The Palm Beach Post

Never heard of it? Here’s why you’re about to hear a lot about it.


design, in which all parties to the network, not just Mary or John, must agree on changes to the stored data, the ledger is essentiall­y unhackable.

As the Economist magazine put it a few years ago: “The blockchain lets people who have no particular confidence in each other collaborat­e without having to go through a neutral central authority. Simply put, it is a machine for creating trust.”

The term itself derives from “block” — the term for a batch of data in the system — and “chain,” meaning the broader network.

How does it work?

The blockchain is a digital network maintained not by a single command-and-control site but is open to all and maintained by users. Thus no one entity controls it, and there is no one central computer that manages it.

The blockchain is rather like the internet itself — a vast network in which millions of users interact freely. But because of its unique architectu­re, in which multiple points of the system must confirm the validity of any transactio­n or changes, the blockchain ledger of transactio­ns is seen as immune to bad actors trying to hack it.

What would we use it for?

Keeping honest land records would be one use. Once a property sale is entered into the digital ledger, it would represent a true record of ownership. Events like mortgage fraud and tax foreclosur­e would no longer muddy the record. Some nations are already exploring how to use blockchain in this way.

Beyond that, any transactio­n that requires an honest record and trust on the part of all parties could benefit from blockchain technology.

What about automotive uses?

Once automakers start giving each vehicle a digital identity when it comes off the line, blockchain would allow the collection of data on vehicle use, location, maintenanc­e records and much more. All that data, collected and safely stored in the blockchain ledger, could be used to offer new services to consumers.

Some have even suggested that the self-driving cars of the future may be self-owned, using blockchain technology to record the fees consumers pay for a lift and using that stored cash to buy gas or pay for repairs.

Isn’t this all rather

SciFi stuff ?

No question blockchain remains in the early stages of developmen­t. Some think the technology is overhyped. Among other challenges, it tends to be slower than more convention­al means of handling transactio­ns.

And the use of blockchain as the underlying technology for bitcoin — the digital currency said to be favored by money launderers and drug cartels — hasn’t helped its reputation.

But the promise of a tamper-proof recordkeep­ing system immune to digital attacks or fraud creates a powerful motive to explore blockchain’s possibilit­ies.

Chances are consumers won’t need to worry about mastering yet another new technology anytime soon. But bankers, automakers, tech firms and other high-level players who design the world in which we live are paying serious attention.

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