Digital technology has become prevalent in today’s world. It has touched almost all aspects of life including conducting business, shopping, enhancing education and learning, entertainment, and staying connected with social world. In recent past, digital technology has evolved further to aid in conducting financial transactions. Online payments have gained huge traction along with card based payment methods such as credit and debit cards. At the same time, cryptocurrency also known as digital money is becoming increasingly popular. Distributed ledgers support the payment system for digital currency to operate in decentralized mode, by eliminating the need of intermediaries such as banks. Distributed ledger technology further enables tracking of financial transactions and makes it virtually possible to track and trade any value via digital money. It provides a robust environment for secure data sharing in real-time. Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger system providing enhanced security to the process. Blockchain comprises of blocks of digitally recorded data, creating a distributed ledger. There are many different types of distributed ledger systems, each obeying its own security and privacy levels.
Use of blockchain distributed ledger lends transparency to financial transactions and eliminates middle man, thus reducing the transaction costs. This is likely to drive the adoption of blockchain distributed ledger in the coming years. As the complex process of paper work and third party involvement extends the process of business transactions, blockchain-enabled distributed ledgers are anticipated to change the way business transactions take place. Moreover, enhanced security levels for transactions is another factor contributing to the growing influence of the technology. Distributed ledger systems are not controlled by any centralized authority and are not limited by legal rules. However, technology is governed by its own technical code.
Blockchain distributed ledger technology is at its nascent stage and has observed adoption mostly in financial sector. The cryptographic codes are extremely robust, however security concerns as hackers are constantly trying to break the authenticated cryptographic code and lack of understanding of the technology have challenged the proliferation of this technology.
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Governments in some countries are promoting the use of blockchain distributed ledgers, to influence business and fiscal transparency to enhance efficiency and reduce corruption within the country. For instance, the U.S. government recommended the development of blockchain distributed ledgers for their international partners during the launch of “America Innovation Roadshow” in May 2016. Blockchain finds its primary application in financial sector; however, innovations in the next phase are expected to drive its use in different applications such as smart contract. These contracts are termed in computer language rather than legal language. Blockchain ledger enables users to track and verify business agreement and relationships.
Blockchain distributed ledger can be categorized as unpermissioned ledgers and permissioned ledgers depending on the type of ownership. Unpermisssioned ledgers such as Bitcoin have single owner and anyone is liable to contribute data to the ledger. While permissioned ledgers might have one on many owners and are carried out by trusted owners such as banks or government bodies. Blockchain supported distributed ledgers find benefits in complex financial assets that are not under central authority to mitigate the risks of trade and regulate the process. Thus, products such as public and private stocks/bonds, syndicate loans, FICC derivatives, corporate bonds, and derivatives margin/collaterals are likely to benefit significantly from the technology. The key players associated with blockchain distributed ledger market include Chain, Inc., IBM Corporation, Intel Corporation, Accenture PLC, and Eris Industries.