Post #769 – Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Do You Know About BlockChain?

In 2015, Virgin’s Richard Branson hosted a “blockchain summit” on his private Caribbean island.  In that same year, while addressing a Conference of managing partners and legal marketing professionals, I asked the audience, how many of them had heard about BlockChain and to my surprise not a single hand was raised.  And that has been the pattern throughout all of 2016 whenever I broach the topic with some group of lawyers – including in December when I raised the topic again amongst the partners of a significant I.P boutique.

Well, for what it’s worth, I received a note the other day from Gerald Celente, Publisher of The TRENDS JOURNAL, updating me on a few of the latest developments.

Groups ranging from Wells Fargo to the London Stock Exchange are getting ready for a blockchain-based future.  Overall, more than $1.5 billion has been invested worldwide in blockchains’ possibilities so far.  Goldman Sachs has put $50 million into startups creating their own blockchains.  And the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Bank of Canada have all announced plans to examine the pros and cons of digital currencies.  Perhaps as early as this year, your bank or investment manager could be managing your money with blockchains.  But blockchains will reach beyond banks — it’s good for much more than logging payments. They can be used to validate the security of anything with value.

Gem, a blockchain entrant, has partnered with Capital One and healthcare giant Philips to smooth and speed payments for medical insurance claims.  The Cambridge, Massachusetts, company Learning Machine has partnered with MIT’s Media Lab to create a blockchain that stores and verifies academic degrees and professional certifications. A college graduate can store diplomas and certificates electronically on a smartphone.

In June, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security gave a $199,000 grant to Factom, a company in Austin, Texas, to figure out ways to use blockchain designs to maintain the integrity of the so-called internet of things.  With every device connected to every other one through the internet, the potential for hackers and malware skyrockets. Blockchains may be a new tool for cybersecurity.  And with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Factom is setting out to apply blockchains to secure electronic medical records as well.

It’s not only about keeping snooping insurance companies from prying into your health history.  There’s also the problem that medical records in developing countries or remote regions aren’t always accessible and sometimes not updated quickly.  Blockchains resolve those problems.  Using the blockchain’s options, people could decide who may see their medical records. People could even have ready access to their own records, instead of wrangling with a doctor before getting a look.

Major companies are betting big on blockchaining’s future.  To set a standard, more than 30 major companies — including Hitachi, JP Morgan and Intel — have formed Hyperledger.  That project aims to settle on a general-purpose blockchain structure that can be used by any enterprise in any industry. IBM already has chipped in tens of thousands of lines of software code to the venture.  These companies, like so many others, invest in the effort because they foresee the benefits.

I believe that Blockchains will transform the way we exchange value in our digital, cyber-insecure future.

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