Five unusual uses for blockchain

By Andrew Harbison, CA Today

6 December 2016

Chances are you have heard the words 'blockchain' and 'Bitcoin' at some point over the past couple of years, but what do they actually mean, and what are companies using them for? Andy Harbison finds out.

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency which can be used to purchase an array of goods and services, both online and through physical transactions.

Blockchain is the technology which is used to keep track of the thousands of transactions which take place using Bitcoin. It is a ‘decentralised ledger’, which can be viewed by anyone and exists not in one place, but across a network of computers.

Once a transaction is added to a ‘block’ in the system, various 'nodes' (other computers connected to the ledger) interact with one and other to verify that the information is accurate. Once that happens, the ‘block’ is added to a larger ‘chain’.  

Blockchain advocates say that this ensures that all transactions made through this technology are transparent, thus cutting down on fraud. It also makes information added to the ledger very difficult to alter or remove.

Although the use of this technology to track Bitcoin transactions is impressive, organisations and individuals are using blockchain in increasingly innovative ways.

Here is a list of five of the more unusual and ingenious uses of the system.

1. A golden opportunity

When it comes to the buying and selling of gold bullion, the Royal Mint hasn’t changed much in the last 1,000 years.

Up until now there hasn’t been a way to digitally trade physical gold, but with advancements in blockchain technology has come an opportunity for the Mint to modernise its trading platforms.   

Gold bars

Royal Mint Gold (RMG) is a collaboration between the Royal Mint and the markets operator CME Group. It will use blockchain to create a digital record of ownership of some two tonnes of gold stored in the Mint’s bullion storage vault.  

“Distributed ledger technology is a game changer,” said David Janczewski, director of new business at the Royal Mint.

Unlike the traditional physical spot cost model for investing in gold with management fees and ongoing storage charges levied, RMG will offer ownership of the underlying gold, with the option for conversion to physical gold, by the Royal Mint with zero storage cost.

Source: The Royal Mint

2. Food safety

A batch of pre-bagged salad leaves contaminated with E. coli sold in the UK caused the death of two people and hospitalised a further 62 in July this year. 

In situations like these, it is vital that food suppliers act on the problem quickly and efficiently. However, this can  be difficult as retailers deal with numerous suppliers distributing products to thousands of stores.

American retail giant Walmart is trialling a new way of tracking its products from supplier to customer, in order to significantly streamline the recall process of its products.

The retailer has teamed up with IBM and Tsinghua University in Beijing to trial the use of blockchain in tracking the journey its produce takes, including the farm origin, storage temperatures, shipping details, who inspected the produce and expiration dates.

All of this information call be recalled in an instant using a customer’s receipt. This trial has the potential to significantly reduce the time spent locating and recalling contaminated items, which could ultimately result in lives being saved.

Source: Bloomberg

3. Getting married

Yes, you read right, you can now get married by blockchain and that’s exactly what David Mondrus and Joyce Bayo did in 2014.

At a ceremony which took place during a bitcoin conference at Disney World, Florida, the couple became the first to take part in a ‘blockchain wedding’.


Blockchain can be used to store documents and contracts, as well as currency data. The couple’s marriage certificate was submitted to the blockchain, permanently submitting their vows to the open database which will now be displayed as long as the internet is accessible.

It must be pointed out that the couple had already been married in a civil ceremony before their blockchain wedding.

Source: PanAM Post

4. Space travel

It seems that the sky may not be the limit when it comes to the potential uses for blockchain. SpaceChain describes itself as “a decentralised space agency with open-source ideology".

The programme is intended to allow users to upload and access technological developments through the Bitnatino Space Agency’s (BSA) blockchain.

The brainchild of Iman Mirbioki and Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, the BSA has a list of 12 objectives they hope to meet. These include the creation of an eco-friendly fuel for spacecraft, development of cheaper space vehicles capable of reaching the moon, and conducting research in the field of “space medicine and the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on living organisms.”

Established in 2015, the BNA has set a five-year mission which can be viewed on their website where you can keep track of their progress.

Source: SpaceChain

5. Voting

Accusations of vote rigging have been made almost as long as democracy has existed. Be it the many allegations of alleged rigged elections in Zimbabwe, to the famous Florida re-count of the 2000 Bush/Gore election, voting security and authenticity has long been an issue.

Follow My Vote is a start-up with the ambition to one day eradicate vote rigging by building “a secure online voting platform that will allow for greater election transparency".


The company’s aim is to create a system where an individual is able to securely vote online using blockchain. The voter would use a webcam and a government issued ID to place their vote. The vote would appear on the decentralised ledger while still ensuring the voters anonymity through end to end encryption.

As the ledger is open to all, anyone could audit it to ensure the votes have not been tampered with.

Source: Forbes


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