The most obvious and ready use cases involve payments and stores of value. Close to payments are use cases like securities settlement, trade finance, lending, and so on. These use cases typically involve a payment plus something else that perhaps can also benefit from blockchain and that become more feasible as payments get better. This reasoning is why Ripple focused on payments very early.
Getting away from payments, the use cases can get more speculative. I’ve talked about using private blockchains with zero knowledge proofs to solve problems such as tracking the provenance of luxury goods and vaccines. There, the blockchain adds the ability to have a consortium without having to have the expense and complexity of systems operated by a consortium.
Ultimately, the advantages a blockchain brings center primarily around security and reliability. Blockchains pretty much don’t have downtime. That can’t be said around conventional databases that have complex failure modes. Blockchains don’t have to worry about “bad data” getting into the system at a weak link because all data can be verified by all participants. This reduces operational complexity and cost because you don’t have a central store to securely operate and protect.
It’s very early though and most of our guesses will probably be wrong. If we tried to speculate what the Internet would be used for back in the 90′s, we probably wouldn’t have guessed that streaming videos of cats would be up at the top.
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