While the agricultural industry might seem more traditional than others, it can be one of the most forward-thinking when it comes to embracing innovation, and blockchain technology is no exception. The fast movement may be due to the fact that challenges in this space can tangibly affect everyone’s health and well-being around the globe. In response, agri-tech companies like HerdX have already created technology that is revolutionizing how restaurants, retailers, and consumers can learn precisely where their food came from. Sourcing clean and responsibly-raised food is a process that is becoming significantly more transparent, as the production cycle of livestock can now be recorded with distributed ledger technology, publicly tracing every transaction that takes place from farm to table. In some restaurants with whom HerdX are partnering, like New York-based Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão, customers can even scan a QR code to digitally meet the ranchers and producers themselves, enabling conscious eaters to learn more than ever before about the meal on their plate.
It’s no surprise that blockchain technology is disrupting the purchase-driven retail space, but the actual trajectory of this trend is impressive. Research just released by Gartner shows that 20 percent of the top 10 global grocers will use blockchain by 2025. As with the aforementioned agricultural improvements, grocers are attuned to the power of serving customers with more transparency and visibility along the food supply chain, which can, understandably, lead to increased trust and loyalty to their brands. Household names like Unilever and Nestlé are leveraging distributed ledger technology to track food contamination, and similarly, Walmart is already using blockchain to employ a “farm-to-store” tracking system, particularly for spinach and lettuce. Of course, such potential extends far beyond the produce aisle; the breaking news that Amazon Managed Blockchain was just released for general availability indicates there are big changes to come for online retail too.
When you start to consider how blockchain is improving data management on the whole, the healthcare industry stands to benefit in many interesting ways. As noted by Forbes, blockchain technology can “improve electronical medical records and allow patients’ records to be accessed securely by any provider who needs it solving the waste of time, money and duplication in procedures, confusion and sometimes even life-threatening issue of records being distributed across many different facilities and providers.” Some unexpected opportunities also lie in the realm of medicine; for example, blockchain technology might even facilitate faster development of new drugs by making patient results more widely accessible (assuming the patients grant permission for this usage of their private information). It could even help combat the production of counterfeit drugs, a life-or-death problem that is so widespread, it costs pharmaceutical companies an estimated $200 billion in annual losses.
Blockchain lawyers are in remarkably high demand right now as data privacy regulation is quickly evolving around the globe to catch up with the technology; recent examples of this include the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation that rolled out last May, and the similar California Consumer Privacy Act signed into law last year (which takes effect in 2020). New policies aside, there are also numerous aspects of traditional law that can be greatly impacted and improved by blockchain technology. The potential functions of a distributed ledger in the legal space are innumerable at this stage – from smart contracts to securing confidential materials and public records to combatting property fraud and data theft, it’s largely uncharted territory, requiring lawyers with strong digital expertise and fresh thinking from all parties involved.
It almost goes without saying that cryptocurrency is disrupting the finance space – you may have read that major players like American Express and Citi have already begun testing blockchain technology for faster distribution and better personalization of membership rewards points. Other blockchain enhancements the financial services industry is collectively exploring and adapting to include speeding up cross-border payments, improving accuracy in trading, online identity management, and perhaps most crucial, increasing transparency and traceability of transactions. This could be bad news for big banks, whose very presence represents the central authority that is eliminated with crypto’s far more effective “trustless” system. However, if such corporations can pivot as quickly as this burgeoning technology demands, there are many new ways to provide value to customers while ameliorating archaic financial processes.