Blockchain business value

16/10/2017

Blockchain business value | a cross-industry creative session

Blockchain is considered the greatest revolution since the advent of the Internet. This technology is a relatively new concept, but it is increasingly taking afoot in a wide variety of industries. A recent World Economic Forum report predicts that by 2025 10% of GDP will be stored on blockchains or blockchain related technology.

Set to reach full maturity over the next decade, the digital paradigm embeds a decentralized, distributed network as its backbone and a public ledger shared by its participants, which guarantees data to be stored, facts to be verified and security to be virtually protected. What is very appealing about this technology is that it offers the intriguing possibility of eliminating intermediaries, as it allows competitors to share data without the need for a central authority. Moreover, no single party has the power to tamper with the records, which are verified and recorded across a network of computers spread around the world.

Precisely because of these unique features that allow to reduce friction from any transaction-related process, remove middlemen, increase transparency, and build trust, the blockchain phenomenon is likely to offer innovation opportunities in countless industries, or even, across many of them simultaneously.

Aware of this unexplored potential/trend, Spark Labs, our research lab at ETH, in partnership with IBM Research Zurich, one of the leading global information technology company, organised a creative session during which top innovation managers from thirteen industries explored new ways to unlock and leverage this rapidly growing technology to their business’ advantage in the fields of med-tech, energy, railroad transportation, construction, retail, education, media, and aviation.

During this one-day workshop, participants were challenged to explore a variety of opportunity spaces in industries that were not directly related to their core expertise. By leveraging on their cross-sectoral innovation experience and knowledge, each industry representative could contribute to open up a conversation that was not biased by the industry-specific context, but, rather, enriched by the incorporation of new and bold external perspectives. Through hands-on exercises such as mind-mapping, brainstorming and customer journeys, each team selected the areas of opportunity which exhibited the biggest potential for the application of blockchain technology. Next, participants ideated on how this disruptive technology could add value along the chain, by changing how the current process is carried out today.

The final result consisted of a set of four different use-cases in four selected industries (aviation; rail transportation; construction; content farm). Each of them provides a vivid, innovative example of how the technology behind blockchain could create an unprecedented value for business performances and confirms the reality that blockchain already stands poised to rewrite how business is conducted.

Blockchain potential | the aviation use-case

As is | Any given aircraft consists of many different parts and whatever happens to any of these parts at any given time must be recorded in a log. Also, with any aircraft, there are different parties involved. These include a maintenance division, a leasing company, an airline operator, a regulation authority and an aircraft buyer. All these stakeholders have their own methods of recording part logs that are therefore registered in different decentralized and separated databases. This situation can, in turn, prove challenging in different circumstances that require an easy and rapid access to historical data, such as, for example when an aircraft is sold from one airline to another.

To be | With the use of blockchain technology, this record keeping process can be drastically simplified. The use of blockchain could lead to certified sales records as all the different stakeholders involved in the process could now share only one record (digital ledger), instead of each party keeping their own. Additionally, all these different data and transaction records can be traced in real-time, providing a complete and automatically updated view of the aircraft status at any given time. By increasing the transparency and reparability of data, this feature contributes to the execution of more informed and transparent decision-making processes at every level.

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by Alan Cabello

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