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What is a blockchain?

It’s basically a technology where blocks of information falls chronologically into a chain!

What’s so cool about blockchain?

It is decentralised (everyone owns a copy), transparent (everyone can see), and immutable (no one can edit anything).

Mmmhmmm…… tell me more!

Means that you can’t own the blockchain alone. Neither can a central entity (or two).
Instead, everyone who takes part in the blockchain network owns the same copy. This ensures that the blockchain is decentralised.

Everyone can see the information stored in the chain if they want to. If one block of data were to be added to the chain, everyone’s copy will be updated. This makes the blockchain transparent

Moreover, it cannot be erased or edited by anyone. So if hackers were to edit even the slightest bit of information in a block, it will disconnect from the following blocks, and everyone will be notified. This ensures the chain’s immutability

Cool! Who came up with this? 

The concept of blockchain was believed to have came about in 1991, by Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta, but it gained much more attention in 2008, with Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention of the Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency based on blockchain technology.

Why do we need blockchain?

We believe that this technology will solve some daily problems we face in different industries, including total centralisation, data breach, fraud, lack of transparency, and excessive operational procedures etc. 

How can the blockchain do that?

Blockchain technology can be applied to many scenarios, namely in the finance industry, public sector, healthcare, food, and education industries

If you apply it to the food industries, you can record supply chains (a network with everything and everyone involved to make and sell this product, from start to end). 

What’s wrong with our current supply chain?

A problem with the current supply chain network is that consumers (us) can’t know the manufacturing details and the true value of each product. 

Here’s a (made up) example: 

Let’s say you’ve been craving for that Bak Chor Mee near your workplace all morning. 

(yes we bought a bowl of bcm just to take a pic…. and eat it afterwards. Don’t worry we’re fine)

The moment it’s lunchtime, you sprinted down to the noodle stall 2 steps at a time before anyone else does. You ordered a large bowl of Bak Chor Mee, with extra chilli on the side, and gobbled it down in 5 minutes. Mmmhh…… here’s to the good ole springy mee pok noodles coated with crunchy fried shallots and chili sauce in every sinful bite. The pork slices tasted slightly sour, but you assumed that it was just the vinegar. 

That evening, you began to feel feverish and drowsy, and you went to bed at 7 pm. 

You felt slightly better the next morning so you dragged yourself begrudgingly to the office. Yet as lunchtime approaches, the nausea got worse. 

You declined your colleagues’ offer to lunch and spent the hour between trying to take a nap and frequenting the bathroom. 

Amidst the concerned murmurs of your colleagues and consistent humming in your head, you had an enlightenment. 

It was the pork. 

The BCM pork. 

As soon as you got better, you filed a complaint to AVA (Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore). They responded quickly. Turns out there’s a few others who ate the BCM on the same day had food poisoning as well. 

Investigation revealed that the stall owner has been maintaining their kitchen and food hygiene diligently. After all, they didn’t earn that A for nothing. You were secretly relieved. 

AVA traced back to the meat distributor, who explained that they got their meats from 4 different locations, all of which they have been working with for many, trusted years. After another 1.5 weeks and much inspection, AVA pinpointed the source of the bad meat to one location – the farmers there have been selling sick pigs.

This story may be made up (…….or not), but there have been so many cases of food poisoning or problematic foods (Singapore rojak, European horsemeat scandal, China Sanlu milk scandal), so much so that we don’t really trust what we put in our mouth again. 

Then here’s when you began to wonder – how can the 2-week long ordeal be avoided? Is there a better way to approach the supply chain network? A way where each location, each process, and each person involved can be recorded?

And that’s how people saw the possibility of applying blockchain to supply chains. Since information attached to the blockchain couldn’t be altered or removed, this ensures greater transparency, trust, and accountability.

Similarly, if blockchain is applied to the healthcare sector, it can store patients’ data records and make it accessible between hospitals, without the need to repeat administrative procedures for each hospital. Whereas for the education sphere, schools and employers can use this technology to track and verify the authenticity of the students’ degree. In fact, Malaysian universities are already doing so

Over the years, many companies have applied blockchain to different industries, but most of them are still a proof-of-concept (i.e. proving that this concept works). However, one of the earliest and most prominent usage of blockchain is in cryptocurrency.

References:

Books:

Danial, Kiana. Cryptocurrency Investing for Dummies. Wiley, 2019.

Courses:

Dr. Siu Ming Yiu, Harvard edX + HKU: “Blockchain and FinTech: Basics, Applications, and Limitations”.

Websites:

Ayers, Ryan. “How Will Blockchain Transform the Education System?” Dataconomy, 31 Jan. 2019. <dataconomy.com/2019/01/how-will-blockchain-transform-the-education-system/>.

Belin, Oliver. “The Difference Between Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology.” TradeIX, 19 Mar. 2018. <tradeix.com/distributed-ledger-technology/>.

Fortney, Luke. “Blockchain Explained.” Investopedia, 20 Sept. 2019, <www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blockchain.asp>.

Marr, Bernard. “How Blockchain Will Transform The Supply Chain And Logistics Industry.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 11 May 2018. <www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2018/03/23/how-blockchain-will-transform-the-supply-chain-and-logistics-industry/#17a3b26d5fec>.

Rosic, Ameer. “What Is Blockchain Technology? A Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners.” Blockgeeks, 20 Aug. 2019, <blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/>.

Rouse, Margaret, and Ivy Wigmore. “What Is Supply Chain (SC)?” WhatIs.com, Mar. 2013. <whatis.techtarget.com/definition/supply-chain>.

S., Jimi. “How Does Blockchain Work in 7 Steps.” Medium, Good Audience, 1 Oct. 2019. blog.goodaudience.com/blockchain-for-beginners-what-is-blockchain-519db8c6677a.

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