What is Blockchain and why do we need it?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get when I tell people that I am a Blockchain advocate is "What is Blockchain exactly?". Fair question. The technology is still relatively new. It basically boils down to a distributed network that ensures security across our digital life. 

Bear with me in the next two paragraphs - more fun Blockchain info can be found below!

A distributed network as opposed to a centralized network means that there is a system that uses computers in various locations to verify information as opposed to one centrally located server facility. The problem with the centralized model is that it is at a higher risk of being hacked. While a distributed network has an entirely different set of safety protocols built in making it resilient to hacking.

But Blockchain is really just the platform that allows for Bitcoin and a wild array of other protocols to function.

Here is a very short list of some of my favorite Blockchain projects. I hope this helps you understand what it is about Blockchain and why I am such an enthusiast:

The Blockchain technology first came on the scene in 2009. It is the backbone for Bitcoin and because many people have heard of Bitcoin and have their own perceptions about that cryptocurrency they often equate Blockchain with being Bitcoin and discount the technology altogether. 


In a recent election in Sierra Leone a small startup company tabulated the votes using Blockchain technology. It was a huge success and we hope lays the groundwork for future elections free of voter fraud. 

Sierra Leone Just ran the first Blockchain-based election


In the past couple of years we have been seeing many more commercials for the company 23andMe that allows you to take a personal gene sequencing test at home and find out about your genetic makeup. They promote that you can find out where you are from and get information on your ancestry. It is an interesting idea and I have many friends who have paid for this service. 

In another Blockchain project Called Nebula Genomics you are the boss of this information. It turns out that there is some small print with some companies that allow them to sell your information. So they are essentially double dipping. They get paid from you to provide the information about your genetic makeup and then they get paid by pharmaceutical companies for providing that data to them.
With the Nebula Genomics project you go in to it knowing that your information will be securely stripped of your personal identifiers but then that raw data would be sold to companies doing research. The big difference is that you would then share in the residual income from the sale of that information. And even more exciting is that researchers can narrow their search to a very specific set of data points improving the odds of a successful research study in ways that have never been possible in the past. 


At the advent of the Internet we dove in head first. We had a good idea that it was important to keep our identity protected and because of that I started out my Internet life working with Parry Aftab and WiredSafety. We advocated for keeping our kids safe online and a big part of that was protecting their / our identities. We were doing pretty good. Then along came Facebook that wiped out all of the original rules on online identity security. We had to use our real name to join. At the beginning of Facebook you even had to use your Real identity information to be able to get an account. You had to verify that you were an alumni of a certain college to even be considered for an account. So now there is an entire generation of people who don't know a time when you didn't post your name / location / mood online for everyone to see.

lifeID brings us back to the days of Internet security where our personal information is secured and organized.

But not only that! lifeID has recently joined forces with Resonate a music streaming company with the purpose of  helping establish ownership rights, publishing rights, as well as determining who can control and profit from their music. Read more about the partnership of lifeID and Resonate HERE.


I love garlic. Just putting that out there. But recently I watched a documentary that showed some pretty nasty stuff when it came to food delivery. (Now I am only buying my Garlic direct from Big John's Garden CLICK HERE for more info on ordering from Big John - but that is an aside) Now I am big into knowing where my food is coming from. Food Supply Chain projects are ideally suited for Blockchain solutions. IBM is taking a huge lead in this area.

This article titled Blockchain is about to revolutionize the shipping industry from Bloomberg magazine illustrates perfectly  the thing I love most about Blockchain solutions:

“Shipping needs to stop thinking about itself as this standalone middle sector,” said K D Adamson, chief executive officer of Futurenautics Group. “It needs to start thinking about how the different elements of shipping fit into other ecosystems.”

In the past a company would find a problem and seek out a solution for that problem. Simple enough. Those solutions were often proprietary and didn't get shared with other companies. But now with the distributed nature of Blockchain a company may identify a problem and then also find a solution that not only works for that one system but also overlaps into solutions for other systems. An energy company can solve a problem for energy overload but also solve the problem of enabling end users to be able to afford a new solar panel and in turn solve a distribution problem for the solar installer who may just solve another problem for some other component along the way. Blockchain has a way of incentivising solutions.

These are just a couple of my favorite projects right now but there are so many more.

Here are just a few of the areas where Blockchain is being developed:

Real Estate / Title / ownership
Healthcare / medical records / smart hospitals
Gun Control
Authorship / ownership
Music Industry
Authentication of value / such as AKC dogs / stud horses / or priceless paintings
Sales / Smart Contracts / Auto leases and any other installment payment program
Gaming / Gambling
Job Market / credentialing
Social Networks
Agriculture / Water rights
Entertainment / Ticket Sales
Utilities / Transportation infrastructure

This is just scratching the surface.

So don't get hung up on trying to figure out exactly HOW it works - just know that it does and it has been tested for the last 9 years - just think about ways that it can be applied to your personal situation.

It is the same as turning on a lightswitch. I don't have to know exactly how electricity works or how the wiring in my house works to appreciate lights that turn on when it is dark outside.