This is an informative article from Aug 22 in Fortune magazine. Bitcoin and Ethereum are 2 examples of how blockchain technology can be used. What is blockchain and why is it important?
A blockchain is a kind of ledger, a table that businesses use to track credits and debits. But it’s not just any run-of-the-mill financial database. One of a blockchain’s distinguishing features is that it concatenates (or “chains”) cryptographically verified transactions into sequences of lists (or “blocks”). The system uses complex mathematical functions to arrive at a definitive record of who owns what, when. Properly applied, a blockchain can help assure data integrity, maintain auditable records, and even, in its latest iterations, render financial contracts into programmable software. It’s a ledger, but on the bleeding edge.
So cryptocurrencies are just one use case of blockchain technology. I think that the other uses of blockchain will be greatly important. Incumbent businesses in countless industries, from finance to energy to health care to food, are peeling back the layers on this budding technology, seeing the potential to trim costs, share and secure information more efficiently, and unleash new products at unprecedented speed. And they’re doing so knowing that one day their survival may be at stake: Having witnessed what the advent of digital, cloud, and mobile did to laggard companies, no one wants to be the sucker left behind.
Why is blockchain technology important? >>> Perhaps most spectacularly, a blockchain can get rivals to cooperate in creating a common record that is accessible to everyone and controlled by no one. This was the genius of Satoshi Nakamoto, the alias for the as-yet-unidentified creator (or creators) of the first blockchain, Bitcoin, which debuted in 2009. (Since then, the value of a single Bitcoin has reach a high of more than $4,300.) Part of Bitcoin’s secret sauce is its consensus mechanism, which allows people to agree on a canonical order of transactions, thereby preventing double-spending and fraud, through a combination of cryptography and economic incentives based on game theory—all without needing a third party or middleman, like a bank. Even if participants don’t trust one another, they can rely on the shared ledger they create through the transactional dance of their software. You don’t need honor among thieves—you just need a blockchain.
Here is one example of how blockchain can be used to help businesses function better:
One day last December, Frank Yiannas went to a Walmart store near company headquarters in Fayetteville, Ark., and picked up a package of sliced mangoes. Yiannas is Walmart’s vice president of food safety, and the fruit was part of a crucial experiment. He brought the mangoes back to his office, placed the container on a conference table, and gave his team a mission. “Find out where those mangoes came from,” he ordered, setting a timer.
It took six days, 18 hours, and 26 minutes to get an answer. That’s better than the weeks it can sometimes take companies, Yiannas says. Still, a near-week is a long time. In the event of an outbreak of foodborne illness—one in which a suspected pathogen is tied to mangoes somewhere—a lag that long could be painfully costly. By that point, Walmart might have had to pull every package of every mango product off its shelves, as a precaution; farmers, distributors, and Walmart itself would take the hit.
Yiannas has for years searched without success for what he calls the “Holy Grail of food traceability,” a technology that could track and catalog a product’s status across his supply chain. He admits he was “very skeptical” that a blockchain could fill the gap, but he gave it a try. Walmart (WMT, -0.60%) partnered with IBM (IBM, +0.34%) for a trial run on Hyperledger Fabric, a blockchain built under the purview of the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger group, where companies collaborate on blockchain R&D.
In the Walmart test, food shipments were tracked and digitally recorded via a blockchain. (Yiannas’s team’s manual search was the “control.”) From the start of their journey at the farm, pallets of mangoes were tagged with numeric identifiers. Every time they crossed another checkpoint—from farm to broker to distributor to store—their status was signed and logged.
A few months after the fact, Yiannas repeats a version of the IBM demo for me. He enters a six-digit “lot” number on a web portal. In an instant, the mangoes’ identifying details appear on-screen: Mango spears, 10 ounces, “Tommy” variety (a cultivar optimized for transport). The fruit was harvested April 24 from orchards in Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. A day later, the fruit underwent hot-water treatment to exterminate the eggs of potentially invasive insects. On April 27, an importer received the shipment; after a few more days, it passed through Customs and Border Protection, entering a U.S. processing plant where they were sliced on May 1. From there, the mangoes moved to a cold storage facility in Los Angeles (you can pull up a safety inspection certificate with a click of a mouse). Finally, the lot arrived at a Walmart store.
The time it took to compile and present all this information: about two seconds.
So the blockchain enables distributed ledgering and cryptocurrencies are just one incarnation of how the technology can be applied. Since GPUs run all the calculations and encryptions, NVDA should benefit when blockchain technology proliferates.