I want to take some time and walk you through an interesting interactive project about Blockchain from the Reuters Graphics department with sponsorship from Barclays. This post is from June 2018 and I came across it while scrolling through a 2018 Reuters Graphics Best of List. This article shows where the news industry is heading, merging visual interactive content, with narratives to tell a story. The blockchain follows a story where information is shared on a shared ledger.
This article shows how to easily understand what the blockchain is and how the technology can be harnessed through words and infographics. The piece begins by discussing how the blockchain, at its core, is a database where no one entity holds ownership of the information, be it a banking record or information on the tracking of a tomato through a supply chain. This decentralizing of record keeping is the core of what the blockchain is. Since the information on the blockchain is held on a network that is shared changes are noticeable and it is difficult, not impossible, to distort the information.
For most of history information was controlled and distributed by organizations who could sway decisions and make a good sum of money through being the only forces involved in selling and distributing goods or services. When information is placed on the blockchain, the system is constantly scanned for any changes making sure that all copies of members on the blockchain have the same accurate information. This means as the scale of the blockchain network increases the necessity of scanning and accurately identifying the information across the system also grows and becomes more complex. While much of the media hype surrounding blockchain surrounds bitcoins and the changes in bitcoin prices other useful applications of blockchain range of monitoring food supply to helping make the energy grid smarter.
Now that the foundations of blockchain technology has been outlined the Reuters article walks through a scenario where blockchain can be used to track a transaction. The core of the blockchain, as alluded to earlier, is the database with information on it. This is implemented by having records added one after another to the chain.
Here is a case study where the blockchain would be used across a supply chain. In this example a restaurant owner makes a deal for a restaurant company to purchase tomatoes from a large farm. The structure can be summed up as the record holds the information on the transaction.
If a restaurant wanted to track the location and quality of food through its supply chain the record would be the deals made with suppliers while the block is the collection of records involved and the chain is the link of the blocks. If a restaurant in North Carolina wanted to purchase an order of tomatoes, the order would be placed on the record showing that an exchange was initiated. This is followed by having the system go ahead and scan to ensure the record is authentic. This is followed by having accepted records added to a block which contains a unique hash as well as the prior hash in the system in a specific order.
With all this protection the tomatoes in the salad are ensured to be of high quality as they move along the system. The hash codes along the blockchain serve as an encryption where the information is not control by any one individual and a key is needed to access the information of the transaction. With possible uses from healthcare record keeping to tracking that diamonds are mined without blood diamond warlords and move through a supply chain without forced labor. The blockchain is much more than a cryptocurrency fad and should be something on your radar during 2019.
Arnold, Andrew, “How Blockchain Can Help Increase The Security Of Smart Grids” Forbes. Retrieved 4 January 2019 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewarnold/2018/04/16/how-blockchain-can-help-increase-the-security-of-smart-grids/#2ffea9a4b489
Murphy, Maryanne, “A Reuters Visual Guide: Blockchain Explained.” Reuters. Retrieved 3 January 2019 fromhttps://graphics.reuters.com/TECHNOLOGY-BLOCKCHAIN/010070MF1E7/index.html
Institute of Food Technologist (IFT), “The Potential of Blockchain Technology Application in the Food System.” Retrieved 4 January 2019 from http://www.ift.org/Knowledge-Center/Learn-About-Food-Science/Food-Facts/The-Potential-of-Blockchain-Technology-Application.aspx