once they get past the proofing stage. And, after the technology finds a foothold in specific industries, the long-term potential of blockchain will certainly be very transformative. Where can I learn more? I encourage everyone to keep an eye on this exciting field as it promises to have an effect well beyond the technology space. This article presents an interesting CIO perspective: http://www.cio.com/article/3055847/security/what-isblockchain-and-how-does-it-work.html This video is pretty cool for understanding the technical details: https://www.khanacademy.org/economics-financedomain/core-finance/money-and-banking/bitcoin/v/bitcointransaction-block-chains Experts such as John Paul Farmer and Brian Forde are doing interesting work in the area of social applications, such as a fraud-free voting system, frictionless transfer of property and sales of property, and rapid response in wake of a natural disaster. Watch them discuss their ideas here: http:// livestream.com/internetsociety/blockchain And we at CSC have been considering uses of the technology in various industries including healthcare and banking. Want to get even more immersed? Shanghai is hosting a blockchain week this September: www.blockchainweek2016. org/index_en.html There are also the CSC blogs which are pretty useful including three references worth a read Blockchain in health Care SWOT Analysis - http:// blogs.csc.com/2016/01/22/blockchain-in-healthcare-swotanalysis/ Blockchain in healthcare from theory to reality - http:// blogs.csc.com/2015/10/30/blockchain-in-healthcare-fromtheory-to-reality/ Blockchain and Banking - http://blogs.csc.com/2015/03/17/ blockchain-and-banking/ Keep an eye out for what else we are up to as we plan to release a few more articles with the help of a few CSC friends of mine, we shall look at Industries to which Blockchain applications apply – especially beyond financial services, Blockchain (decentralized) vs traditional (centralized) applications and Blockchain security – lots of fuzzy knowledge about privacy, anonymity in future editions.

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ChiefIT.me Magazine - Sept/Oct 2016  

ChiefIT.me Magazine covers the domains of Information Technology and Innovation. Be kept up-to-date with all the latest industry news and pr...

ChiefIT.me Magazine - Sept/Oct 2016  

ChiefIT.me Magazine covers the domains of Information Technology and Innovation. Be kept up-to-date with all the latest industry news and pr...

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