B is for blockchain

This post is part of a continuing series, “Digital: from A to Z,” that explores what it means to be “digital” from A to Z, broken down into individual blog posts diving deeper into various subjects. Check back regularly to see continuing posts as I work my way through the alphabet and let me know: What’s in your A to Z of digital? You can find me on twitter @Max_Hemingway or leave a comment below.

What is a Blockchain? Well there are lots of articles on Blockchains that explain them, so rather than repeat, I will work through the explanation by referencing some solid blog posts created by my DXC Technology colleagues.

A blockchain – originally block chain – is a distributed database that is used to maintain a continuously growing list of records, called blocks. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block. A blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the collusion of the network. Functionally, a blockchain can serve as “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. The ledger itself can also be programmed to trigger transactions automatically.”

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockchain

One common train of thought that can occur when talking about Blockchains is to also to think about Bitcoins. Often associated due to Bitcoins using Blockchains for their transactions, there are other uses for Blockchains.

Blockchains are secure by design. The ledger method makes their use ideal in many industry sectors including healthcare, banking, insurance and legal where transactions can be time stamped, verified automatically, encrypted and trusted. This helps reduce the amount of fraud with transactions being proved. Some of these verticals are covered in a number of posts by colleagues listed below with some excerpts from their blogs:

Exploring Blockchain in Banking (by Wolfgang Berger)

Blockchain or, more precisely, Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) is currently one of the hot topics in the banking industry.

Its main focus is on clearing and settlement, where DLT can reduce reconcile efforts, address liquidity needs and accelerate processing. Several reports and studies suggest benefits and substantial savings – in particular, when DLT is applied in financial market infrastructures spanning multiple jurisdictions. But there are also a number of open points, not least in the legal and regulatory realms.

On the blockchain, nobody knows you’re a fridge (by Faisal Siddiqi)

A compelling scenario could be an insurance policy blockchain smart contract with multiple transactions throughout its lifecycle. An initial purchase transaction would trigger an automatic deposit of monetary assets into the contract. A second transaction might add documentation proving ownership and value of real world property being insured. Subsequently, a loss notice event from an external claims system might trigger a Claim transaction which would execute autonomous Verification and Payout smart contracts. The policyholder would not need to file a claim, and the insurer would not have to administer it. This would reduce the potential for fraud, decrease administration costs and simplify the claims process.

Decentralization – The Napster-Metallica connection (by Faisal Siddiqi)

In addition to the elegant technology behind distributed blockchain applications, there is a solid business proposition to be made. With Bitcoin having successfully demonstrated the decentralization of money, it becomes feasible to consider that all kinds of other transactions can also be decentralized on blockchains with similar benefits. Decentralized applications are being developed on blockchains for tracking the provenance of diamonds, simplifying interoperability of electronic health records, adding IoT smarts to the power grid and disrupting a range of industries with these other fascinating use cases.

Blockchain: Trusting the Genie in the Lamp (by Sarah James)

In some cultures, a handshake is as good as a contract. In some situations, emotional intelligence plays a role in shaping how a person responds to another person, and the trust level you build. In the blockchain world, this interaction will be unnecessary; a person will simply trust another through the use of a software program.

Join me next time as I look at, ‘C is for Cobots’ in my Digital A-Z series.  See my last post, A is for Automation.

This entry was originally posted in Max’s blog.

Max Hemingway is a senior architect for DXC in the United Kingdom. With more than 25 years of experience, he has a broad and deep range of technical knowledge and is able to translate business needs into IT-based solutions. Currently the chief architect of the BAE Systems account in the UK, Max has a proven track record acquired through continual client engagement and delivery of leading edge infrastructures, all of which have delivered positive results for end-clients, including IT cost reduction, expansion of service capability and increased revenues.


  1. Mariano Silva says:

    Great post!


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