Before looking at the way blockchain technology has developed in Australia it’s worth providing a brief explanation of what blockchain actually is. Although the technology can sometimes seem quite complex the underlying principles of blockchain are fairly straightforward. In simple terms a blockchain is a type of database, but unlike any standard database you’re used to. Let’s take a closer look.
How does blockchain technology differ from a standard database?
A blockchain stores data in groups known as blocks, and once the storage capacity of a block has been filled it is attached to the previous block, creating a chain, hence the term ‘blockchain’. Any new information added after this will form the next block, which is also added to the chain when it is filled. Most databases store data in tables rather than chains, so while all blockchains are databases, not all databases can be described as blockchains.
The nature of a blockchain means it is virtually impossible to go back and tamper with the data once it is in place – each block has an exact timestamp showing when it was added to the chain. Once the chain has been created it is stored in a decentralised manner and can be distributed and accessed but cannot be altered.
Although the technology was first outlined in 1991 it didn’t have a practical real-world application until the launch of bitcoin in 2009. It has been described as “an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value”.
What are some of blockchain’s potential uses?
Because a blockchain ledger cannot be amended, it has use applications in industry far beyond bitcoin and other crypto-currencies. Using blockchain for bitcoin is logical, because it enables tracing of all its financial transactions, and regular banks have seen the value in this too.
In other sectors, blockchain is equally good at resolving problems where two or more parties need to keep records of a transaction, not necessarily, of some kind. The decentralised nature of blockchain means only unchangeable ledger needs to be kept, reducing the risk of errors in multiple records and the possibility of disputes among the parties.
Some real-world examples of blockchain in action include:
Logistics company DHL tracking pharmaceuticals globally from manufacturing to consumption, its blockchain processes more than 1,500 transactions per second.
Food producers and retailers such as Walmart and Nestlé use blockchain to record how food is grown, produced and delivered to retailers.
Jewellers are increasingly using blockchain to log the origins of precious stones, to ensure they are conflict-free.
The United Nations has looked into blockchain’s transparency to protect children from trafficking and slave labour.
Blockchain technology in Australia
The development of blockchain in Australia began to really take off in 2016, when the Australian Securities Exchange became the first trading exchange in the world to adopt blockchain technology for the development of a post-trade platform. Other milestones in recent years include the following:
In September 2016 the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) approved Standards Australia as the lead organisation on an international technical committee developing the global standards governing blockchain technology.
In January 2017 the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the largest bank in the country, became the first government body in the world to issue a crypto bond – for the Queensland Treasury Corporation – via a blockchain platform. Using the platform they were able to view investor bids in real time and settle instantly.
In January 2018 WWF-Australia, WWF-Fiji and WWF-New Zealand partnered with ConsenSys, TraSeable, and Sea Quest Fiji Ltd. to develop a smartphone app using blockchain technology. The app will enable users to find out exactly where and when the tuna they buy has been caught, helping to stamp out illegal fishing and human rights abuses.
In May 2018 Brisbane International Airport became the first in the world to use blockchain technology in order to accept crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dash.
In September 2018 the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) launched two blockchain courses. The courses were designed to meet growing demand for workers with knowledge of how to design blockchain infrastructure and use it within a business.
In December 2018 the Australian government integrated blockchain technology into a software as a service (SaaS) cloud platform used by government departments including Defence.
We can help
In the next few years blockchain technology is set to play an increasingly important role in a wide variety of industries across Australia and beyond. If you need payment systems that can keep up with the pace of change then you need GoCardless. Find out how we can already help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.