The technology most likely to change the next decade of business is not the social web, big data, the cloud, robotics, or even artificial intelligence. It is Distributed Ledgers, the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Ledgers have been at the heart of commerce since ancient times and are used to record many things, most commonly assets such as money and property. They have moved from being recorded on clay tablets to papyrus, vellum and paper. However, in all this time the only notable innovation has been computerization, which initially was simply a transfer from paper to bytes. Now, for the first time algorithms enable the collaborative creation of digital distributed ledgers with properties and capabilities that go far beyond traditional paper-based ledgers.
A distributed ledger is essentially an asset database that can be shared across a network of multiple sites, geographies or institutions. All participants within a network can have their own identical copy of the ledger. Any changes to the ledger are reflected in all copies in minutes, or in some cases, seconds. The assets can be financial, legal, physical or electronic. The security and accuracy of the assets stored in the ledger are maintained cryptographically through the use of ‘keys’ and signatures to control who can do what within the shared ledger. Entries can also be updated by one, some or all of the participants, according to rules agreed by the network.
But distributed ledger technology is about the algorithmic technologies that enable Bitcoin and their power to transform ledgers as tools to record, enable and secure an enormous range of transactions. So the basic block chain approach can be modified to incorporate rules, smart contracts, digital signatures and an array of other new tools. Distributed ledger technology has the ability to run millions of devices open to anyone, where not just information but anything of value – money, titles, deeds, music, art, scientific discoveries, intellectual property, and even votes – can be moved and stored securely and privately.
Distributed ledger technology it’s the first native digital medium for value, just as the internet was the first native digital medium for information.
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