Blockchain? Not just bitcoin: This emerging technology in the coming years is set to transform information sharing and transactions, even in the manufacturing industry. Let’s try to understand what this is all about.
We have heard of it many times, yet it is a technology that is still not fully understood because it is still in an experimental stage where people are trying to understand its potential.
We are talking about blockchain, and this month, after the article on 5G and with the help of ANIE Automazione’s Italian Automation Industry Observatory, we will try to explain what this technology refers to and how it can improve the activities of the manufacturing industry.
WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN
We have heard of it mostly in relation to bitcoins or other virtual currencies in the market: the blockchain in this case is used to monitor the proper conduct of all transactions. Yet this is only a fraction of all possible uses.
In fact, in general, blockchain is a sharing technology that offers services and benefits to the Web community provided that collaboration occurs among those who are part of it. Only in this way can it work and no blockage occurs.
Going down to a more technical level, we are talking about a shared, immutable data structure. Entries are grouped into concatenated pages in chronological order, and integrity is assured through the use of encryption.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
- Reliability: it is not governed by the center, and if one of the nodes in the chain suffers an attack, all other nodes still remain operational, not losing important information.
- Transparency: transactions are visible to all participants.
- Convenience: there are no third-party interlocutors, so the exchange is safe.
- Robustness: information cannot be changed in any way.
- Irrevocability: transactions, always tracked, cannot be changed or canceled.
- Digitality: everything is virtual.
THE APPLICATION AREAS
It is the benefits just listed that make blockchain rich in potential for the manufacturing industry.
In the context of Smart Manufacturing, for example, it can be used to better support production, logistics and supply chain. This is because security and reliability are guaranteed to the entire process, while preserving the data and its security. In the processing industry, applications have been developed for digital payments and in data package transactions that represent specific products and also their production logic.
Again, in the context of the supply chain, transactions at all the various stages of the supply chain can be tracked and described in a decentralized database-this reduces transcription costs, delays, and possible personnel errors.
In theInternet of Things, blockchain can be used to improve communication between interconnected devices and to make the exchange of information safer and faster. In addition, it can be useful for managing the identity of things so as to create certifications of supply chains based on IoT data. Other developments include the recognition of virtual and physical objects that can become more secure and reliable.
Where are we with blockchain deployment?
We are currently in a study phase where organizations are trying to learn more about this technology. Experiments aimed at understanding the potential and critical issues will continue until 2020.
Looking forward, over the next 5-6 years, we will enter the transformation phase in which this technology will change how we relate, integrate, and collaborate by bringing innovation in technology, data management, and governance.