Innovation drives change in our world, usually in incremental steps that are inconspicuous. However, every so often, a technology appears with the ability to transform entire industries and facets of our world instantly. One such innovation, blockchain, is already reinventing data security and transmission before most have even heard of it.

Of course, the pervasiveness of any technology is dependent upon its actual applications. As omnipresent as cloud computing is at this point, many more people are familiar with mobile operating systems and social media platforms simply because they use such technologies on a daily basis. Still, despite the improbability of blockchain ever becoming a household name, its power and potential to change our digital infrastructure is astounding.

What Exactly Is Blockchain?

While most are familiar with the general concepts behind Bitcoin, they don’t realize that blockchain technology is what makes such transactions possible in the first place. In essence, blockchain is the infrastructure that enables completely virtual transactions through cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.While we typically view online transactions as procedures that avoid the use of brick-and-mortar financial services, in fact banks and other intermediaries are almost always working behind the scenes to process transactions. With blockchain, the middleman is eliminated, allowing a peer-to-peer transaction to occur in a secure environment without the assistance of a processing company. Each blockchain is stored by its users, and participants only have access to the portion of the chain they own. A cryptographic key ensures the security of each block. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin can be traded through a blockchain, from peer to peer, transferring value as it moves between blocks along the chain. As different blocks reach the networked chain, they are validated and recorded on a stored ledger, further increasing security and transparency. It is a far more secure and straightforward approach for those participating in the transaction. While we typically view online transactions as procedures that avoid the use of brick-and-mortar financial services, in fact banks and other intermediaries are almost always working behind the scenes to process transactions. With blockchain, the middleman is eliminated, allowing a peer-to-peer transaction to occur in a secure environment without the assistance of a processing company. Each blockchain is stored by its users, and participants only have access to the portion of the chain they own. A cryptographic key ensures the security of each block. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin can be traded through a blockchain, from peer to peer, transferring value as it moves between blocks along the chain. As different blocks reach the networked chain, they are validated and recorded on a stored ledger, further increasing security and transparency. It is a far more secure and straightforward approach for those participating in the transaction. Each blockchain is stored by its users, and participants only have access to the portion of the chain they own. A cryptographic key ensures the security of each block. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin can be traded through a blockchain, from peer to peer, transferring value as it moves between blocks along the chain. As different blocks reach the networked chain, they are validated and recorded on a stored ledger, further increasing security and transparency. It is a far more secure and straightforward approach for those participating in the transaction.

It’s Already a Pervasive Technology

To no one’s surprise, the financial services industry was the first to truly attempt to capitalize on blockchain technology. Although it initially represented a substantial threat to their stronghold on financial transactions, banks and other financial organizations were forced to quickly integrate the new technology into their operations before it took root elsewhere and excluded them.

In a broader view, though, blockchain has also created substantial changes in data transmission and security across the digital plain. Companies of all sizes and industries have already begun integrating cloud data with blockchain technology, significantly expanding the range of availability and scope of users who want to take advantage of blockchain’s significantly enhanced transmission and security features.

A Look into the Future

Although it might have started as a conduit to facilitate Bitcoin transactions, the true potential of blockchain lies in its configuration. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are, at their essence, simply bits of data with nothing distinguishing them from other forms of data. In that sense, a blockchain itself does not care what data is stored and protected within its blocks, affording the same level of security and transparency to any type of digital information. Startups have already begun to utilize the technology to provide greater efficiency, transparency and security to the voting process. If this effort is successful, voters will eventually be able to vote using a mobile device that transmits their election data through a cloud-enabled blockchain. On a more personal level of application, smart appliances could monitor their own energy, maintenance and supply needs, paying for such things directly using blockchain, eliminating the direct billing process through each vendor.

Blockchain is a transformative technology that will add security and efficiency to our transactions, both financial and non-financial. Because it is still in its nascent stage, it’s likely we don’t yet grasp the full range of its benefits. No matter what industries it redefines or applications it occupies, however, all participants in online commerce will likely be affected by its adoption at some point, if they haven’t been already.