Blockchains are authenticated records of the history of a network’s activity distributed among the users of the blockchain all around the globe. A blockchain enables secure storage of arbitrary information – in some cases, a token balance; in other systems more complex information – within the network simply by securing a set of private keys.
Blockchains as a new database in finance
Blockchain clients allow for the development of distributed systems which do not rely on what traditional databases call ‘master-slave’ clusters. This drastically increases the resiliency of blockchain networks as a data management solution.
- In a blockchain network, there is not even a notion of master-slave relationships between the nodes in the cluster. Instead, blockchain networks utilize the idea of peer nodes and consensus models to resolve the current world state of the data.
- In addition, blockchain networks allow for transactional certainty. Traditional databases store the current world state of the data, and if they are programmed to do so, have additional entries covering previous transactions within the data store. In addition, traditional databases are also able to maintain logs of the history of the interactions.
- Blockchain networks are designed differently in that the logs of the transactions with the data set are used to formulate the world state of the data. The use of cryptographic authentication of time-stamped blocks of transactions allows the entire network the benefit of certainty of the entire transactional history.
Ensuring traceability of data
One of the primary concerns associated with Big Data resides in their governance. What data do we use? Where do we store them? How can we ensure usage is compliant with the regulations? Who updates them? etc. The failure of initial projects is often explained by the eternal silos slowing down business agility. But recently, the appearance of “data lakes” has helped to break down those silos, finally giving access to the data that is relevant to business users, or even partners and customers, in real time.
In the same way, Blockchain appearance could make it possible to secure some processes in a Big Data approach (e.g. the authentication and traceability of data). The prospects are endless: In the field of health, first and foremost, where confidentiality issues are tied to personal data, but also in the financial sector, where disintermediation is already in progress yet is still coming up against security and regulation issues. Or another prospect is in the insurance sector, where Blockchain is a new momentum for the first peer-to-peer models and establishing the foundations of the automated insurance contract.
Very small businesses and SMBs are also concerned: A library can administer its book loans and subscription fees; a startup can manage its financing, etc. With the emergence of Smart Cities, consumers can even generate the use and distribution of the electricity produced by solar panels.
Beyond the business world, society itself can take advantage of this technology (e.g. to secure online voting and set up a framework of trust which would make it possible to multiply direct consultations with citizens, such as in the case of a referendum), thus reinforcing participatory democracy.
Trust. The word means “reveal”. According to IDC, around 30% of the decision-makers decline to use their company’s data due to a lack of trust and governance. With Blockchain, a trust catalyst, the use of data could be considerably amplified. Like artificial intelligence, industry 4.0 and the collaborative economy may, as we have seen, bring about major changes both business and social. And these are the organizations that must contribute to it, through their experiments and by discovering new uses that will forge the society of tomorrow.