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What actually is blockchain and why is everyone talking about it?

Denis Curran
Blockchain came to prominence as the enabling technology for Bitcoin.

It’s been called a ‘revolutionary’ technology and its devotees claim it will transform money and even society – but what exactly is blockchain, and where will its impact be felt?

Blockchain came to prominence as the enabling technology for the anonymous digital currency Bitcoin, but its supporters say its potential use is far greater. Wikinomics author Don Tapscott called his latest book ‘Blockchain Revolution’.

Changing business

A digital futurist and author of several books about technology’s impact on business and society, Tapscott subtitled his newest work by claiming blockchain is ‘changing money, business, and the world’.

Blockchain is a distributed ledger where all of the participants in a transaction share the same version of data in a way that is transparent and can’t be changed. This makes it suitable for a wide range of use cases: establishing identity; ownership of digital assets, or handling transactions involving multiple parties.

Driving efficiency

It’s part of the reason why some of the largest multinational financial services providers have been among the earliest to look at blockchain with an eye to making their business processes more efficient, reducing their costs or streamlining the arduous business of regulatory audits.

Early adopters

Blockchain expert Kevin Loaec agrees with Tapscott’s description of blockchain as “revolutionary”. In 2015, he formed Chainsmiths, a consultancy to advise larger organisations about blockchain. “They want to be prepared for when the next big thing happens, and not be surprised by the change, like what happened to many companies when the internet came along. They prefer to be early than having to catch up later on,” says Loaec.