Blockchain is central to and synonymous with the crypto-currency industry, which is estimated to be worth US$63bn globally.
But explaining how the technology behind Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin works to the layperson can be a challenge.
Most people start by describing blockchain as an encrypted virtual central ledger of transactions.
If that sounds like gobbledegook, then here’s another, less technical way of imagining it – as a virtual handshake or a verification network where transactions of any kind can be logged, never to be erased.
Growing array of alternative uses
Blockchain may be mentioned in the same breath as the growing array of alternatives to fiat money, but it is the Swiss Army knife for information storage and transfer.
In other words, it has multiple alternative uses including digital identity, data management and audit trails.
In the NHS, for example, it has the potential to utterly change the way records are stored, used, logged and transferred.
In the developing world it could be transformational when it comes not just to storing patient information, but keeping track of treatments administered, medical devices used and their costs.
“This is important in emerging markets, where, unlike here in the West, 80% of healthcare provision is private and the system is open to abuse,” says Aamir Butt, chief executive of Lancor Scientific.
In Butt’s world, Blockchain could be used to verify every part of the clinical process, mitigating fraud, streamlining processes and allowing providers to flourish.
Lancor’s use of blockchain is both interesting and innovative. Butt describes the company as the commercialisation arm for Tumour Trace, a cancer detection system.
LINK: Tumour Trace a revolution in cancer detection
However, the technology company is more than that, having spotted and then harnessed the potential of blockchain in the healthcare setting.
Using a utility token called the Medici, people will be able to pay for cancer screening using a smartphone-hosted virtual wallet.
This isn’t some souped-up version of PayPal. Blockchain is to be used to identify and validate the Tumour Trace user as well as the data generated, which can be stored on the handheld device.
“Making sure patients receive a cancer test, making sure the tests are valid and patients can go back and check their records is key,” said Butt.
“However, I think there are a world of other applications out there for Blockchain. We are just scratching the surface.”