From a suspicious and skeptical currency alternative to a quintessential business tool that could bring down the cost of operations, with lightning speed and unswerving trust, has been the journey of Blockchain, as a concept and as technology, over the last couple of years. So much so that every industry, every organization and every CEO wants to be associated with Blockchain, to be seen as a pioneer.
The blockchain is a largely distributed ledger that is self-certifying, is not owned by anyone in particular and is supposed to be incorruptible and immutable. It guarantees the validity of every transaction with no scope for errors – be it omission or commission. There are numerous other hyperbolic prologs written on Blockchain. But I am yet to see a convincing epilog on that.
But I am convinced on one thing. This is a great opportunity to dovetail the other greatly anticipated revolution around automation. For, in order to make a success out of Blockchain, there is a huge dependence on automation. The more we automate our mundane tasks, the more we create opportunities for that self-regulatory, self-certifying, self-executing protocol of Blockchain.
Let us take a very simple example of the settlement of travel claim for an official trip. Imagine a situation where the organization sets a policy of prescribing the use of certain specific cab agencies like Ola and Uber, who maintain a real-time online network. And the organization mandates to use a certain food chain that provides a central connectivity to its database. The Airlines operations are, in any case, completely digitized. But all these agencies have no inter-connectivity. Can Blockchain bring these distinct organizations together to provide a fast, straight through, secure chain of transactions for me?
Now imagine, I take an official trip by one of these airlines, use a cab to reach my hotel and then to a few client locations, have my lunch at one of the prescribed food joints and return to my base the next day. As I get off the cab at my apartment gate, I press one icon on my official phone that confirms my trip closure. It spans a transaction on the Blockchain that hits the servers of the airline, the hotel, the cab agency and the restaurant. My organization id and my employee id is the key. The servers pick the data over the last 2 days, stamp their confirmation with value on the Blockchain and as I reach my 9th-floor apartment, unpack my bag, freshen up and hit the bed, I get a ping on my phone – my travel settlement has been done. All these players were bound by a smart contract indeed.
If the scenario described above can be a reality, then the focus is bound to shift on automation. There will be more hotels – beyond the realm of 3 and 5-star chains, who will automate their systems. There will be more of the smaller cab agencies – beyond the empire of Ola’s and Uber’s, who will automate their operations and put up their data for public access. And there will be more restaurants, who would want to publish their transactions onto a central server.
And that opens up a plethora of opportunities for automation. While the large businesses will be able to automate their systems on their own, the smaller ones will open up a new cloud-based business opportunity for IT players and start-ups, as service providers, to deliver systems that will not only be accessible from the external world but will also be Blockchain compatible.
So, even if there are apprehensions on the ability of Blockchain technology, in a short run, to bring together varied applications across diverse business functions to facilitate an efficient business transaction. It surely will, in the process, push through the automation agenda of the IT industry to achieve a reasonably high degree of success on that count at least. And the Blockchain might just follow.