Blockchain: so much bigger than bitcoin…

From voting to healthcare, music to energy production, blockchain may just change the way we run our lives

Voting

A blockchain allows the authentication of transactions without them needing to be administered or guaranteed by a central authority. Ballot boxes and current online voting platforms are vulnerable to manipulation; now a startup called Follow My Vote is developing a blockchain-based system to ensure security, transparency and mathematically accurate election results.

Up on the roof: solar panels in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Photograph: Clinton Nguyen

Power generation

Applied to power generation, blockchain enables homeowners to sell back energy to the grid without going via an energy provider or manage their own microgrids that are independent from the established system. Lo3Energy runs a project in Brooklyn, New York, where homeowners can buy and sell energy they have generated with rooftop solar panels. The blockchain allows them to set their own price – and to do so without a price-setting, commission-taking intermediary.

Definition of sound: blockchain could give control – and 100% of revenue – back to recording artists. Photograph: Paul Bradbury/Getty Images/Caiaimage

Music streaming

Just got the hang of Spotify? Prepare to have your listening habits disrupted again by blockchain-based music streaming services. Instead of a service such as Apple Music or Spotify taking a cut, a blockchain system called Voise is enabling artists to set a price of which they receive 100% when a user streams their music.

Goodbye to all that: the keeping and sharing of medical records may soon be revolutionised. Photograph: Alamy

Healthcare

A patient’s medical records are often scattered between GPs, clinics and labs. A blockchain-based health record could be read and updated from multiple locations or services and would contain a note of who made each addition to the record. The patient can opt to take charge of the data and choose whom to share it with. At MIT, researchers are developing such a system, called MedRec, that will integrate with current healthcare computer set-ups.

Smile please: a UN worker scans the iris of a Syrian girl registering as a refugee at a camp in Jordan. Photograph: UNHCR

Aid

In 2012, the then secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, estimated that 30% of development aid was lost to corruption. The UN has a number of blockchain-based projects looking to solve issues in delivering aid. Last year, in a UN world food programme pilot project, Syrian refugees in a Jordan camp were given an allowance in cryptocurrency. When making purchases at the camp supermarket, their identities were authenticated by iris scans and their spending deducted from their allowance. This cuts down on transaction fees for the UN and reduces the frequency of fraud and theft.

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