Discussions on the whys and wherefores of blockchain have been rumbling around for some years now. Cast as anything from the saviour of the known universe to a technical curiosity that is only exciting for crypto-currency nerds, it hasn’t really found its feet among the wider business community yet.
That may be because for many of us focused on creating services and interfaces to them, blockchain should remain largely invisible. There should be no significant interface implications for a service underpinned by blockchain – barring, perhaps, a secure-padlock-equivalent icon to allow organisations to reassure the ficklest of users that this is somehow ‘extra secure’.
Despite this invisibility, blockchain presents exciting opportunities for organisations based on what it can enable them to do rather than what it is in itself. It may well prove to be the stimulant that fuels a whole new generation of digital services, many for organisations in sectors not generally associated with being innovative.
Blockchain’s public ledger infrastructure is particularly interesting for its ability to connect disparate data sources together with very high (in theory, perfect) integrity. As a result, it can be used to enable interactions between systems that were previously impossible or at least economically impractical. And that opens up the potential for entirely new service offerings for companies in numerous sectors.
Let’s look at some examples. Say you are part of a supply chain where goods move from OEM manufacture through various assembly points into completed products, which are then shipped to various companies for packaging, branding and then on to retailing. Right now, that is still an incredibly hard thing to do, so many people simply don’t do it. Things routinely go missing.
A blockchain-powered platform would enable a smart supplier to create a single interface to that entire supply chain, from origin to customer; a service that many people in that chain will get value from, and pay for.
Now imagine you’re a law firm handling complex property transactions across a number of territories. Currently, you have to do an enormous amount of legwork to source and validate information from a variety of personal, governmental and legal sources, and surfacing that to a client is nigh-on impossible. In a blockchain world, creating a service to put an interface on the flow of a transaction like this becomes possible. This would be a lucrative service for an individual law firm or an industry provider to create.
What blockchain needs most is imaginative, service-focused thinking. It needs to move past being thought of as a complex new technology to learn, to becoming a way to inspire new service opportunities. Think of blockchain as a new generation of enabler: a technology that can fuel a thousand innovative new services if you apply the right type of thinking to it.