Blockchains Benefit Individuals Featured Pattern: P1221 May 2018

Author: Marianne Monteforte (Send us feedback.)

Recent developments demonstrate blockchain technologies' benefits for individuals.

Abstracts in this Pattern:

Blockchain technology can give consumers—rather than large companies and governments—control over their data. As new regulations, including the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (www.eugdpr.org), improve the data rights of consumers, new enabling technologies such as private-data accounts will emerge. These accounts help consumers legally possess and share their data for their own benefit. Blockchain technology shows great potential for use in these private-data accounts and in creating decentralized models for data use. Companies are also starting to use blockchain technology to secure consumers' data. Nebula Genomics (Boston, Massachusetts) plans to offer a service in which, for less than $1,000, it sequences a customer's genome and uses a blockchain to secure the customer's genomic data. This service will give customers ownership of their genomic data, which they can choose to sell to buyers such as pharmaceutical companies. The company could be the first of many to use blockchain technology to develop personal-data-trading services.

Blockchain technology could also enable decentralized sharing services. For example, Bee Token (San Francisco, California) aims to use blockchain technology to create peer-to-peer networks for the sharing economy, thereby eliminating the need for intermediary companies such as Airbnb (San Francisco, California). This approach could increase sharing efficiency tremendously, but it would likely have negative consequences for companies that generate profit by serving as the intermediary between individuals in the sharing economy.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger—visiting lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Cambridge, Massachusetts) MIT Sloan School of Management—envisions more comprehensive use of blockchain technology, arguing that the technology could dramatically change and improve how the internet operates. He highlights that a few massive companies with financial objectives now dominate the identity and security management of the internet, which has resulted in several problems. According to Dr. Wladawsky-Berger, "Blockchain technologies have the potential to address these serious internet problems by enabling the exchange of the critical data required to validate identities in a secure, decentralized manner without the need for a central platform or other intermediaries."