Tag: blockchain

3 Industries Blockchain Entrepreneurs Will Change for the Better

With the emergence of blockchain technology, innovation seems far from over, and as new processes and systems emerge, entrepreneurs should be looking for market pain points in need of innovative solutions.

Of all the industries that can benefit from blockchain solutions, three stand out.

Transparency and traceability in supply chain management

Traceability, transparency and authenticity are the three key pillars of efficient logistics. However, the present day standard databases that are used to store the key information about the goods in transit are neither efficient nor foolproof. The records can be easily tampered with and manipulated, information is often not available or updated in real-time, and there is a serious lack of transparency, with no way for consumers to be able to track products from their origin to their endpoint.

Blockchain offers an efficient solution to such problems. If, for example, a drug is manufactured in Singapore and shipped to a U.S.-based patient, with a specific need to be stored below 4 degrees Celsius, placing a blockchain-supported RFID tag on the drug will cancel out the possibility of any damage or misuse occurring during transport. Smart sensors equipped with RFID record all necessary details and broadcast them in real time to the blockchain network, which will be accessible to all parties involved. In case of any violations, alerts can be sent out to all stakeholders who will then be able to deal with the issue instantly. Recording all data points on the tamperproof blockchain will ensure that the end customer will be able to track every single movement of the drug from its source to end delivery and the use of smart contracts will help in reducing the overhead costs and paperwork.

VeChain, which calls itself “the Ethereum for business,” is a suppy chain management blockchain company that has partnered with firms like PwC and DNV GL. It is attempting to solve logistics problems of luxury brand items such as wine, auto car parts and the drug industry. IBM is also working on a supply chain blockchain, and has use cases that include massive retailers such as Walmart. The U.K.’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), a safety watchdog, recently announced that it has successfully piloted a blockchain-based supply chain monitoring system.

Blockchain solutions for customer loyalty programs

Research reports suggest that bringing in new customers costs up to five times more than retaining an existing one. Can blockchain help in maintaining customer satisfaction thereby maximizing business profits?

Loyalty points-based systems are one of the most popular ways to retain customers who repeatedly purchase more in order to cash previously earned loyalty points. Despite its success, these types of programs pose challenges to businesses. Along with operational overheads, if a large number of customers cash out their loyalty points at the same time, the margins of the business take a hit. Many times, customers also are dissatisfied with loyalty points if they have limited options of places to redeem them.

Creating such a system on a common-token based blockchain can help these issues. Instead of business-specific loyalty points, customers can be given blockchain tokens shared by various companies. If many unrelated businesses join the same network, it will significantly reduce their costs and customers will benefit from having more options on which to spend their loyalty points. You could earn loyalty tokens at your grocery store or from you air-miles program and spend it on a car wash or phone bill payment. Tokens can also be traded among customers, increasing their value, and even if a whole group of customers cashes out tokens at a particular store, the business will be minimally impacted as it can also use the tokens it receives.

BitRewards operates as a blockchain-based loyalty platform and allows retailers to reward their customers’ purchases with BIT crypto tokens. Blockpoint is another similar platform that supports build multi-merchant loyalty point coalition programs, and also supports gift cards. Deloitte is offering its solutions for similar implementations.

 

Advertising directly to consumers without intermediaries

Merchants and businesses often rack up high advertising costs as a significant cut goes to the intermediary. Along with many issues in the process, when user data is shared with so many parties, it’s privacy and security are compromised. For instance, we saw in the Cambridge Analytica scandal over 50 million users’ data was accessed by a third party without their knowledge or consent.

Blockchain-based advertising platforms offer better ROI with lower costs and enhanced data security. Offering direct connections between advertisers and publishers, both parties can look at a variety of options and choose the ones that suit them best with the open rating system ensuring transparency and feedback.

QChain is a digital ledger application offering buying and selling of digital advertising, including native advertising. AdHive is another blockchain tech startup that has automated placement of native advertising with influencers allowing for greater efficiency and time savings. AdEx attempts to eliminate advertising frauds and pays only for valid clicks.

These are only a few of the industries in need of blockchain solutions, with more innovators, investors, and developers moving to the space, we will see overhauling of systems and the proliferation of blockchain tech in many more across the board.

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Microsoft’s New Ethereum Blockchain Product Gets Rid of Mining

Software giant Microsoft has debuted a new Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) product that allows businesses across industry verticals to deploy a flexible instance of Ethereum tailored specifically for enterprise environments.

Announced on Tuesday, Ethereum Proof-of-Authority on Azure allows enterprises to build applications on an Ethereum blockchain that is not secured by a Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm and consequently does not require mining — features that are better suited for networks in which participants do not trust one another.

PoW “works great in anonymous, open networks where cryptocurrency promotes security on the network,” said Azure Global software engineer Cody Born. “However, in private/consortium networks the underlying ether has no value.”

Born explained that, since all participants on an enterprise blockchain network are known and reputable, governance can be separated from network operation.

microsoft azure ethereum

 

Proof-of-Authority allows network administrators to engage in on-chain voting | Source: Microsoft Azure

To this end, the Proof-of-Authority product features a built-in decentralized application (DApp or dApp) called the “Governance DApp” that provides consortium members with the authority to govern the network or delegate their voting power to others. Network participants can also delegate other nodes to vote on their behalf in the event that their primary nodes go offline, ensuring that all members maintain continual consensus participation.

Network administrators, in turn, can use on-chain voting to vote on and alter network authorities in a transparent and auditable manner.

Along with Azure’s original, PoW-based Ethereum product, blockchains using this new consensus model can be deployed in as little as five minutes, providing enterprises with a “single-click” DLT solution.

To further increase the product’s usability, Microsoft integrated support for smart contracts built using Parity’s WebAssembly (Wasm) toolkit, enabling developers to write smart contracts in familiar programming languages such as C, C++, and Rust in lieu of learning Solidity, Ethereum’s primary programming language.

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WHEN SMART CONTRACTS ACT STUPID: IS YOUR ICO SMART CONTRACT SAFE & SECURE?

The potential inherent in smart contracts is immense. The nascent technology may be used for identity verification, secure data sharing, and for the management of tokens and raised funds in an initial coin offering/token sale – but just how clever are your smart contracts?

The Ethereum network boasts more than 1500 decentralized applications (dApps), all of which make use of smart contracts to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. The problem with smart contracts, however, is the fact that they are code-based and thus inherently prone to mistakes – some of which can be nothing less than catastrophic.

SMART CONTRACT BASICS

To put it simply, a smart contract is a code that contains a set of rules and executes automatically, without a third party, if the rules of the contract are met. This differs greatly from a paper contract, which is always enforced by a third party.

However, because smart contracts are code based, they are prone to errors, bugs, and weaknesses – which put funds at risk of theft and manipulation.

WHEN SMART CONTRACTS ACT STUPID

One of the most notorious examples of a poorly-coded smart contract came from the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), which was designed to fund cryptocurrency projects not determined by any one person or group. Essentially, DAO token holders were allowed to vote on the projects which merited funding – which led to a total purchase of $250 million in ether before tragedy struck.

Two sections of the code in question were responsible for the collapse of the much-hyped DAO project, which resulted in a controversial hard fork of the Ethereum blockchain into Ethereum Classic.

The two functions responsible were ‘splitDAO’ and ‘withdrawRewardFor’ — though they were not vulnerable by themselves. Together, however, hackers were able to vacuum up 4 million ether. Consequently, the Ethereum community was more-or-less forced to perform a 51 percent attack on its own blockchain, re-writing it as though the stolen funds were never lost.

Another and more recent bug was discovered in the smart contract used by Parity. The smart contract in question was exploited and resulted in the loss of half a million ether — worth upwards of $169 million. 70 wallets were frozen and access to the money held within was lost.

Parity actually admitted to having been warned about the flaw months before the bug was triggered. However, they did not fix the issue, later stating:

“However, rather than just having more audits, we strongly believe that more extensive and formal procedures and tooling around the deployment, monitoring and testing of contracts will be needed to achieve security. We believe that the entire ecosystem as a whole is in urgent need of such procedures and tooling to prevent similar issues from happening again, in particular, if and when the number and complexity of live contracts grows.”

Parity was hacked again via smart contract vulnerabilities in June 2017, resulting in the theft of 150,000 ether.

What’s Wrong With Ethereum-based Smart Contracts?

WHAT’S WRONG WITH ETHEREUM-BASED SMART CONTRACTS?

Ethereum’s main problem is that it’s largely constructed in Solidity – an advanced coding language. As such, many programmers must learn an entirely new coding language, which increases the chance of human error.

Unfortunately, many new projects lack the experience and/or time to properly audit their smart contracts. This is where solutions like COINAdmin come in – which assist in the completion and subsequent audit of smart contracts and verify that the code is free from vulnerabilities.

COINAdmin has a dedicated team of blockchain developers who specialize in the development of ERC-20 and ERC-223 smart contracts. It also fully supports thorough third-party audits and handles everything on the technical front – affording ICO teams the ability to focus on other aspects of their business ventures.

COINAdmin’s full solution lets projects issue their own ICO tokens while saving time and money. To learn more, check out the official website at coinadmin.com, or email info@coinadmin.com.

What do you think about smart contract vulnerabilities and companies like COINAdmin? Let us know in the comments below!


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FedEx Institute Partners With Pharmacy to Use Blockchain for Cancer Medicine Distribution

The FedEx Institute of Technology has announced its partnership with pharmacy services company Good Shepherd Pharmacy to develop new blockchain-based infrastructure to help cancer patients get medications, news outlet Commercial Appeal reported July 6.

The FedEx Institute of Technology is an organization that serves as a promoter of interdisciplinary research in emerging technologies that operates in tandem with the research infrastructure of the University of Memphis. The institutions launched the Institute in February of this year in order to make University of Memphis a center of technology and research.

Memphis-based Good Shepherd Pharmacy reportedly recognized blockchain as a means to retrieve unused medications from cancer patients and pass them on to economically disadvantaged patients who would not be able to regularly afford them. A secure and immutable ledger would allow for a safe and confidential distribution of medical information. Good Shepherd Pharmacy’s CEO Phil Baker said:

“In Tennessee alone, over $10 million worth of perfectly good prescription medication gets flushed down the toilet every year. Blockchain is the solution for that problem. The REMEDI project (REclaiming MEDicine) will divert valuable medication into the hands of patients who would not otherwise use it.”

The Institute will host an event to attract blockchain experts and enthusiasts to discuss Good Shepherd’s proposed initiative. The event will be held in tandem with Blockchain 901, a professional organization that aims to expand the tech workforce in the Memphis area.

In May, FedEx CEO Fred Smith said that blockchain is “the next frontier that’s going to completely change worldwide supply chains.” In February, FedEx joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a focus group whose members include rail operator BNSF, JD Logistics, and GE Transportation.

Last month, another blockchain-based pharmaceutical project was announced by Microsoft and supply tracking solutions provider Adents. The new system offers end-to-end traceability and visibility from the point of origin along the whole supply chain, which allows users to trace single product items within a case.

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IBM Secures $1 Billion Australian Dollar Blockchain Deal

The Australian government has chosen IBM as its central technology partner for the next five years in a deal worth $740 million dollars. The agreement will cover technology services provided to government departments, including services which will use IBM’s automation and blockchain technologies. 

Technology’s Youth Key to the Project

IBM will provide services to federal government departments including defense and home affairs, as well as create platforms to protect citizens’ data. The Australian government estimates the partnership will provide around $100 million AUD worth of savings to its citizens.

Harriet Green, IBM’s Asia Pacific Head, told Bloomberg the “youth of the technology,” alongside the employment of Australians, would be the hallmarks of the new partnership.

IBM Partners With Shipping Giant Maersk To Launch Blockchain Solution For Global Logistics

Reprieve for IBM After Past Failure

The new agreement is significant for IBM after the century-old U.S multinational was criticized over the failed provision of an Australian national census in 2016. Within minutes of its launch, the digitized survey — which was compulsory for Australians — was hit with four major Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The resulting 40-hour outage led to IBM recompensing Australia to the tune of $30 million dollars AUD.

Some experts have criticized the new agreement after the census project failure, including information and communications advisor Dr Wissam Raffoul, who told the Australian Financial Review:

If you engineer a bad experience like the census, why do you expect IBM can do a better service.

There is also a concern that such a major agreement with IBM locks out competitors — risking innovation in the sector.

IBM’s New ‘World’s Smallest Computer’ is Built for Blockchain

IBM’s Blockchain Reach

IBM’s blockchain technology is, however, performing well.

Deutsche Bank and HSBC trialed successful blockchain-based transactions using IBM powered we.trade earlier this week. The tests were the largest yet for the we.trade platform, which is currently partnered with 11 European countries.

The technology company’s blockchain reach isn’t constrained to government and financial services, however. During the Think 2018 Conference in March, IBM revealed the “world’s smallest computer” purpose-built for blockchain technology. The tiny device is designed for electronic tagging, with broad use case applications including tracking in shipping and logistics.

Is Australia right to commit to such a large deal? Should past experiences be forgotten based on IBM’s current blockchain successes? Let us know in the comments below! 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Wikipedia Commons, Bitcoinist archives.

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