Blockchain grows up

04/10/2018 - 15:41

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While many are still struggling to get their heads around blockchain as the mysterious force behind bitcoin, the technology is rapidly evolving.

Blockchain requires a huge amount of energy usage, which grows the more people use it. Photo: Stockphoto

While many are still struggling to get their heads around blockchain as the mysterious force behind bitcoin, the technology is rapidly evolving.

Blockchain, and what are being called altchain technologies, are being used in innovative ways that go far beyond financial transactions.

There is a range of new and innovative uses in Australia and abroad to keep on your radar. Before we dive in, however, it’s worth providing a brief explanation of what blockchain does and why it matters.

Blockchain?

Blockchain is essentially a new form of database that allows for more secure and accurate recording and storage of information. It does this through what’s called a distributed ledger.

Until blockchain came along, a single party typically controlled ledgers.

The example most familiar to people would be banks, which keep track of all our transactions.

But as we all know, this form of record keeping is vulnerable to fraud and other forms of abuse. Blockchain solves many of these issues through distributed ledgers, which make it much harder to interfere with past transactions, for example.

It’s this aspect of blockchain that makes it useful in a wide variety of applications.

Power Ledger

Founded in Western Australia, Power Ledger has had massive global success.

Using blockchain, Power Ledger allows the easy and quick buying and selling of clean energy between individuals, without involvement by the power company.

The technology enables those who cannot install their own solar panels (for example those living in apartments) to access clean energy when they would otherwise not be able to.

At the launch of its new Better Labs venture fund, The Royal Automobile Club of WA announced itself as the first financial backer of Power Ledger.

Hellofriend

Hellofriend is being hailed as a social media platform to take on Facebook.

The difference between Hellofriend and previous attempts at taking on Facebook is that Hellofriend’s goal is to take interactions back offline.

The company describes its platform as a “reinvention of social media” through a “decentralised shared economy for real-life activities such as hosting rooftop parties, getting tours of cities from locals, [and] meeting new people over coffee.”

The platform is a response to an apparent shift back to the ‘real’ as people tire of fake news, a loss of privacy and social media overload. And of course, Hellofriend is using blockchain to do it, in particular to enable the buying and selling of real life ‘experiences’ as well as protecting user data.

Walmart’s lettuce blockchain

Food security has become a priority for many Australians lately, given the strawberry contamination issue.

In the US, after a two-year trial, Walmart has announced that it will be using blockchain technology with all of its providers of lettuce and spinach.

In the US, e-coli contaminated lettuce has been an increasing problem for growers and consumers. Walmart’s new blockchain supply technology will allow the company to rapidly identify and deal with contamination.

Holochain

Perhaps the framework with the potential to be a game changer is Holochain, which could potentially push beyond the existing blockchain paradigm.

While the technologies mentioned above use existing blockchain technology, Holochain is actually an entirely new platform – one of what are being called altchain or post-blockchain technologies, Holochain has actually been around for more than 10 years.

Perth-based futurist and Holochain investor Adam Jorlen is very excited about the potential of this new platform because it solves a lot of the problems with existing blockchain technology.

Blockchain’s distributed ledger, for example, requires a huge amount of energy usage, which increases the more people use it.

Holochain, on the other hand, solves this issue by creating smaller nodes of agreement. In other words, the number of people required to validate a transaction is much smaller.

As co-founder of the enkel collective, a cooperative aimed at creating new approaches to emerging problems, Mr Jorlen is really excited about Holochain’s potential to support local economies.

He says the goal behind the project is to take back the internet from companies like Amazon and Airbnb. Holochain will do this, for example by allowing users to have their own local clouds.

In fact, the first dapp (distributed app) Holochain is building is essentially like an Airbnb but for computers instead of people.

In the same way Power Ledger allows for clean power sharing between people, Holochain will allow people to trade spare computing power and storage space.


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