The internet is amazing and it is still changing the world. The internet has touched all aspect of our lives having direct impact on more than 68% of the earth’s population. The internet plays a role on how we work, learn, communicate and all, it has also invented new things like how we manage our money, social media and online dating. The internet has been a big deal and will continue to be, in fact, the most disruptive days of the internet is still ahead of us; we are still in the opening scene!
We can focus all day on the positive impact of the internet like low-cost communications, hassle-free and global management of online businesses, new ways to access information but we should also point out that the vast network of networks (the internet) also has some issues associated with it. Beyond the obvious like social media trolling, software viruses, online fraud and criminal hacking, the internet often struggle with the fundamental challenges of trust. We face questions like; are the people you are dealing with on the internet really who they say they are? Are only authorized people being granted access to private systems? Is the service or product real and the same thing as the one displayed on the internet? Like the case of “what I ordered versus what I got.”
[image: trust.png] Credit https://www.information-age.com
Although there are existing security protocols and procedures that governs the current platform like two-factor authentication (when you enter your username and password and you are also asked to enter a code sent to your registered mobile or email), firewalls and intrusion detection systems (hardware and software to block bad internet traffic), Biometrics (such as using your fingerprint for access) and CAPTCHAs (those online boxes that allows you to type letters or select matching images to prove that you are not a computer bot). Even with these mechanisms for security and trust, we still get hacked, systems and databases are still compromised and made unavailable, money and identities are stolen. So if we want secure and protected online voting, workable digital currencies, confidence in machine talking to machines, self-driven cars that securely negotiates with the riders and neat and seamless methods to authenticates identities and more; then we are going to need a more secure and trustworthy internet.
To enable Bitcoin (the world’s most successful online currency), a new mechanism for establishing trust was required; it was the BLOCKCHAIN. While the Blockchain may change the game in security and trust, it may enable a lot more. If we are going to enter the next phase of innovation and positive disruption using the internet, the Blockchain opens the door.
[image: blockchain.jpg] Credit https://www.gcn.com
A traditional database (a database is a large amount of stored information) has a central authority that governs it, all rights to a database are owned by the organization (or person(s)) that creates it. They can decide who has access and who doesn’t, what can be created, deleted, edited etc. But there are flaws to these things; if the central database is compromised or there’s a backdoor entry, the entire database can be subjected to all manner of risk. Secondly, all administrative “powers” are centered, while it may be fine in a case of an online eCommerce application where the owner would want to have complete access and make overall decisions but central powers can create controls that limit tasks. All database transactions takes times, cost money, are vulnerable to hacking, have limited participations, requires special skills and can be error prone.
Up until now, we have generally been fine with this, the Blockchain however solves almost all of these challenges. The Blockchain is a new type of database. Instead of a centralized one or more servers, the Blockchain database is installed on individual computers used by the people who use the database, in fact, a copy of the database is installed on every computer of every user who uses the database. In a central database, we have the database on one server at the center however, a distributed Blockchain database is copied on every client’s computer on the network so there are no database servers. Please visualize this; if a user makes an input to his/her own database, the system replicates this on all the distributed database (which may be hundreds of thousands of computers) on the network creating a block of chains, however, user permissions will be verified and all rules checked. In essence, all the patterns, stacks, looks and behavior of these chains match on all the computers and they also rely on the integrity of these features. So if a hacker tries to manipulate the chain (data), the Blockchain database will match this change with the other blocks of chains in the distributed network (may be hundreds or thousands of client computers) and of course it will return an error. So a hacker will have to change data on all the systems for the chains to match which is almost impossible. The Blockchain is transformative, there is no central authority, the power is distributed across the users of the entire network, no single person or user can deny or approve a transaction, power has been decentralized, it requires the consensus of all participating computers, a Blockchain is almost hack proof! A hacker will need to change information on all the computers on the network. This is why Blockchain is referred to as the Trust Protocol.
[image: blockchaindatabase.jpg] Credit https://subscription.packtpub.com
- By using services like Apple Music and Spotify, online streaming makes up to 80% of music industry’s revenue. It grew by 26% in the first half of 2019 making $4.3 billion in revenue (The Wall Street Journal). Although illegal download of music is reducing, YouGov Music Report shows that about 18% of users still download songs illegally and only 22% will stop in the next five years. If not for online piracy of music, the industry would have generated about $9.3 billion in revenue instead of the $6.9 billion it generated at the end of third quarter of 2019. Also a report by Corn Telegraph indicates that losses for the television and film industries as a result of piracy could reach $52 billion by 2022. Using Blockchain technology, the life cycle of a media content can be tracked and identify the owner of the system/device where the content was last played. Also, Blockchain enables proprietary digital watermarking that can be embedded in media content in such a way that it cannot be noticed or removed. If a file is pirated, it can then be analyzed to determine the legal recipient. This will reduce piracy drastically and make more money for the music industry.
- The shipping business is overwhelmed by a lot of processes and players making up some 90% of world’s trade estimated at over $10 trillion a year. The major problems in this industry are the cumbersome processes, bureaucracies, documentations, errors and integrity. Maritime Blockchain can help place data in one place and create a unique platform for all the players that operates along the supply chain. Maritime Blockchain increases trading safety and transparency, secures the integrity of any record and creates trust where trust is difficult. The information stored in Blockchain is impossible to delete or edit without leaving traces, so this transparency also increases security. IBM and Maersk are already working on this, the Blockchain-based Bill of Lading they created showed in early stage that administrative cost could be reduced by as much as 15% of the value of shipped goods of the value of shipped goods. The process saves time and documentation, goods will be purchased at lesser amount, expenses are reduced, and data entry errors are eliminated, things move faster, so everybody wins! The government of Dubai just mandated the authorities in Port Saeed Dubai to go Blockchain within the next five (5) years.
[image: port_saeed.png] Credit https://www.commons.wikimedia.org
- To renew an ID (drivers’ license, international passport, debit cards, certificate of occupancy, credit rating etc.) for instance, applicants will need to fill personal information on the renewal form all the time but with Blockchain, an applicant and the system can verify all the applicants details without filling of forms, stealing someone’s identity then becomes difficult when personal information will no longer be freely available. This also eliminates traditional authorities that makes a user’s information difficult to access by the same user. By creating a distributed ledger containing everyone’s identity, Blockchain can distribute trust from a single central point towards the whole system. This is called a sovereign identity which enables the individual to keep personal information “personal” (without risking identity theft) and out of the control of a third party of government organization. Individuals can also choose to revoke the information after some time.
Next, I will talk about the future of Blockchain Innovation, obstacles to Blockchain Adoption and the Risks.
© 2021. Olufemi Ogunye. He tweets using the handle @FemiOmoJava