Blockchain’s reach will soon go beyond currency and into business processes

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By Wade Funk

Blockchain is already the darling of the press, and it seems clear that it will play an evolutionary – and maybe even revolutionary – role in the coming years of our collective digital transformation journey. Still, we’ve all got a lot to learn (myself included!) about this distributed ledger technology. What exactly is it, where is it now and where is it going? And what is its future in business process services (BPS)?

What is blockchain?

There are various descriptions of the beginnings of this digital invention, all leading back to an academic paper written under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. The intent then was to create a new peer-to-peer electronic cash system that was far more efficient, affordable and secure than any previous conventional banking methods — through blocks that permanently record transactions and exist in a shared ledger. That shared ledger becomes a blockchain that serves as a historical record of all transactions that ever occurred, from the genesis block to the latest block.

Bitcoin, of course, was the first blockchain application, kicking off what are known today as cryptocurrencies. As of May 2018, there were an estimated 1,800 digital currencies in existence, according to James Bullard, head of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank.

Where is blockchain?

Today, there are lots of blockchain platforms. There are financial services platforms like R3 Corda and Ripple. There are also cross-industry platforms like Ethereum. HfS Research overviews these and others in its ranking of the top five.

Blockchain technology is already garnering interest across industries. There are companies in financial, aviation, automobile, retail, shipping, telecom and other industries that are investigating blockchain through research and development (R&D) and proofs of concept (POCs).

Barclays is investigating blockchain for a variety of uses. CIO.com writes about an early example of commercialized blockchain technology in South Africa that is expected to be scaled up and deployed in other markets. There’s an MIT project testing blockchain to manage authentication, confidentiality and data sharing with electronic medical records.

Where is blockchain going?

What’s exciting is that much of blockchain’s potential is still untapped. How quickly it evolves, and for what purposes, remain to be seen. But one thing is certain. The technology is being considered for applications across various types of business transactions, processes and functionalities. It could be used, for example, to authenticate legal documents, validate procurements, embed privacy and trust into healthcare records, or add value and veracity to human resource functions.

DXC’s own Faisal Siddiqi has written about a number of potential uses for blockchain in insurance. In several of his examples, he illustrates how the technology might actually upend current processes and pave the way for new insurance products and services altogether.

Any of these aforementioned examples could successfully be put into practice and not only all be automated, but also automatically verified — including the necessary interactive processes between humans, workflows and systems. Risks could be minimized, if not eliminated. The capabilities companies use to interact with and act on shared data could actually become frictionless. Real-time data sharing could actually be done in real time, boosting productivity and cutting costs. These examples also illustrate how blockchain presents huge opportunities for BPS providers that want to advance their offerings with new digital features and functions.

Our lives, how we interact and transact, have all changed in many ways since the dawn of the digital age. The past few decades of technical evolution have been called the internet of information. With blockhain embedded in the processes that run business, we could witness the transformational onset of the internet of value. It won’t happen tomorrow, but blockchain’s future is clear. And by all accounts, it’s coming at us fast.

For additional blockchain information and insights ongoing, stay tuned to DXC Blockchain blogs. It should be very exciting times.


Wade Funk is a BPS Cards & Payments solution lead for DXC, with over 30 years of IT servicing experience in financial and other industries. Prior to solutions, he worked in payments product development and management roles supporting sales and marketing. He has authored several payment industry process patents around converting paper payments to digital.

 

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