Mostly associated with bitcoin, blockchain has long since gained positive recognition for being a technology that presents optimum transparency across a decentralised network. While blockchain has only been used for cryptocurrencies as of late, many developers and brand names are slowly starting to realise the importance of some of its features, and how they can be transferred to other industry areas. Strategies, interfaces and complete systems influenced by blockchain are now beginning to emerge, but they’re still far from being implemented on a mainstream level. Owing to numerous variables involved, constraints still persist, and businesses are not afraid to invest money, time and effort to see how a workable solution can be created and implemented.
As for mobile apps, it’s not news that users are reliant on their smartphones more than ever before. From basic messaging to on-demand services, there’s nothing that’s out of reach for a smartphone – and more specifically, for mobile apps. There’s an app for every need, no doubt. What’s more, the ubiquity of so many options out there render users spoilt for choice. As a result, developers and business owners need to be hyper aware of what they’re putting out there, and whether their app is sincerely made in the interest of the user as well as their business objectives.
Customer experience closely ties in with the quality of mobile apps, as it determines whether someone will want to use your platform in the first place – as well as stay put as a recurring customer. Owing to limitless options available out there for the average user, brands really need to stand out in order to make an impression, and a smooth app experience is what will guarantee just that. Most importantly, offering a stellar customer experience by means of quick and relevant service is what will really impress your users, which in turn will make you stand out as a service provider.
In due course of establishing seamless user and customer experiences via mobile apps, security has become a growing concern among developers, businesses and users alike. It’s not surprising to hear of a data breach almost on a daily basis. Even the world’s leading corporations aren’t immune to cyber attacks, and many of them have been hit in ways that has made recovery an arduous task – so much so that they’ve never functioned in the same way again.
So how can all three aspects – blockchain, mobile apps and customer experience be harmonised such that it creates a system which addresses many of the issues we have across the consumer digital landscape today? Although there has been much buzz regarding this subject, implementations of such a hybrid, working system have been few and far between. As the application of blockchain into sectors other than cryptocurrencies are still in its infancy, the first step requires knowing thoroughly what such a combination entails, and then determining correctly how to transfer blockchain onto your own specialty. Therefore, this blog aims to provide all the knowledge you need about the workings of blockchain, and how to apply some of its features into your own digital platform.
Most of us know that blockchain is what drives cryptocurrencies, but do you know about how the technology really operates? To understand how blockchain works, it’s easy to remember the network as a chain of blocks (exactly as its name suggests). Each block is a piece of data, which also contains information on the individuals that have created it, or have been involved in the transaction. Additionally, it also consists something called a hash (which is a code that is unique to each block) as well as the hash of the previous block.
If the data in any block is changed, its hash changes too. So in order to maintain security, a change of hash indicates that a block may have been tampered with – while also rendering successive blocks invalid. However, cybercriminals are crafty, and the hashes of successive blocks can be changed easily and quickly. In order to avoid this, a feature called proof-of-work exists within blockchain, which basically prevents speedy changes to blocks by having a 10-minute pause between edits. This way, blocks cannot be amended within a matter of a few minutes (or even seconds), thereby alerting all members in the network about the breach.
The next key feature of blockchain is its decentralised ledger system. Instead of storing and maintaining all its blocks over a central network that’s overseen by an equally authoritative central entity, blockchain is run over a peer-to-peer network. This network consists of multiple users who moderate and approve of every block that is added or amended, thereby creating an environment that is all the more enhanced in terms of security.
While this constitutes the basic workings of blockchain, it’s easy to see how certain elements (such as hashes, proof-of-work and peer-to-peer networks) can also be transferred onto other areas that require added security and transparency when dealing with transactions. Two such features have been elaborated on below, and how these elements can be used to assist other market sectors and their objective for a more secure, transparent and therefore more trustworthy digital application.
Thanks to the peer-to-peer, decentralised network, transparency is a natural consequence in blockchain. Many transaction and process-focused sectors, such as banking, supply chain and even voting, can benefit from the individual blocks that are tamper-proof, thanks to their digital fingerprints (the hash). For example, the financial industry has already delved into creating ‘digital wallets’ that can enable customers to make payments that are based on blockchain technology, and even use cryptocurrencies to pay for goods and services. Remittances that are made via blockchain technology are basically moderated via the same peer-to-peer network, thereby rendering it free from a central authoritative figure, as well as free from possible tampering.
In fact, blockchain development in Sri Lanka is booming, especially since the Central Bank of Sri Lanka announced two fintech committees that would look into blockchain proliferation across the financial sector islandwide. With a number of banks across the country already having embraced the trend mainly via online remittances, software development agencies are abuzz with making arrangements for new service offerings that can be beneficial towards market sectors locally as well as internationally, on a long-term basis. Sri Lanka has also done an analysis on how using blockchain technology for voting systems during elections can also help reduce the number of government staff that are needed to organise elections, while saving time, money and the risk of election rigging. Constraints still remain in this underdeveloped country that has a minimal digital literacy rate, though. But conducting workshops and offering voting booths where citizens can vote online are some possible solutions to counteract the problem.
When it comes to supply chain management, the high intricacy quotient of the trade can be a major factor for delays and mishaps to happen. With so many processes involved, the passage of goods from one entity to another can be hampered by the smallest of errors or hindrances. By integrating blockchain, every step will be monitored by peers who can then confirm the validity of the same, while maintaining progress at a steady level. This also applies to the logistics sector, as so many goods need to be passed from one entity to another (sometimes through middlemen) all at the same time. Keeping transparent records through blockchain can not only maintain steady workflows, but can also keep supervisors vigilant of any suspicious activity such as data breaches or theft.
While the transparency factor of blockchain leads to a number of useful applications, it’s still only one facet that provides versatility. This next feature locks down security at a much higher scale, thanks to decentralised ledger systems.
While peer-to-peer networks and digital fingerprints both go hand-in-hand when it comes to blockchain, there are certainly some features that are unique to maintaining a decentralised ledger system alone. For one, having multiple individuals moderate and approve your transaction instead of a single central authority can provide security such that infiltration will require the tampering of every computer that’s connected to the network. On top of that, even the slightest error can be spotted, since multiple minds will be involved in the processing of each block.
Since a centralised system doesn’t exist, the data present within the network cannot be completely destroyed. Again, this maintains transparency, since any fabrication cannot be done under the guise of data loss. Most blockchain is open-source, which means that there is no central entity that also owns the platform. It is shared by all the nodes (peers) in the network, thereby attaining mutual ownership and use of the system. Of course, just like any other technology, the aspect of a decentralised network that’s governed by nodes has its drawbacks too. For example, an amount if incorrectly entered for the purpose of doing a fund transfer cannot be corrected, since blocks are untouchable after they are created.
Additionally, the unique workings of blockchain require special laws and regulations which can enable operations that are ethical and within bounds. As a result, before blockchain is made to hit the mainstream, governments may need to intervene with new policies, similar to acts that were previously created for data protection and use. This also closely ties in with the challenge of creating a well-functioning and competent blockchain system in the first place, as it is an inherently difficult endeavour to pursue. Add to this the aspect of even the most sensitive data being visible to all nodes in the network – which may be an issue for some folks who are entered into the system.
However, this does not necessarily affect the aspect of research and development in this regard, especially since adapting blockchain technologies in other market sectors is still in its infancy. As businesses begin to learn and understand the full potential of blockchain, it only makes sense to keep treading forward in order to explore how the technology can be utilised for their own benefit, both in terms of winning customers as well as business objectives.
Blockchain has always been at the forefront of dealing with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, but it is now slowly making its way into other areas of the digital landscape, such as mobile and web applications. Thanks to its innate qualities of security and transparency provided by digital fingerprints and decentralised ledger systems, the technology has been scrutinised for the purpose of enhancing other sectors on a commercial scale. Mobile apps in particular have significantly proliferated across the digital space and well into the lives of millions of people across the globe; with an app available for satiating almost any whim or fancy, it makes sense to enhance user experiences, so that customers can be impressed and retained over the long term. On top of that, customer experience is the ultimate hook for customer retention, as the abundance of options available to the average customer these days is staggering enough to make anyone spoilt for choice.
As a result, it’s not surprising to see high abandonment rates within mobile apps and even websites. With the right UI and navigation, this can be avoided since customers prefer convenience and service, in order to maintain loyalty towards a brand. Blockchain, when added into this mix, enables a host of advantages that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise – such as 100% transparency and security. The banking, supply chain, logistics and government sectors in particular have already deployed systems that run on blockchain-based technologies. From international fund transfers to online voting, many uses have already been found for blockchain.
Made possible by digital fingerprints (known as the hash) and peer-to-peer networks (with each user referred to as a node), infusing blockchain technologies into the digital applications of today is still in its infancy. But much is abuzz in the research and development frontier, so that blockchain’s benefits can be enjoyed on a much larger scale.