Virtual currencies are so last year. This year is about all the other uses for the underlying technology - the blockchain and other distributed ledgers.
The number of use-cases is starting to snowball with every discussion about scenarios in which a certain item is dealt with many times by many parties. That's because it will be more efficient and cost-effective for the item to be represented by a 'hash' in the ledger, and each transaction related to that item to be 'hashed' so they are available to any computer running the same language/protocol, rather than dealing with that using 'old' technology. Even though the ledger is openly accessible to everyone's machine, confidentiality can be guaranteed using encryption, so that only those computers with the right private key could unlock the hash and see the details.
Here are a few of the ideas, some of which are definitely being kicked around and most of which involve smart contracts, e.g.:
- identification tools - multi-factor authentication - e.g. checking validity of a drivers licence (hat tip to Alex Batlin)
- freight, transport, logistics - e.g. booking space in shipping containers, long-haul trucks and aircraft, and keeping track of the delivery items themselves;
- tracking, controlling autonomous vehicles/devices;
- switching to the best tariff minute to minute for services related to cars, homes, devices like insurance, gas, electricity, phone contracts;
- renting hotel rooms, accommodation;
- tracking and paying royalties for music, films etc;
- something I'm working on that it's not my place to disclose;
In other words, distributed ledgers as a platform will have the same horizontal impact as the Internet, mobile networks and the smartphone. The ledgers won't necessarily replace any of that, but will be an important layer, enabling all sorts of applications and devices to 'run' off the recorded transactions and related events.
Worth giving is some thought - just keep a good old fashioned pen and paper handy to jot down the flow of ideas ;-)