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Demystifying Blockchain

by Rob Lodesky | Apr 12, 2017

Have you heard of blockchain? The word has been popping up in various articles, videos and conferences, but what is blockchain and how is it relevant to Industrial IoT?

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that permanently and securely records transactions between peers without the need for intermediaries like brokers or banks.  Assets could consist of money, intellectual property, contracts or votes to name a few.  In layman’s terms blockchain is a registry of who owns what and who transacts what. 

How it works?

Assets are distributed across global ledgers.  As peer-to-peer transactions occur, the transaction gets locked in blocks of data that are then cryptographically linked together with the transaction records that came before them, hence the name blockchain. This becomes an immutable, fail safe record in all the transactions across this network. This record is replicated on hundreds of computers that use the network.

How will this impact Industrial IoT? 

According to Harvard Business Review’s article titled, “The Truth about Blockchain”, blockchain is not a disruptive technology but rather a foundational technology. This means that it will lay a new foundation of global economic and social systems.  One way this may impact the industrial market or any goods based market is through smart contracts. A smart contract may be executed between a supplier and a receiver for payment for delivery of goods. When the goods are received, the receiver would log the goods into their system, which automatically triggers a payment to the supplier. Payment would happen without an intermediary like a bank and would appear in the supplier's account immediately.

Another way that blockchain may transform the industrial market is with complex supply chains. Components manufactured in one country, sent to another manufacture to become finished goods, and finally added to the shelf by the supplier for sale could be tracked through blockchain, providing additional insights to Supply Managers and CFOs. 

It’s unsure how quickly adaptation of blockchain will enter the B2C and B2B world, but blockchain will impact and may even transform our lives in the next few decades.  

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