If you think the future of blockchain is only in the financial services industry, think again. The highly transactional and often multi-step nature of business process services mean that the potential applications of blockchain in business and government are seemingly endless.
Blockchain can be applied to any multi-step transaction where timeliness, traceability and transparency, the (3 T’s) are required. By managing the steps and relationships across an entire stream of interactions, Blockchain promises to drastically transform digitized business processes—making them more efficient, more agile, more secure, less costly and more transparent, while eliminating many intermediaries and increasing productivity.
It’s no longer a question of whether blockchain will disrupt how organizations transfer and ensure value with one another. The focus today is how and when. At Conduent, we’re convinced that distributed ledger and blockchain technologies can address a number of pain points for our clients.
The emergence of blockchain has also led us on a more fundamental investigation into the nature of how commercial agreements are created, modified and delivered on, and we’re looping those insights back into the use cases we’re developing for our clients.
Before diving in, a quick note about “smart contracts”—a capability that blockchain enables and Conduent is particularly excited about. Smart contracts are contracts that are programmed to be executed autonomously depending upon certain criteria. There are almost infinite possible applications for smart contracts, from automating entire facets of the supply chain to introducing new levels of security and transparency to the procurement process.
How smart contracts transform B2B supply chains
B2B industrial supply chains are ripe for innovation using blockchain-based smart contracts. In one use case that we are currently exploring for a client, smart contracts automatically and dynamically execute the company’s procure-to-pay process from end-to-end. In other words, the contract itself takes care of purchase orders; it knows the precise number of units required, at what time, and where; and it secures the best pricing from the best supplier. What’s more, it can automatically issue the purchase order and pay the supplier when the transaction is complete.
Solutions like these, which do away with multiple intermediaries—financial intermediaries, internal approvers, purchasing agents, goods-verifiers and so on—are why blockchain sometimes gets referred to as a “disintermediating technology.” The result is a much faster process with complete transparency at each stage of the transaction.
Three blockchain use cases in the B2C space
One area where many blockchain use cases are emerging in the B2C space is claims management—whether medical claims, auto insurance claims, life insurance claims or other types of claims.
Today, claims processing is a notoriously lengthy and complicated process, requiring verification from multiple intermediaries before a payment can be made to the claimant. Smart contracts promise to change that. With a smart contract, a claim form can be distributed across all participants in the chain—from the claimant to the payer. The smart contract would automatically and securely complete all the steps involved—from automating coverage verification to claims validation and, in the case of an auto insurance claim, loss determination. Suddenly, the process is quicker, more secure and less costly.
Similar dynamics are at work in loan and mortgage processing today—it’s a complex process with multiple stakeholders, inherent inefficiencies and frequent manual errors and delays. The process could be significantly simplified by incorporating smart contracts. For instance, smart contracts could automatically verify land ownership and interface with various stakeholders such as legal and tax departments. By eliminating silos, a blockchain solution would remove inefficiencies, reduce time and cost, and support better customer experiences.
One final B2C use case for blockchain: parking solutions. By combining smart contracts with advanced sensors—sensors capable of detecting cars and automatically reading their license plates—it becomes possible to automatically deduct parking charges from citizens using either digital parking wallets or credit cards linked to their identity. The implications, and potential upshots, of such a model for parking payments are huge: 100% compliance, payment accuracy, no manual patrolling, automatic computation of occupancy ratios, and more. Analytics similar to those used today by Conduent Parking Systems could then be applied to this continuous data to predict occupancy percentage and automatically adjust parking costs based on demand.
Blockchain’s impact on the public sector
Lastly, we are looking at the power of blockchain to transform processes in the public sector. Sharing critical data across government agencies—from law enforcement agencies to transit agencies, municipal corporations, and on—remains one of the greatest challenges facing the public sector today. However, a blockchain network could be the answer, with smart contracts to facilitate data sharing in a permissioned, distributed and secure manner across organizations.
What are some possible applications? To give just one example, imagine a crime is committed across several states, and it therefore falls under different jurisdictions. In that case, easy and secure access to selective data—plus the ability to share it—becomes critical. Data availability across agencies could be achieved with a blockchain solution, while also expediting and increasing the effectiveness of the overall process.
Of course, the handful of use cases discussed above is by no means comprehensive. To be sure, blockchain is the next technology with paradigm-shifting potential. But those organizations that mobilize early—and select the right partners in their ecosystem—will be in the best position to test out prototypes and ultimately reap the benefits of innovation.