Blockchains enable secure transactions without the need for a central authority!
Blockchains are unchallengeable digital ledger systems implemented in a distributed fashion (i.e., without a central repository) and usually without a central authority. At their most basic level, they enable a community of users to record transactions in a ledger that is public to that community, such that no transaction can be changed once published. In 2008, the blockchain idea was combined in an innovative way with several other technologies and computing concepts to enable the creation of modern cryptocurrencies: electronic money protected through cryptographic mechanisms instead of a central repository.
The first such blockchain based approach was Bitcoin. These currency blockchain systems are novel in that they store value, not just information. The value is attached to a digital wallet—an electronic device (or software) that allows an individual to make electronic transactions. The wallets are used to sign transactions sent from one wallet to another, recording the transferred value publicly, allowing all participants of the network to independently verify the validity of the transactions. Each participant can keep a full record of all transactions, making the network resilient to attempts to alter that record (or forge transactions) later.
As stated above, blockchain technology is the foundation of modern cryptocurrencies, so named because of blockchain’s heavy usage of cryptographic functions. Users employ public and private keys to digitally sign and securely transact within the system. Users of the blockchain may solve puzzles using cryptographic hashing in hopes of being rewarded with a fixed amount of the cryptocurrency. However, blockchain technology is more broadly applicable than its application to cryptocurrencies.
Organisations considering implementing blockchain technology need to understand important aspects of the technology. For example, what happens when an organisation implements a blockchain system and then decides they need to make modifications to the data stored? When using a database, this can be accomplished through a simple query (or major changes can be made by updating the database schema or software). However, on a blockchain, it is much more difficult to change data or update the ‘database’ software.
Organisations need to understand the great difficulty in changing anything that is already on the blockchain, and that changes to the blockchain software may cause forking of the blockchain. Another critical aspect of blockchain technology is how the participants agree that a transaction is valid. This is called “reaching consensus”, and there are many models for doing so, each with positives and negatives for a specific business case.
Some existing blockchain technologies focus on storing wealth, while others are a platform for smart contracts (software which is deployed on the blockchain itself, and executed by the computers running that blockchain). New blockchain technologies are being developed constantly to enable new use cases and to improve the efficiency of existing systems. Some blockchain implementations are open, meaning anyone can read and write to them. Other implementations limit participation to specific people or companies, allow finer-grained controls, and may be managed by a central body. Knowing these specifics allows an organisation to understand what will be most applicable to its needs.
Despite the many variations of blockchain systems and the rapid development of new technologies, most blockchains use some common core concepts. Each transaction involves one or more addresses and a recording of what happened, and it is digitally signed. Blockchains are comprised of blocks, each block being a group of transactions. All the transactions in a block are grouped together, along with a cryptographic hash of the previous block. Finally, a new hash is created for the current block’s header to be recorded within the block data itself as well as within the next block. Over time, each block is then chained to the previous block in the chain by adding the hash of the previous block to the header of the current block.
Each technology used in a blockchain system takes existing, proven concepts and merges them together in a way that can address problems that were previously difficult.
Blockchains are a significant new avenue for technological advancements, enabling secure transactions without the need for a central authority. Starting in 2009, with Bitcoin leveraging blockchain technology, there has been an increasing number of blockchain based cryptocurrencies. Possibly more importantly, new applications beyond the realm of currencies are building upon the fundamentals of blockchain technology.
The first applications were digital currencies with the distribution of a global ledger containing all transactions. These transactions are secured with cryptographic hashes, and transactions are signed and verified using public/private key pairs. The transaction history is summarized with Merkle trees, to efficiently and securely record a chain of events in a way that any attempt to edit or change a past transaction will also require a recalculation of all subsequent blocks of transactions.
The use of blockchains is still in its early stages, but it is built on widely understood and sound cryptographic principles. Moving forward, it is likely that blockchains will be another tool that can be used to solve newer sets of problems. Financial organisations are likely to be the businesses most impacted by blockchains. They may need to adapt or even completely change their practices to focus on being platforms for value exchange and not just places to store value.
Blockchains are also digitizing assets other than money. Companies that need to maintain a public record, such as holding land title, marriage, or birth records, should consider how their problem sets might be addressed by blockchain technologies. Blockchains also have strong potential for storing and recording supply chain records. A blockchain can record each step in a product's life, from when it was created in a factory, to when it was shipped and subsequently delivered to a store, and finally to when a consumer purchased it. There may even be new industries, such as digital notaries who can prove a person had access to a specific piece of information by recording the hash of it into the blockchain. There are many potential uses and opportunities for blockchain technologies.
A blockchain relies on existing network, cryptographic, and recordkeeping technologies but uses them in a new manner. It will be important that organisations are able to look at the technologies and both the advantages and disadvantages of using them. Once a blockchain is implemented and widely adopted, it becomes very difficult to change it without forking. Once something is recorded in a blockchain, it is usually there forever, even when there is a mistake. For some organisations these are desirable features. For others, these may be deal breakers preventing the adoption of blockchain.
Blockchain technologies have the power to disrupt many industries. To avoid missed opportunities and undesirable surprises, organisations should start investigating whether or not a blockchain can help them.
Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce (Jan 2018)
New Media Aid has been the app development partner for Kelly Turkeys since 2006 and has developed a number of mission-critical bespoke apps for us and we highly recommend them for bespoke application development.
Asa Howard, Finance Director
Kelly Turkeys - Danbury, Essex
New Media Aid has been our development partner for both our website and virtual learning environment since 2004. The quality of service has been consistently exceptional in every way. I would be very happy to recommend them for any development and as a highly reliable long term partner as well as for short term projects.
John Rubinstein, Principal
Woodhouse College - Finchley, London
New Media Aid has developed a number of advanced, bespoke apps for BAE Systems and we are happy to recommend them for bespoke app development.
Rob Morris, Vice President Marketing & Analysis, Asset Management
BAE Systems - Hatfield, Hertfordshire
These apps developed by App Developer for Android mark a new turn towards technology for an industry that’s been slow to adapt until now. With no suitable ‘off the shelf’ solution available below costly, enterprise level software, we were involved in the development process from the start, getting the right solution that suited our operations and our customers.
Ben Guy, Managing Director
App Developer for Android quickly understood what we needed and were able to develop exactly what was required with minimal input from ourselves. As this was the first Android app we had developed we were pleased that it was done on time and within the quoted price. We would gladly work with them again and recommend them.
Mark Austin, Managing Director
Having recently moved to Android PDAs for our mobile workforce, we identified a need for a Bespoke App and a Web-based Management System to control it. App Developer for Android demonstrated a real understanding for our needs and a "can do" attitude that we found extremely helpful.
Their solution was provided on time and within budget and has exceeded our expectations. We will be happy to work with them again when we have further requirements.
Trevor Wright, IT Manager
New Media Aid has successfully developed a number of bespoke applications for us over the last few years - we have always been pleased with the results and with the ongoing support and assistance we receive.
Anne Barlow, Marketing Manager
British Chiropractic Association - Reading, Berkshire
New Media Aid undoubtedly fulfils the requirements we have for our company’s corporate website. Not only did they provide us with all the features we needed from the get-go, they also promptly come up with solutions when we have new requests.
JD Venter, Deputy Editor
Dry Cargo International - Colchester, Essex
New Media Aid developed a bespoke website and content management system for us that makes it easy to run our business. The app has been designed in such a way that we’re able to have it updated when our needs as a company develop. Our trade customers love the fact that they can login and view historical orders as well as viewing new products and ordering online themselves. I would definitely recommend New Media Aid for bespoke app development.
Shona Easton, Managing Director
Easton Design Studio - Cranleigh, Surrey
We are thrilled and very excited by our new mobile-friendly website from New Media Aid which is seamlessly integrated with a bespoke candidate and vacancy management system. They have been extremely responsive and patient and have talked us through the whole process. They are always available for queries and trouble-shooting not only on this project but also with other web apps they have developed for us. We couldn’t recommend them more highly.
New Media Aid develops business-critical bespoke applications for Gateway College and we are happy to recommend them for bespoke application development.
Paul Taylor, Network And Corporate Data Manager
Gateway College - Leicester
We are delighted with the flexible and efficient service we received from New Media Aid. Highly professional and personable which works well for us as a small business. We wanted to update our old website and not being IT specialists it was good to talk through issues and get helpful advice on new design ideas and practical solutions. Working together on the design and implementation of our new site has resulted in a user-friendly eCommerce website on PCs, phones and tablets – and we instantly saw a huge increase in business once the new site went live. No hesitation in recommending their services.
Gordon Little, Managing Director
GE Little Radiator Covers - Basildon, Essex
New Media Aid developed Gigacom Tems a bespoke and fully integrated project management system. New Media Aid fully support all our IT requirements and must be congratulated on the valued and excellent support that we continue to receive from the New Media Aid team. I have no doubt that without the high level of innovative support that we receive we would not be able to efficiently deliver the services that we provide for our customers.
Phil Taylor, Operational Management Team
Gigacom Telecommunication Engineers Management Services - Alton, Hampshire
The certificate scanning system developed by New Media Aid is working really well for us and is more efficient than our previous way of processing certificates. It really is brilliant and must have saved us a fortune in paper!
Rachel Bothamley, Senior Examinations Officer
New Media Aid has supported the development of a complex store and back office system that significantly helps improve the accuracy of our processes whilst improving the efficiency and service to our clients. Couldn't be happier with a supplier (who we genuinely consider as a partner).
Stephen Mason, Managing Director
Mason Information Technologies - Nottingham
New Media Aid has an excellent understanding of our business and therefore can offer a high level, intuitive service. They have programmed and maintained our websites and CMS for nearly 10 years and are responsive and very easy to work with, we highly recommend talking to them about your digital projects.
Donald Campbell, Marketing Manager
Team London Bridge - Southwark, London
Excellent service, clear pricing and Alastair is so easy to deal with. Would definitely recommend. We're very pleased with our new App!
Mary Stealey, Operations Manager
Just Filters - Harlow, Essex
Alastair was great at understanding our needs and building a new android app and web-facing management interface that met all our requirements. The solution was delivered within impressive timescales and at a competitive price. He kept us up to date throughout the project, was happy to be involved in conference calls to discuss setup and deployment, and was always incredibly responsive to our questions and requests for further enhancements. It was a pleasure working with Alastair and we look forward to the opportunity of working with him again in the future.
Stephen Connolly, Technical Team Manager
Parker Hannifin - Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire