Blockchain Applications for the Real World

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It’ll be an understatement to say the Blockchain Technology is among the most creations of this century. Whenever we think of it, we automatically associate with all the cryptocurrencies, and primarily bitcoin. But that notion is changing at a quick speed. A growing number of people are seeing the decentralization and transparency that comes in addition to the blockchain technology has the capacity to shake multiple businesses to its very core. This report explores different blockchain applications.

Before we have a look at industries that have blockchain applications, let us reacquaint ourselves with all the blockchain technology today, will we?

What is the Blockchain Technology?

The blockchain is a chain of blocks where each block contains data of significance with no central supervision. It is cryptographically protected and immutable. A blockchain utilizes two important data structures: Pointers and Linked Lists.

Pointers

Pointers are variables in programming that stores the address of another variable. Usually normal variables in any programming language stores data.

Eg. Int a = 10, means that there is a variable”a” which stores integer values. In cases like this, it’s storing an integer value that is 10. This is a normal factor.

Pointers, however, instead of saving values will save addresses of different variables. That is the reason they’re called pointers, since they’re absolutely pointing towards the positioning of other factors.

Linked Lists

A linked list is one of the most crucial items in data structures. This is exactly what a linked list looks like:

It’s a sequence of cubes, each containing data that’s connected to the following block by means of a pointer. The header factor, in this instance, contains the address of the next node inside and hence the link is made. The last node, as you can see, has a null pointer, meaning the pointer has no value.

1 important issue to note here, the pointer inside each block includes the address of the next block. That is how the pointing is attained. Now you might be wondering what exactly does this mean to the first block from the list? Where can the pointer of the first block stay?

The first block is known as the”genesis block” and its pointer lies out in the system itself. It sort of looks like that:

If you’re wondering what the”hash pointer” implies, it is a pointer which contains the hash of the previous block.

(More on hashes at a bit)

As you may have guessed by now, this is what the structure of the blockchain is based on. A blockchain is essentially a linked list and looks something like this:

The blockchain is a linked list which contains data and a hash pointer which points to its previous block, hence creating the chain. What’s a hash pointer? A hash pointer is comparable to a dictionary, however rather of just containing the speech of the former block it additionally contains the hash of the information within the former block. This one little tweak is the thing that makes blockchains so amazingly dependable and trailblazing.

Remember this stage because we’ll be back inside in just a bit.

Let us see how it acquires both properties.

A normal network arrangement is the”client-server” construction.

How can that work?

There is a centralized server. And everybody who wishes to associate with the server can send a question to find the essential information. This is pretty much the way the web operates. When you want to Google something, you send a question to the Google server, which comes with the required effects. So, this is a client-server system. Now, what is the problem with this version?

Since everything is dependent on the server, it is critical for the server to be working at all times for the machine to work. It’s a bottleneck. Now assume, for any reason the main server stops working, everybody in the network is going to be impacted. Plus, additionally, there are safety concerns. Since the network is centralized, the host itself manages a lot of sensitive information about the clients. It follows that anyone can hack the server and get those pieces of info. Plus, there is also the issue of censorship. What if the server determines that a specific thing (movie, song, publication etc.) is not agreeable and decides not to propagate it in their network?

So, to counter all these issues, a different kind of network structure came about. It is a network which imitates its whole workload among participants, who are all equally privileged, known as”peers”. There’s no longer one server, currently there are several distributed and decentralized peers. This really is a peer-to-peer network.

Why do people use peer-to-peer media?

One of the chief applications of peer reviewed network is document sharing, also called torrenting. If you are supposed to use a client-server model for downloading, then it’s generally extremely slow and entirely determined by the health of the server. Plus, like we mentioned, it’s prone to censorship.

Nonetheless, in a peer-to-peer system, there is no central authority, and hence if even one of those peers in the system goes out of this race, then you still have more peers to download from. Plus, it is not subject to the idealistic criteria of a central system, hence it’s not prone to censorship.

When we were to compare the two:

This, in a nutshell, is the way the blockchain technology increases its decentralized nature.

What’s immutability?

Immutability, in the circumstance of this blockchain, means that after something was entered into the blockchain, it cannot be tampered with.

In simple terms, hashing means carrying an input string of any length and giving out an outcome of a fixed length. From the circumstance of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, the trades are accepted as an input and operate via a hashing algorithm (bitcoin uses SHA-256) that gives an outcome of a predetermined length.

We are going to place in some specific inputs. With this exercise, we are going to utilize the SHA-256 (Secure Hashing Algorithm 256).

As you can see, in the case of SHA-256, however big or small your input signal is, the output will always have a predetermined 256-bits length. This becomes crucial once you are dealing with a massive amount of data and transactions. So essentially, rather than remembering the input data that could be huge, it’s possible to merely remember the hash and maintain track.

A cryptographic hash function is a special type of hash functions which has various properties making it ideal for cryptography. There are particular properties which a cryptographic hash function needs to have in order to be considered secure. You can read about those in detail within our guide on hashing.

There’s only 1 property that we want you to concentrate on today. It’s called the”Avalanche Effect.”

What does that mean?

Even if you make a little change on your input, the changes which are going to be reflected from the hash will be huge. Let’s test it out using SHA-256: You see that? Even though you simply changed the event of the first alphabet of the inputsignal, look at just how much that has influenced the hash. Now, let us go back to our previous stage when we had been looking at blockchain architecture. What we said was:

The blockchain is a linked list which contains data and a hash pointer which points to its prior block, hence producing the chain. A hash pointer is comparable to a pointer, but rather of simply containing the address of the former block it also includes the hash of the information within the former block.

This one little tweak is what makes blockchains so amazingly dependable and trailblazing.

Imagine this for a second, a hacker strikes block 3 and attempts to change the data. Due to the properties of hash functions, a slight shift in data will change the hash drastically. This means that any slight adjustments made in block 3, will alter the hash which is stored in block two, now that then will change the information and the hash of block two which is going to result in adjustments in block 1 and so on etc. This will completely alter the chain, which is hopeless. This is precisely the way blockchains attain immutability.

Now we understand what the blockchain technology is, let’s look at its own blockchain applications in different industries.

Hmmm..not really the very first thing comes to mind if you think of”blockchain applications” now is it?

However, the truth is that a number of big shopping chains such as Walmart are teaming up with IBM to integrate the blockchain in their own food management system.

What is the purpose of doing this?

Among the most fundamental questions that we should ask whenever we eat any food product is:”Where’s my food coming from?”

More and more folks are getting to be more and more indifferent as to the source of their food and this is causing a great deal of problems to not just the consumers but the suppliers also.

Back in October 6, 2006 multiple nations from the US suffered a significant E-Coli outbreak. The culprit? Spinach.

Around 199 people were affected of whom 22 were kids under 5 years old. 31 of the 199 developed a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Finally, 3 people died in the outbreak, one of whom had been a 2-year-old kid.

As a consequence of this, the entire food sector went to pandemonium. People were urgently hoping to trace the source of the infected kale. Everyone pulled spinach immediately from the market. It took the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a total of two weeks to obtain the origin of the contaminated salmon, for 2 weeks there was no spinach in the marketplace.

Would you guess about what the origin was?

It had been one provider. One farm. One lot.

Just that one lot closed up an whole industry for two weeks. For two weeks, farmers whose entire livelihood depended on lettuce have been broke and penniless.

All this would have been avoided if there was a better way to follow the spinach.

But then this begs another question: Why Is”Better Traceability” actually what we should be aiming for?

Is that the best that we could do when it has to do with our food?

Is traceability that which we should be aiming for or can it be complete transparency?

As we’ve seen previously, tracing food is a really slow procedure. It usually takes quite a while, during which whole industries and livelihoods might be closed down. So what is the best approach to tackle this?

Imagine if we were to create each and every step of the procedure (in the time the food grows on the farm to the time it reaches the marketplace) transparent?

Thus, what happens when the blockchain gets executed here to keep all the food records? Remember that the blockchain is an open ledger along with the data in it is open to everyone and there’s no central authority taking control of the records. This greatly reduces the time which might be wasted going through endless red tape and hierarchy. In reality, having these data on the blockchain will lessen the waiting period from weeks to mere moments.

Walmart and IBM utilized the”Hyperledger Fabric”, a blockchain initially built by IBM and housed under the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger set for all these evaluations.

“We were so encouraged that we quickly began reaching out to other suppliers and merchants as well”
As the blockchain gets increasingly more integrated into the food industry it will create the whole procedure more transparent and safer.

Greatly enhances food security.

Ensures fresher food because no one will risk sending”non-fresh” food in an open source system.

There is not as much food waste because each and every piece of food is accounted for.

Stops food fraud since the system is open for everyone to see.

Another advantage of an open system is that it promotes responsibility among the food producers because they now know that they can’t get away with underhand dealings.

On September 7, 2017 Equifax, one of the world’s largest consumer credit reporting agency shocked the world when they revealed they had confronted a huge cybersecurity breach. They confronted unauthorized data entry from mid-May through July 2017 they discovered on July 29. Approximately 145.5 million were beneath the risk of having their personal information stolen which included:

Driver’s License Numbers.

However, this was definitely not the first time that a significant cybersecurity breach happened to some renowned company. Back in 2016, search engine giants”Yahoo!” confronted a major attack and around one billion Yahoo accounts were compromised. Attackers managed to access the following data:

Replies to safety concerns.

Unfortunately, this was not the first example of Yahoo becoming hacked since there are heaps of DIY guides online on how best to hack on Yahoo. Imagine how compromised the security of a business is if there are DIY guides on the best way best to hack that specific company floating online!

When security firms like Verizon failed their study they found certain trends. Apparently, 65 percent of these information breaches were due to weak, default, or stolen passwords. Which is a significant number despite it being less than the previous year’s (95 percent ). According to their research, the main reason why most of these attacks happen is the gullibility of the people themselves.

In reality, Verizon’s report says that 23 percent of those people today keep opening phishing email and half of them open the attachments which come together with that!

If you want to learn the true depth of this problem, then consider this.

So, now the question is, how can the blockchain help prevent these attacks?

There are primarily 3 features a blockchain has that will help prevent cybersecurity attacks.

Characteristic #1: Trustless System

A blockchain system runs without the idea of”human confidence”. As Derin Cag within his Richtopia article states,”It assumes any insider or person could compromise the system at any time and therefore it is independent of”human integrity”.

The blockchain allows one to save info and secure it using various cryptographic properties like electronic signatures and hashing. One of the greatest characteristics of this is that as soon as data enters a block in a blockchain it can’t be tampered with.

This can be known as”immutability”.

Feature #3: Decentralization & Consensus

Just how can anything get done if there’s absolutely no central authority? The blockchain is created from a great deal of nodes. So, rather than a fundamental authoritative figure, we’ve got a democratic procedure.

These three properties lend itself to cybersecurity.

Below are a few real-life examples of blockchain companies disrupting the cybersecurity space.

Guardtime is a data safety startup founded by Estonian cryptographer Ahto Buldas. They’ve recently begun putting up their sensitive information on the blockchain for the added security. Most security businesses utilize the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that utilizes Asymmetric Cryptography and a cache of keys. The issue, however, is that these keys are maintained by a centralized body (Certificate Authority). Considering that the machine is centralized they are vulnerable to attacks.
So, what Guardtime is doing is they are employing the blockchain to create a KSI (Keyless Signature Infrastructure) to replace the PKI system. It is now the world’s largest blockchain business by simply revenue, headcount and actual customer deployments. In fact, at 2016 the firm acquired all of Estonia’s 1 million health records using its systems.

Example #2: REMME and information protection

How is confidential information protected?

Back in the day, we’d guards standing over a massive vault which saved your data for you. But of course, there are a lot of problems with this system

It is highly inconvenient to go all of the way into the vault every single time you wish to access info.

You’re still depending on humans to stay honest. That’s hardly the ideal security model.

We then moved on to passwords and username.

But, that is still insecure because all those get saved in a centralized server and it can get hacked anytime.

So, REMME came up with the notion of earning passwords completely obsolete. Each device will have its own SSL certificate, whose data will be stored on the blockchain. Considering that the blockchain is immutable, the information that gets stored inside can not be tampered with. That means all the devices and confidential data is safe.

Drawbacks of using blockchain in cybersecurity

According to David Treat, the direct of blockchain practice at Accenture, while blockchain is a fantastic technology it is not designed to handle huge amounts of data. Since companies such as Equifax handle humongous quantities of information that a blockchain might not be the best way to store it.

Voting is an absolutely essential tool for any democratic government. It’s the most important factor which produces a government”for the people and by the people”. Actually, if it wasn’t for voting than the concept of a”free nation” might not exist.

Having said that, it’s truly intriguing and shocking that we’ve not moved on by the traditional paper ballot method of voting.

The paper ballot system has been used by countries around the world. The idea is simple, you set your vote on a piece of paper and set it in a ballot box. In the end of the election, the votes are counted and whoever receives the most votes will be the winner.

However, as simple as it may sound, there are a lot of problems that can happen because of traditional paper balloting system.

The issues with Conventional Paper Ballot System

The system cannot be automated and is extremely tiresome. From actually physically going into the places where the ballot boxes have been retained to waiting in long lines. The entire process is extremely time consuming.

The total quantity of time taken to count the votes is high.

The election can be hijacked through the insertion of bogus ballot papers.

More powerful parties can use intimidation tactics on the places to rig the election in a specific way.

The quantity of paper clogs can cause damage to the environment.

There is not any historical record potential to keep track of each and every vote made.

The price of cost on paper ballots is extremely high.

It is impossible to keep tabs on your vote.

As soon as you have cast a vote you can’t change it.

So as you can see, there are a lot of pitfalls of a paper ballot system. To counter this kind of digital voting system was employed by nations such as Estonia. In fact, during the 2015 parliamentary elections, 30.5percent of the votes were done digitally.

However, there were some possible problems in the system which were pointed out (data obtained from The Economist).
Firstly, the client side machine can develop a malware that reads each and every vote cast and changes the vote to another candidate.

An attacker may directly infect the servers via malware placed on the DVDs used to prepare the servers and move the votes.
When these issues were contested and criticized with the Estonian Information Systems Authority, the simple fact remains that using a centralized server taking care of the votes can be susceptible to numerous attacks and hacks.

The Blockchain Solution

Firms like”Practice My Vote” are employing the blockchain technologies and Elliptical Curve Cryptography to bring votes into the 21st century. Their objective is simple, create the election process as transparent as you can. Exactly what happens to your own votes once you cast it? Hardly anyone understands that. So, how is integrating blockchain technology going to fix this?
That is exactly what Follow My Vote is planning to do. As soon as they are done the voting, anyone can use their voting ID to track their votes and check that it has been cast correctly. On top of that. They give their voters the ability to change their votes any number of occasions till the deadline.

ECC is a kind of asymmetric cryptography. ECC is essentially what bitcoin and ethereum use due to their cryptography. 1 thing to notice, the private key should not be shown to anyone but the consumer along with the public key generates a public address that is shared with everyone.

So how do Follow My Vote utilize this technology to produce their votes?

The voter reveals their identity to a verifier who certifies the very first key pair. Once that’s completed, the voter registers their second key pair anonymously as belonging to the first pair. The first key-pair is called”identity key-pair” while the next is known as”voting key-pair”.

The voter can then produce a trade that’s basically their vote and then sign them off with their voting personal key. Once the vote is done, anyone can verify whether the signature is valid or not and make certain that none of those votes are tampered with.

They can merely affirm using the voter’s public key to check whether it is really the voter who did the voting or not.

#4 Land Registry

India has emerged into the blockchain technology as a possible solution for their land registry issues. Property fraud is among the biggest issues in India.

Consider this for a moment.

In 2013, New Delhi alone had 181 reported cases of property fraud while Mumbai came a close second at 173 cases. Thus, to counter this issue, the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have booted up with Swedish startup ChromaWay to put their property registry on the blockchain.

The implementation is going to be extremely straightforward.

The machine is going to have a blockchain backend and also a web program front-end. The front-end will help in the general system abstraction. ChromaWay will use their own database system called”Postchain.”

According to International Business Times:”Postchain is constructed from the ground up to operate with many widely-used platforms, and incorporating it in the government’s strategies is performed seamlessly.”

One of the many interesting innovations they possibly could do is the introduction of cryptographically protected, electronic fingerprints.

This is how it can possibly work:

A hash is taken of the geo-coordinates along with a polygonial description of this property.

This hash is attached into the operator’s ID and the result is hashed again and inserted into the blockchain.

Since the hash is always a unique price, everyone is going to have a exceptional ID. Additionally, because of the blockchain’s immutability, no one can tamper with the documents.

J A Chowdary, Special Chief Secretary & IT adviser to Andhra Pradesh CM N. Chandrababu Naidu had this to say about this innovation,

“Blockchain is the technology of the future. It won’t only change the way we perceive processes but it also has the potential to transform the market. Obviously, we all are yet to fully discover this technology and hence the Government of Andhra Pradesh has engaged with startups from throughout the world such as ChromaWay to conduct evidence of concept within its departments. ChromaWay’s experience and previous implementation in countries like Sweden have added tremendous value to our comprehension of blockchain.”

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many more blockchain programs than just cryptocurrency and can affect way more businesses than only the finance sector. We deliberately avoided showing the blockchain’s impact on the banking sector to keep the record as non-fintech as you can. We hope this guide will educate you and inspire you about the chances of the superb and disruptive technology.

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