Despite mostly finance-related interest in blockchain technology, the areas of distributed ledger technology (DLT) application are not limited to the financial services industry. Along with banks and FinTech startups, non-financial players have been paying attention and looking for ways to leverage the opportunities that DLT opens. Let’s look at some interesting examples of the applications of blockchain technology beyond financial services:
Authorship and ownership
Ascribe helps artists and creators to attribute digital art via blockchain. Ascribe’s marketplace allows to generate digital editions with a unique ID and a digital certificate of authenticity to prove provenance and authenticity. It also allows to accept consignments from artists and transfer digital works to collectors with all the terms and legals.
Cannabis (cash-heavy businesses)
Serica is one of the examples of a blockchain companies in the cannabis industry. Serica brings software engineering, crypto finance, financial custody and blockchain technology to traditional custodian finance. It allows entrepreneurs to establish their business legitimacy through the largest network of verified customers in order to grow conversions, registrations, memberships and average order sizes. Serica’s Secure Socket Layering Technology encrypts all communications between a user’s personal wallet and Serica. Serica uses the blockchain in order to track and record every purchase of medical marijuana, providing businesses an easy way to accept payments online.
There are also companies like Tokken, Hypur and others leveraging bitcoin and blockchain in cash-heavy businesses like legal marijuana.
The Real Asset Company enables individuals around the world to buy gold and silver bullion securely and efficiently. The company’s investor-friendly platform sits on top of global vaulting infrastructure, providing an online account for buying gold and silver and holding precious metals. Goldbloc, the company’s gold-backed cryptocurrency adds an additional layer of transparency and control to users’ gold investment. Backed by one gram of gold, the company believes its cryptocurrency to be the first step to bringing gold back into the monetary system.
Uphold is a platform for moving, converting , transacting and holding any form of money or commodity. The company connects banks, credit and debit cards and bitcoin to digital wallets for free financial services and transactions. Businesses and consumers can fund their Uphold accounts via bank transfer or by linking a credit/debit card in addition to bitcoin.
Factom is one of the most notable blockchain companies applying distributed ledger to the non-financial market – in this case, data management. The company uses blockchain-based identity ledgers in database management and data analytics to support various applications. Businesses and governments can use Factom to simplify records management, record business processes and address security and compliance issues. Factom maintains a permanent, time-stamped record of data in the blockchain that allows companies to reduce the cost and complexity of conducting audits, managing records, and complying with government regulations.
The diamond industry is one of the biggest natural resource industries and makes a substantial part of the GDP in African countries and other major diamond-miners. The hallmark of the industry is that it is highly criminalized. Stones are small and easy to hide and transport. The best part for criminals is that transactions can be made confidentially and the sell returns the value over years. Diamonds are known to be involved in money laundering and financing of terrorism on a truly massive scale around the world.
Due to a range of challenges with diamonds business, one of the tech pioneers in the sphere is Everledger. The company provides an immutable ledger for diamond identification and transaction verification for various stakeholders, from insurance companies to claimants and law enforcement agencies. Everledger assigns a “digital passport” to each diamond that will accompany each stone as it is transacted and creates a unique fingerprint.
Digital identity, identification & authentication
With this use case, blockchain is not necessarily restricted to funds transaction, DLT can be used for the storage of all types of data and transactions in a secure and open way. Moreover, creating an identity on blockchain can give individuals greater control over who has their personal information and how they access it.
By combining the decentralized blockchain principle with identity verification, a digital ID can be created that would act as a digital watermark which can be assigned to every online transaction of any asset.
Other examples include, but are not limited to:
Civic is a blockchain based identity management platform that allows users to register and validate their personal identity information and lock their identity in order to prevent identity theft and fraudulent activity on their credit reports. Civic aims to tackle the problem of consumer identity theft and reducing online identity fraud.
UniquID Wallet provides secure identity management, integrated with fingerprint and other biometry on personal devices. Ready to be deployed on custom hardware, servers, personal computers or smartphones and tablets, UniquID Wallet runs also on battery and low-powered devices, providing integrity and interoperability at the edge of one’s infrastructure.
Identifi links all personal profiles and identifiers to form a trusted identity.
Evernym is global, fully open-source, attribute-based, self-sovereign identity graph network built on an advanced, dedicated, privacy-enhancing, public permissioned distributed ledger.
Energy Blockchain Labs claims to be the only company in the world that is dedicated to the entire value chain in the energy industry. Founded in May 2016 by three founders with a complex background in the energy, financial and information industries, the lab is working on the energy revolution and is working with partners to develop a range of energy-based Internet technologies based on blockchain technology, covering energy production, consumption, trading, management and other links.
Within the energy industry, there are other areas where talented entrepreneurs found a way to apply DLT. Among interesting examples are:
Grid Singularity, a decentralized energy data exchange platform, hosting a range of applications to facilitate energy data analysis and benchmarking, smart grid management, trade of green certificates, investment decisions and energy trade validation.
TransActive Grid by LO3 Energy is based on an open-source, cryptographically secure decentralized application platform. Its business logic layer delivers real-time metering of local energy generation and usage as well as other related data. This open energy platform is transparent, auditable, non-repudiable, peer-to-peer and cryptographically secure. Friction in the market is reduced by allowing different classes of users to transact openly on the platform.
Follow My Vote offers a secure and transparent online voting solution that uses blockchain technology and elliptic curve cryptography to ensure that election results are honest and accurate. The company is developing an online open source voting platform that provides transparency into election results by allowing voters to independently audit the ballot box.
In February 2016, Nasdaq and the Republic of Estonia announced that Estonia’s e-Residency platform will be facilitating a blockchain-based e-voting service to allow shareholders of companies listed on Nasdaq’s Tallinn Stock Exchange, Estonia’s only regulated securities market, to vote in shareholder meetings. The country’s e-Residency platform is an electronic identity system used by both Estonian residents and those with business interests in the country to access government services through e-Residency’s digital authentication.
Gaming & gambling
Blockchain even found its fans in gaming and gambling industries with some colorful examples, proving that there are no limits to the fantasy of imaginative entrepreneurs.
Etheria is a virtual world in which players can own tiles, farm them for blocks and build things. The entire state of the world is held in and all player actions are made through the decentralized, trustless Ethereum blockchain.
Made possible by smart contracts and oracles in the blockchain, the First Blood is a platform that lets eSports players challenge each other on the field and win rewards. The company has built a decentralized eSports reward platform that every gamer loves.
Etheramid claims to be the most honest social invitation game you will ever see because no one can change the logic. Even the owner or developer. It’s an Ethereum algorithm based on contract verified by Ether.Camp. It’s an invitation-only game that rewards gamers with Ether from each invited participant up to 7 levels. The idea is to invite and build your own Etheramid network.
The FreeMyVunk Movement (the ReVUNKolution) is dedicated to empowering people to fight for ownership rights over their virtual property, virtual junk or VUNK.
Government & organizational governance
Not only has blockchain been applied to ensure the transparency and integrity of the political system, but there is also a project called BITNATION, the world’s first virtual nation. BITNATION has citizens, ambassadors, partners and locations all around the world. There are no entry barriers.
Advocate is another interesting case – the company has built a platform to reshape the way citizens interact with their government representatives. Advocate is the only “always on” platform that works in both campaign and governance (coming soon) phases of government ensuring continuity amongst supporters and reducing the need to campaign in cycles.
As for solutions for effective governance within organizations, there are such examples as Otonomos (technology helps automate the mechanics of forming, funding and governing your company), BoardRoom (provides a complete blockchain governance platform for organizations), Colony (allows people around the world to build companies online) and more.
At the end of August, Chronicled, a San Francisco-based technology company, has launched an Open Registry for IoT, signaling a major step forward in the growth and interoperability of the consumer Internet of Things.
Built on the Ethereum blockchain, the registry stores the identities of physical items, initially consumer goods and collectibles embedded with BLE and NFC microchips. In doing so, a secure, interoperable digital identity is established and new, proximity-based consumer engagement opportunities become possible. Chronicled has open-sourced the project under the Apache License.
Filament is building the first decentralized IoT stack, to ensure that devices can securely communicate and transact value without any siloed infrastructure required.
Chimera connects the Internet of Things to real-time analytics performed on the edge node. It is a hub that links the home network to the cloud and electrical devices around it.
Verbatm is a blockchain-powered protocol that enables people to provide their credentials without the requirement for third-party verification.
Appii utilizes distributed ledger technology to securely store and verify details of education, accreditations, awards and employment history. The technology enables professionals to provide quick access to personal details.
Satoshi Talent claims to be the first blockchain recruiting firm. The company offers career opportunities at blockchain companies and offers organizations an opportunity to find and hire blockchain and full-stack engineers.
Coinality is a free service connecting employers and job seekers with opportunities that pay in digital currencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin. Jobs range from one-time to full-time and negotiations are handled independently between the two parties.
Augur.net is an open-source, decentralized market prediction platform built on the etherum blockchain. It allows users to trade on the outcome of events, and for the market to then leverage that crowdsourced information. Augur plans to use decentralized public ledgers to create a way for anyone in any field, from finance, healthcare and governance, to tap into the collective forecasting power of a global user base.
Media & content distribution
Bittunes is creating a global solution that simplifies music distribution and puts power back in the hands of artists and their fans. The platform uses bitcoin as its primary currency, and both artists and music buyers earn bitcoin automatically as part of the platform’s buying/distribution process.
PeerTracks is a music streaming, music retail (download), talent discovery and fan engagement platform that allows everyone – content creators and consumers – to make a living from music. The solution lies in the underlying peer-to-peer network (called MUSE) that PeerTrack uses to simplify, automate and remove much of the costly overhead. Other than the streaming and downloading of music, PeerTracks allows tipping, patronage and even the buying and trading of Notes of any artist.
JAAK is a smart content platform where anyone can join and earn rewards, collect, promote and share media and contribute to the network.
Paperchain enables standardized metadata collection, storage and reporting for the music industry using blockchain technology.
Ethereum is a platform and a programming language that makes it possible for any developer to build and publish next-generation distributed applications. Ethereum can be used to codify, decentralize, secure and trade just about anything: voting, domain names, financial exchanges, crowdfunding, company governance, contracts and agreements of most kinds, intellectual property, and even smart property thanks to hardware integration.
ChromaWay offers blockchain as a platform for financial institutions and is working on a smart contract platform that allows for digitizing and representing workflows in a secure, private and efficient way.
Philanthropy transparency & community service
Charity programs rarely provide donors information on ROI of particular projects, which creates obstacles for cultivating trust and getting people to donate funds. Fortunately, blockchain technology can be helpful in building transparency into operations of charities and allowing donors to track how successful their funds have been applied.
Among interesting companies applying DLT to governance and transparency of charities are Helperbit, Alice, Start Network, GiveTrack by BitGive Foundation, a donation platform for nonprofits to provide transparency and accountability to donors by sharing financial information and direct project results in real time.
UBITQUITY offers a simple user experience for securely recording, tracking, and transferring deeds with its SaaS blockchain platform. The company is helping real estate, title, and mortgage companies benefit from a clean record of ownership, reducing future title search time, increased confidence, and transparency.
UBITQUITY’s platform is meant to be a parallel recording and tracking system to the current legacy paper one. When transactions occur all relevant information about the property are put on the platform. The company also launched its private alpha platform for secure document storage/integration within and outside the United States.
Silvertown helps housing associations and large property managers monitor the vital signs of their assets using smart home technologies.
Reputation verification & ranking
Applying distributed ledger technology to reviews can deliver trustworthy endorsements. The World Table, for example, launched an Open Reputation, a quantified reputation system to aggregate reputation data and report trust scores for individuals and organizations.
As John Carosella, CMO at The World Table explained, “The Open Reputation architecture mandates that identities and reputes (reputation events – things like ratings) are indexed (and in some cases stored) using blockchain technologies so they’re not forgeable and not “owned” by any single player.”
ThanksCoin is the reputation ranking of Internet users and monetary reward according to the value of reputation. Based on Ethereum which is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts.
Ride-sharing services (sharing economy 2.0)
One of the most important properties of blockchain technology – the elimination of the need for central authority and middlemen – could become a backbone for the real sharing economy, or sharing economy 2.0. In the current model, every ‘sharing economy’ service has a central authority, while similar services built and operating on blockchain technology would directly connect supply and demand in the most efficient manner.
In the ride-sharing industry, for example, Uber and Lyft and two dominant players leading the pack. Both are brands that consumers and drivers trust to match supply and demand. Soon enough, blockchain could fundamentally transform the model with the next generation of companies taking over the niche.
If you can authenticate a driver or rider without Uber, which is what very early-stage players Arcade City and La ‘Zooz are hoping to offer, Uber and Lyft become unnecessary for drivers to share their profit with.
According to CoinTelegraph, open-source DSN allows different servers to be linked through the same software. It is a kind of social network that is able to ensure strong privacy standards because user data can’t be stored or controlled by any central agency or owning company (which is the case with Facebook and other classic social networks).
DSN enthusiast, Anari Sengbe, Founder of ProducTank, predicts that the future of social networks lies in decentralized platforms. As Sengbe shared, “…decentralized social networks are going to become the norm, based on the reward incentives they will work. <…> A generation is starting that may never use Facebook because they can’t understand the concept of feel good likes over monetary likes.”
Supply chain certification in the food industry
While companies like Everledger and Ascribe offered solutions for diamonds and digital artwork industry to fight counterfeit, in the food industry, there’s Provenance, one of the most interesting initiatives aimed to create transparent supply chains for all types of products throughout every part of a product lifecycle.
The way Provenance aims to bring transparency into supply chains is by implementing supply chain certification on the blockchain.
“At each point in time, the prototype of our model details four key properties concerning all materials and consumables it covers: the nature (what it is), the quality (how it is), the quantity (how much of it there is) and the ownership (whose it is at any moment). Key attributes may be read and linked from pre-existing datasets such as barcodes, or newly ascribed along the way.”
The company suggests that every step of the supply chain carved into the body of the blockchain will allow to securely audit all transactions that brought the final state of being into effect, i.e., to inspect the uninterrupted chain of custody from the raw materials to the end sale.
Note: The examples in each area of application are not exhaustive. A complete list of companies applying blockchain technology across industries can be found here.