Is the Blockchain revolution overhyped?
Data security and tampering have become enormous challenges across virtually every industry. In some industries, such as healthcare, the accuracy of patient health records can literally mean life or death. In the publishing industry, SciHub has penetrated most of the world’s scholarly publishers, stole their intellectual property and put it on-line for free.
Blockchain is most often associated with the recent cryptocurrency boom. Cryptocurrencies use blockchain to form smart contracts that record and store transactions and allow the transfer of currency between parties in a manner that is both secure and ensures accuracy.
However, as is often the case, the technology behind a new innovation, in this case the emergence of cryptocurrencies, has become much more relevant than the innovation itself. The ability to store data and perform transactions in a distributed, decentralized, and secure way has applications in nearly every industry.
With blockchain, data is distributed among either private or public nodes in physical and geographically different locations. In doing so, any change or alteration to any record on the ledger requires a consensus between all nodes, typically 80%. This ensures that if any node in the network is compromised, the data remains immutable. Any hacker would need to gain access to 80% of the machines in order to falsify or change information on the ledger.
Oiga is developing one of the first blockchain based solutions for the storage of longitudinal patient clinical records. By encrypting and storing these records on a decentralized blockchain ledger, the records persist in multiple locations and become tamper proof from hackers. In an age where privacy information is paramount, blockchain provides an unprecedented level of security.
In the scholarly publishing paradigm, blockchain solutions focus upon the storage of artifacts from the research process pre-publication and improving efficiencies in the peer review workflow. Products such as Artifacts store every component of the research process, including failed or discarded experiments. With intellectual property stored and timestamped on a blockchain ledger, researchers are free to collaborate earlier with colleagues without the fear that their work will be plagiarized. Experiments can be duplicated by other researchers after the journal article is published, as all of the necessary artifacts are stored on the ledger.
Allow me to present one final word with regard to Big Data, AI and Blockchain. While all three technologies are incredibly useful in creating a competitive advantage when deployed correctly, they have also unfortunately sometimes become solutions looking for problems. It is important that businesses be bold and endeavor to deploy new technology. However, it is perhaps equally important that technology be deployed only where and when it can be used successfully. The use case for blockchain, for example, is with any transactional data that requires tamper-proof security. It is not a replacement for your existing database.