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Why COVID-19 Is a Wake-up Call For Companies On Blockchain Despite the benefits it brings, the world has not yet reached mass blockchain adoption

By Camille Eduvane

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Recent years have seen the increasing adoption of blockchain technology. From the healthcare industry to the financial sector, various organizations have been attracted to blockchain's capacity to provide a quick, easy way of sharing information while staying secure. Not to mention, blockchain's decentralized nature also makes it easier to keep track of how precious data is being amended.

Yet despite the benefits it brings, the world has not yet reached mass blockchain adoption. Some of the obstacles for organizations include not only the costs of transitioning to a blockchain system and difficult integration with pre-existing systems but also simply a lack of knowledge on the blockchain.

Though some hesitance is certainly understandable, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may force businesses to rethink how they see blockchain. As operations move increasingly online in the face of worldwide lockdowns, newer and better solutions are certainly needed and perhaps the only blockchain can fill the gap.

In fact, it's in the midst of a pandemic that there are so many companies that can look at to see just how useful blockchain can be.

Assistance With Moving Medical Supplies

Though blockchain is most typically associated with cryptocurrencies, the way it improves the sharing of vital information has shown itself to be a potentially useful tool in the tracking of medical supplies. In the midst of a worldwide shortage of face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers, the benefit of such transparency can hardly be understated.

In traditional tracking systems, for instance, every link along the supply chain receives and stores information on its own system. This means that every single time information is moved on from one link to another, vital data could get corrupted or even entirely left behind—akin to how during the children's game of telephone, the initial message comes out warped by the time it gets to the final player.

What blockchain does is it gives one overarching system for all users to pass the information on. This ensures everyone receives the exact same version of information and there's no confusion later on. This also eliminates costs associated with settling payments, reconciling data, etc.

Take something crucial these days like N95 masks. These are also used in the construction industry but could now be prioritized for use in hospitals. A blockchain system can allow players in different industries to share their inventories and move it to where it's most needed.

Blockchain can also be handy in onboarding new companies who want to start producing medical equipment in these trying times. Blockchain's use of encryption as a security measure allows for hospitals to be comfortable in sharing data with these new players, without fear of data falling into the wrong hands. By cutting down the time it takes to both vet and onboard these new suppliers, hospitals save time and money they could use for more pressing matters.

Supply Chain

With the pandemic putting worldwide restrictions on movement that haven't been seen since World War II, food supply security has become a pressing concern.

Luckily, blockchain has enabled some companies to directly connect farmers to shippers, retailers, and financial institutions. Reducing reliance on middlemen for things like loans and transport results in more money for farmers and cheaper retail prices.

But that isn't the only benefit. IBM, for example, has used the technology to bring additional food transparency to the supply chain through its product IBM Food Trust. The system gives better insights to customers on where their food comes from, allowing a more precise response in times of a crisis.

Take the ongoing African Swine Flu crisis. With blockchain, businesses can trace which farms or shipments sold tainted meat and these can be quickly pulled out of grocery stores, rather than entire supplies having to be recalled and binned indiscriminately.

This prevents unnecessary food waste—a benefit now especially needed in light of the ongoing pandemic.

Computing Power Towards COVID-19 Research

Supporting bitcoin and other major cryptocurrencies on the blockchain often require generating massive amounts of computing power and energy. Mostly used to solve the complex mathematical equations needed to unlock new bitcoin tokens, sometimes the energy needed to complete the task can be equal to that of a medium-sized country—something that's been a major point of criticism for bitcoin over the past few years.

Yet in light of the ongoing pandemic, blockchain development companies are now moving to dedicate their resources totally to aiding COVID-19 research.

Multiple companies have signed up for initiatives such as Washington University's Folding at Home Project, which aims to build a distributed supercomputer solely for disease research and pharmaceutical development.

Even the World Health Organization themselves have taken note of blockchain's importance. The agency recently announced that it would be partnering with companies like IBM and Microsoft to create a distributed ledger tracking COVID-19 hotspots and carriers. Painted as an "information highway", the program would cross-check location data with health information to monitor local and global trends on the pandemic's movement.

Looking Ahead

It's clear now that blockchain will help private companies reimagine themselves and keep afloat during the pandemic. Just the simple fact that it's such a great help in fighting the pandemic today implies that there is definitely a place for it in the world of tomorrow, even after the pandemic hopefully subsides.

Of course, companies looking to move operations into the blockchain may need help. Despite the good it brings, it can be hard to overcome challenges such as the cost of maintaining blockchain systems, scaling data, and being patient with system development.

Fortunately, companies looking to help bring other businesses into the world of blockchain have cropped up.

Indeed, more and more businesses are making the transition to blockchain easier than ever.

These developments, coupled with the awesome potential displayed in the middle of an epidemic, mean that no longer can companies look the other way when it comes to blockchain. Not only are there more than enough cases displaying how essential blockchain has become to our modern world, the number of companies making it easier to understand means there's no simply any excuse for being left behind.

If a business wants to be relevant for tomorrow, it needs to be thinking ahead as early as now.


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