Amazon may be months or years away from adopting cryptocurrency – a move that would revolutionize the world of retail and e-commerce – but several other industries are gradually incorporating blockchain, digital assets and cryptocurrencies. These adoptions are affecting jobs and daily tasks, changing how paperwork is processed, how identities are verified and how trust is secured.
Imagine the Dewey Decimal System, founded in 1876, before the advent of the internet. It was the key system for classifying, tracking and locating physical books in libraries. But with digitization, physical-book-based information has been completely transformed. Books, and all the information they contain, are now available online, indexed by search engines and distributed by Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and other e-readers.
Digital ledger technologies like the blockchain will have an even greater impact, cataloging big data sets, sensitive content and personal information that can be quickly retrieved and verified. It can move currencies, transfer value, and securely register a trail of authenticating documents that are needed to trigger certification or verification. When applied across a range of use cases, blockchain applications can eliminate legacy protocols that require teams and departments of employees to produce volumes of physical paperwork that is often painstakingly checked by multiple departments, demanding in-person appointments from an applicant who needs a phone bill, a driver’s license, a social security card and a birth certificate readily on hand.
Signatures and signature filings, countersigning and cross-referencing, and all of the red tape that produces long lines at the DMV and a months-long wait for a passport can be streamlined, if not made entirely unnecessary, and assigned to the blockchain.
From realtors to medical researchers to insurance adjusters, here are the five industries most likely to be transformed by cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies.
1. Banking, Payments and Fundraising
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Zcash, Litecoin, Dash and Vertcoin, among many others, are designed for cross-border transactions with low fees. They allow people without bank accounts to send and receive currency. In addition to digital banking via mobile apps, cryptocurrencies give customers with bank accounts even more options to make payments and send or receive money, reducing reliance on physical cash, ATMs and local bank branches.
For entrepreneurs with blockchain-based business models, Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are driving a new source of fundraising that cuts out investment banking and traditional venture capital. Token sales are a fast-track vehicle for founders to reach prospective investors directly without going through the exhaustive pitching process required by venture capitalists. Although there are risks on both sides, ICOs are proliferating and are proving to be a direct path for raising capital. According to ICO Data, ICOs raked in a whopping $7.8 billion in 2018, eclipsing the $5.7 billion raised throughout the year in 2017.
Jobs to be disrupted: Tellers, check cashing clerks, banking executives, venture capitalists, investment bankers
Bureaucracy is filled with paperwork and a lack of transparency with government employees being accused of squandering taxpayer dollars or using inefficient paper-pushing systems that slow requests or intentionally confuse the public. A “lost” social security card, driver’s license or state identification card can never get lost on the blockchain, where it can be permanently recorded and secured.
A notary’s raised seal (along with the smudge of ink on your right thumb to verify your identity) may also become a thing of the past as governments around the globe experiment with blockchains to record the date, time and place of origin of personal documents, licenses and certificates. Dubai, among other cities, is striving for a completely paperless government by 2020.
Governments are also trying to use blockchain and crypto to make various types of payments. Australia is testing welfare payments via blockchain to securely record its transactions. Several other projects, including Circles, are running test pilots on the distribution of universal basic income via cryptocurrency.
Jobs to be disrupted: Government agents, administrators, clerks, notaries
3. Supply Chain Management
The blockchain is already being used to track food, pharmaceuticals, diamonds and other goods. De Beers Group recently announced that the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewelry, Signet Jewelers, will join its blockchain platform, Tracr, tracking diamonds from production to retail. In December, Walmart, JD.com, IBM and Tsinghua University National Engineering Laboratory announced a collaborative initiative, the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance, to improve food tracking, traceability and safety in China. Several cryptocurrency projects, such as VeChain and Modum, as well as the US Congress, are looking into blockchain to improve supply chain logistics.
Jobs to be disrupted: Supply chain logistics coordinators, clerks, analysts, managers, directors
4. Real Estate
Blockchain can reduce paper records and traditional bookkeeping, transferring title deeds for real estate transactions. But that’s only half of the disruption. PayPal’s first COO, David Sacks, believes the $7 trillion real estate market that’s currently under professional management through licensed realtors will be tokenized, using cryptocurrencies. Real estate deals will suddenly start looking a lot more like everyone’s favorite board game, Monopoly, with deeds getting passed around fluidly, from peer to peer. Cryptocurrencies will enable buyers to easily and securely buy, sell and trade small portions of real estate ownership on the blockchain, transferring titles along with the requisite paperwork, and allowing multiple, non-related parties to crowdsource a large purchase. The end goal: a new asset class.
A real estate project in Bushwick, New York is trying to reshape the city’s housing market by using the crowdsourcing model. Called Meridio (formerly Pangea), the project aims to leverage blockchain smart contracts that can let average people with modest incomes and small amounts of capital to own property.
Propy is another mover in the space. The company has created a decentralized platform to facilitate transactions on the blockchain, reducing paperwork and allowing cross-border real estate sales.
Jobs to be disrupted: Realtors, title company agents, real estate lawyers
5. Energy Management
Managing energy consumption for millions of customers is a complex job that demands extensive training and nerves of steel. Bad calls have created blackouts and have pushed the industry to rely increasingly on automated computer systems. Today’s grid is a network of wires, switches, transformers, substations and other equipment. As the tech evolves, customers will be able to buy and sell energy in peer-to-peer transactions on blockchain-based energy grids. Imagine being able to see price comparisons for energy costs, as easily as you can shop around and compare gas prices in a 10-mile radius. When a power plant updates a blockchain with its current electricity output, a consumer can bid on it through an energy marketplace, tracking optimal times for higher output, lower demand and lower prices. Initiatives by Power Ledger and LO3 Energy are building systems to power sustainable “smart cities”. Swytch, another blockchain platform for sustainable and renewable energy, is creating a proprietary blockchain to capture energy production from generation equipment. Future tech could enable homes and buildings to communicate autonomously, buying and selling power to and from the grid based on supply-and-demand price signals.
Jobs: Power grid operators, real-timer schedulers, computer systems analysts, network and computer systems administrators, software developers, meter readers
And all of these paradigm shifts are just the tip of the iceberg. Healthcare, music, insurance and numerous other industries are set for revolutionary transformations as individual ownership of content, data and private information supersedes traditionally centralized business models.