When you mention blockchain, many people immediately relate it to bitcoin. Although used in the cryptocurrency world, as a technology blockchain has its own features and advantages that can be useful for various industries, especially those involving many stakeholders, processing numerous contracts or exchanging a large volume of documents.
Blockchain in healthcare
Healthcare is one of the sectors where blockchain can improve processes. Take medical records with patient data. The problem with paper records is that they aren’t always available, and only small parts of the medical data are digitised. Access to records is hard to control, and the data can easily be manipulated. Someone with access to the medical records could change a patient’s blood type from B-minus to B-plus, for example. The change is not trackable, and a doctor performing surgery with such erroneous information could make a fatal error.
Implementing blockchain in healthcare could increase control over data access, regarding both inputting and reading the data. Basically, patients can control access to their personal medical data and choose the medical professionals and institutions they will allow to access their records. This should increase the quality of patient care, since it will create a competitive environment among hospitals.
If you control your medical data, you can select the hospital you want to use. Hospitals would need to compete and prove their quality to gain more patients, especially for more extensive procedures such as brain or heart surgeries. By becoming a favourite choice for patients, hospitals would thereby increase their chances for greater income, resources, research programmes and services.
In Europe, blockchain could connect medical data across all European Union member states. So if you are German and have an accident in Bulgaria, medical personnel there could immediately access your files in Germany and get your medical history.
Blockchain in logistics
Losing track of packages, pallets and orders is a common problem in the logistics sector and the industrial supply chain. Problems occur because usually several companies are involved in transferring packages from one place to another. Logistics companies have market agreements, and each company has some older technology to recognise and track the packages.
When delivered, a package usually has five or six stickers, all of them from different transport companies. The problem is, the information from the stickers is not always recorded consistently in the database, and the package can get lost. This is especially problematic for big manufacturers that are waiting on materials or machine parts to proceed with production. For them, it’s essential to know exactly where their order is so they can prepare for a potential delay in production and delivery.
If there is a smart blockchain-based contract in the supply chain, tracking an order would be easier. There would be one tracking ID that would provide information about the order’s delivery date, shipment date, package location and information on how long a package stays somewhere.
Blockchain in manufacturing
While it can simplify things in the supply chain, blockchain can also increase productivity for manufacturers by eliminating the errors caused by instructions/contracts on paper. A manufacturer may think it has eliminated this problem because the orders arrive in digital format. However, when the production department is notified about what needs to be produced, the factory workers usually get the order as a paper document. In this way, the digital trail is lost, which can easily lead to mix-ups in the order or to discrepancies between the real production state and the state of production recorded in IT systems.
It’s simpler to skip the paper part and move to a smart contract based on a blockchain. By doing so, the production team receives the information digitally, and management can track the order fulfilment digitally in real time.
Or, imagine that the production floor has the information needed to produce 200 pieces of a certain product. Once the pieces are produced, the production coordinators will bring a paper at the end of the day to the main supervisor. He will then have to record this information into the system as a processed order, which won’t be acted upon until the next day. So, the factory will lose a day or two to gain visibility into the order, its fulfilment and the current situation of available materials in the warehouse.
If you move from paper to smart blockchain contracts, where you can easily define all necessary categories, it is very easy to insert the information about production and materials in real time and calculate how much material is left, and how much of the planned production has been completed. This will be true even in cases of federated production facilities, according to the Industry 4.0 concept, where individual production steps are done by different factories based on contractual agreements that form a distributed production ecosystem.
Blockchain is a great new spectrum of technologies to simplify processes and introduce greater transparency, trust and quality into a process. Blockchain will not fully replace existing IT infrastructures, but it’s a good complementary solution for recording and defining agreements in cases where multiple parties and stakeholders are included. By using blockchain, manufacturers can ensure that those contracts are fulfilled according to agreed-upon rules and provide an immutable record of their execution.
Find out more about how blockchain could improve the way your organization does business in the near future. Read “How can blockchain simplify things in your industry?”