Big Tech Wants To Create Software To Keep You Safe. But Will It?

A major focus of my blog is Technology. Today there are numerous new technological advances which were designed with the intent of increasing safety. What are some of these new technologies? The following contributed post is entitled, Big Tech Wants To Create Software To Keep You Safe. But Will It?

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Although the news around big tech, especially the Facebook scandal, is overwhelmingly negative, there’s no denying the fact that software has the potential to keep us safe. But exactly how companies intend to do this remains a mystery for many people, so here are some of the applications of software that are already keeping you safer and doing a good job of it.

Door Alarm Software

Over the last few years, specific IoT applications have gained traction in the market, including door alarms. Rather than just having an alarm next to the door which sounds if somebody tries to break and enter, new technology now allows homeowners to get alerts direct to their phone telling them that somebody is trying to gain access to their home.

Companies, like Ring, take this one step further by integrating camera technology. People can see the person at their front door and talk to them through their devices, no matter where they happen to be. Not only does this discourage burglary, but it also creates a record of people that have been to the front door: helpful in a possible investigation.

Blind-Spot Sensing

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Data from Aitken Aitken Cohn trial lawyers suggests that there were more than 3,100 fatal accidents in California alone last year. What’s more, around nine out of ten of those was the result of driver error.

Perhaps the most critical application of software technology, therefore, is in the realm of motor vehicles. New technologies are coming on board all the time which promise to keep drivers safer than they’ve ever been before. One of the most promising of these is the so-called blind-spot sensing technology. This is a kind of technology that will keep the car in a lane if it can sense a vehicle in the driver’s blind spot, even if the driver turns the steering wheel.

Facial Recognition

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In the modern world, keeping your data safe is just as important as keeping your property secure. Software is helping people to achieve this by reducing the traditional reliance on passwords and using alternative authentication methods instead.

Perhaps the most interesting of these is facial recognition. Already companies like Intel are using facial recognition (Intel uses an app called Security True Key) to unlock mobile devices if and only if they detect a person’s face. Although the technology sounds futuristic, advanced AI is enabling devices to recognize one person’s face from another based on a set of important input characteristics. Even small changes in the distance between the eyes can make a difference to whether the software decides that it is looking at the owner of the device or not. Expect this technology to make a big splash in the coming year.

Device Tracking

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The cloud opened up a whole new bunch of possibilities for people to protect their devices using their other devices. There are now apps like LoJack and Prey, which allow you to remotely secure devices that you may have misplaced. All you have to do is log onto the app on a trusted device and then instruct it to lock all linked devices – great if you ever leave your laptop on the train.

4 Benefits and Dangers of Technology

A key focus of my blog is Technology. While the many inventions in our new digital world have made our lives easier and more pleasurable, they’ve also created numerous dangers. What are these? The following contributed post is entitled, 4 Benefits and Dangers of Technology.

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Image via Pixabay

The world we all live in today is completely dominated by technology, to an extent that would have been considered all but unthinkable even a few short years ago. We work at our computers, we arrive home and recline in front of our flat screen TV’s to indulge in a Netflix binge, and when it’s time to pick up groceries, we likely as not order them online, too.

Technology is by no means all good or all bad. It brings with it both tremendous benefits and potential downsides. The specific technology in question, and the context of its use, determine whether it’s ultimately positive or negative.

Here are a couple of benefits and dangers of technology, just to get you thinking about this issue more deeply.

Benefit: increased safety

Certain technologies undoubtedly lead to a safer world for the majority of people. Medical devices can detect potentially fatal conditions in the early stages and result in them being successfully treated. And even reviews of products and companies can prevent us from being exploited.

Then, of course, there are inventions like the police speed gun, used to prevent dangerous behaviour on the road, and catch people who flagrantly violate speed laws.

Not only are there broad social benefits to these kinds of technologies, but even on a personal level, you may benefit immensely from certain safety-oriented tools and devices.

Danger: the risk of being lost in an artificial world that plays on our psychological weak spots

It’s no secret that the creators of the world’s leading social media platforms, not to mention videogames, employ a variety of psychological tricks and mechanisms in order to exploit our basic human impulses to keep us invested in the services or products they’re offering.

This becomes a danger, especially when we’re unaware of the fundamentally addictive — and often intentionally manipulative — nature of these platforms and tools.

Author Adam Alter, writing in his book “Irresistible”, describes many instances of people whose real-world lives have been negatively impacted, often to an extreme degree, by their inability to escape the more instantly gratifying artificial world of technology.

Benefit: new ways to communicate ideas and seek knowledge from around the world

Virtually yesterday, historically speaking, the internet didn’t exist — and even for years after its creation, it was nowhere near the kind of all-encompassing encyclopedic resource that it is today.

With the development of the internet has come a previously unprecedented opportunity for the average person to communicate ideas and seek knowledge from around the world.

Personal blogs and videos bypass the need for traditional media and publishing gatekeepers. Tools like Wikipedia render a virtually limitless pool of facts and trivia accessible to all.

Danger: a more shallow and distracted kind of awareness

The Shallows” is a book by author Nicholas Carr, in which the author underlines some of the evidence for the fact that the internet has made us all more shallow and distracted than ever before.

This is an idea that’s been corroborated by various findings and theories, for years now. Simply put — with the internet, we have a pool of information as wide as the ocean to play in. But it’s as deep as a paddling pool, and means we have a broad but shallow, and distracted, awareness of many topics.

Reading books and doing traditional studying, on the other hand, theoretically helps to create a deeper and more focused kind of awareness.

Importance of Technology In Business

hree of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money, Business/Entrepreneurship and Technology. In today’s digital world, technology has infiltrated and affected pretty much every aspect of life and the business world is the same. Falling behind these advancements can be very, very costly. The following contributed post is thus entitled; Importance of Technology In Business.

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Photo by TheDigitalArtist from Pixabay

More and more we are seeing businesses turn to technology for all manner of things. The importance of tech in the modern world cannot be overstated and yet some companies continue to lag behind. To make sure you are not one of those businesses, we are going to discuss here so of the important things to remember when it comes to technology and your operations.

Equipment

Firstly, it is important to remember that technology is not just referencing the modern day use of computers. We will come on the value of the computer era shortly, but it is worth bearing in mind that if you are a manufacturer, then there may be equipment out there like CNC Machining Centres that will help you make your product quicker and possibly better. Researching the impact of the tech landscape for the industry you are working in before pushing ahead is critical to your success, so make sure you’re addressing any technological pitfalls in your business quickly.

Computers must also be discussed when it comes to the equipment being used in business, and more importantly what they are used for. Every office around the country has a computer of some kind at this point of the 21st century, but the important thing is are they using it for all they can. A lot of employees will know how to use the basics from documents to spreadsheets, but there are advantages with computers that can make your operations more efficient. You should consider applications that focus their attention on productivity like Asana so that your company can operate at a higher level than your competitors.

Photo by typographyimages from Pixabay

Security

Technology and security have had a fractious relationship over the years. It is fair to say that the rise of different software and hardware has created criminal activity that was unthought of just a few decades ago. However, there are pros as well thanks to the ability to track your systems remotely, protect your company’s important documents and keep track of your premises.

Running a business, cybercrime is never going be too far away from your thoughts due to all the sensitive data that you will be handling. For this, however, some solutions are relatively straightforward, and that also open up other opportunities for you. A virtual private server (VPS), for example, is a remote server accessible only by the user, meaning that you can install software away from your main operations and be confident in its security. Companies like HostGator and BlueHost both offer you the chance to explore this technology not just for protection, but also so that you can have a dedicated server for your website or software. What that means is that rather than splitting server power across lots of different parts of your business, you can direct one sole server to the most important bit.

Technology and business should go hand in hand. It’s just about finding what is best for you.

How Technology Is Freeing Up Entrepreneurs’ Cognitive Resources

Three of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money, Business/Entrepreneurship, and Technology. Like every other facet of life, technology has changed the entire landscape of business. Many of our new technological innovations have freed up the minds of entrepreneurs from the simpler tasks and are now allowing them to focus on the more critical aspects of their enterprises. The following contributed post is thus entitled; How Technology Is Freeing Up Entrepreneurs’ Cognitive Resources.

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Entrepreneurs have to think about a lot of things on any given day. Some of those things are profound and uniquely human, but a big chunk of it is formulaic and not particularly exciting. What’s interesting, however, is that technology is increasingly taking over much of the grunt work, freeing up entrepreneur’s cognitive resources.

Over the last couple of decades, technology – especially digital technology – has improved enormously. But not, with the advent of artificial intelligence, we see the emergence of machines which can perform cognitive tasks. For a while, smart software has been able to do things like reading handwriting – helpful for keeping a record of expenses – but today’s AI is moving far beyond that to do more sophisticated things, giving business leaders more time to focus on the things that matter.

Distributed Computing

Take the cloud, for instance. Managed IT services mean that businesses no longer have to worry about providing their own IT solutions. All that’s required for most companies today is an internet connection and a few notebooks connected to the network. In many cases, it’s no more sophisticated than a setup you might find at home. All the servers, admin, security and updates get done automatically, off-site by professionals who have a deep understanding of what they’re doing.

The role of the cloud shouldn’t be underestimated. It means that entrepreneurs don’t have to wrestle with IT issues in the same way as they did before. There’s no need to troubleshoot networking problems or do anything of these non-business critical activities. Founders are free to pursue the ideas which matter most to their business – they can deal more directly with their customer’s needs.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence helps too. Although powerful applications of the technology are still relatively new, they’re helping those at the top of business automate much more of the dull, day-to-day stuff that needs to get done to run a business. Accounting apps, for instance, have made it so that small businesses no longer need to spend hours filing away receipts or calculating VAT. Instead, it’s all done automatically by the app with minimal user input using AI technologies. AI is also helping businesses with their customer service, with things like chatbots on their websites. Chatbots can provide customers with timely information on a range of issues without ever having to use the resources of real people in the business. These automated, website-based programmes can answer most questions.

Other technologies, like RSS feeds, are also reducing the difficulty of doing research. Articles posted straight to one’s feed reduces search time and conveniently provides updates.

The Long-Term Trends

This trend of freeing up entrepreneurial time for the most creative and high-value-added activities is set to continue. Economists at the University of Oxford suggest that the majority of formulaic work – stuff that can be broken down into a series of tasks – will be automated by smart software over the next twenty years. Thus, technology, in their opinion, will reduce the value of doing rote work and increase the earning potential of entrepreneurs with creative flair.

You Need to Keep Your Technology Up to Date: Here’s Why

Three of the key focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money, Business/Entrepreneurshp and Technology. A major component of running any successful business today is properly leveraging technology and making sure that it’s up to date. The following contributed post is thus entitled; You Need to Keep Your Technology Up to Date: Here’s Why.

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Image Credit: Unsplash

We all keep saying that technology is at the heart of every business – from your website to your business processes, technology keeps the world going round. But if this is really the case then why do so many businesses make do with ancient computers, outdated systems and lacking security systems?

The main reason is this: laziness. New technology might cost a lot but given the return on your investment, this shouldn’t be a stumbling block for most businesses. No, laziness is holding lots of businesses back but there are a few things that might get you out of your seat and into action!
You Don’t Have to Go It Alone

Though you might be worried at the prospect of new technology, any IT support company will be able to get you set up and running on a new system really quickly. They will also be able to offer you constant access to support so that if anything goes wrong, you will have someone to help fast.

Generally speaking, the latest technology is easier to fix up faster for 2 reasons: 1. it is already much faster than other technologies and 2. technology is always evolving and many programs are now updated regularly. This means that even if there is a problem, it is much more likely that a fix will be available.

If you want to keep your business open 24 hours a day, the right technology is crucial.

Increase Your Productivity

Technology has always been about increasing productivity by improving efficiency. From the first machines that took workers from their living rooms to the factory floor, technology has made work faster and cheaper to produce – no matter whether that is writing a blog or building a car. And with ever more creative technologies appearing on the market, you have a lot to take advantage of.

When it comes to upgrading your technology, you have 2 choices: to keep up with the crowd or to get ahead. Keeping up should be the bare minimum you do but getting ahead of the crowd could be the difference between being part of your industry and leading it. As any business owner knows, the more productive you are and the greater your efficiency, the better your reputation will be and the more likely you are to attract star talent – even better!

Impress Your Clients

It’s not just prospective job candidates who will be impressed by your use of technology – customers and clients are always looking for the companies who are pushing the boundaries of their industry. Even in businesses where you might think that technology would take a back seat, it can have a great impact – just consider the way that the internet has changed the retail industry.

The key is that your technology should be used to demonstrate to your clients that you aren’t just forward-thinking, but you are considering every aspect of their experience with you. The more innovative you are in finding technological solutions, the more impressive your business will look.

Why Is The IOT Important To Your Business?

Two of the key focuses of my blog are Business and Entrepreneurship and Technology. As we move forward, understanding new technologies will be critical to conducting business. This will involve understanding new applications for the internet and how devices can become smarter and more connected. The following contributed post is thus entitled, Why Is The IoT Important To Your Business?

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Along with entering the digital era, a lot of people are starting to feel like the world has entered an age of abbreviations. When you work in business, it’s especially hard to escape this reality, with practically every buzzword and phrase being shortened in an effort to make it easier to digest. Of course, though, this doesn’t always work. As a great example of this, there has been a lot of confusion around the field of IoT in recent years, with a lot of businesses having no idea what this side of technology actually is. To help you out with this, while also showing you the importance of IoT to your business, this post will be showing you what it means.

What is IoT?

When broken down into the words which its letters stand for, the Internet of Things sounds like something from a sci-fi universe aimed at children. In reality, though, this area of technology is becoming one of the biggest around, with areas like automation, manufacturing, and computer networking all heavily relying on it to keep working. This phrase simply refers to networks of devices which go further than computers being connected to one another. In the future, it’s not inconceivable that every piece of electronics in a building will be working together, but this will rely on developing in the IoT field to be able to advance.

What is IoT Used for?

Currently, this side of technology is in relatively early stages of existence. Up until recently, a lot of businesses have worked hard to keep their devices from being too well connected to each other, helping to prevent issues like cybercrime. As time has gone on, though, the value in having things like lights, machinery, and even basic office logistics being handled by connected devices is becoming more apparent. Companies like Cisco are working very hard to make this sort of technology work, with research into areas like intuitive networking being a priority for their vast teams.

Getting Started with IoT

As with many emerging tech trends, it can be hard to know where a field like the IoT will go over the next few years. If you’re running a business which could benefit from this sort of infrastructure, though, it will be worth taking the time to learn more here. As time goes on, being part of an evolution like this could save you a lot of time and money, especially as practices like this become standardised. Of course, though, if you’re unsure, it could be worth waiting a few years before you get stuck in, while keeping the idea of connecting your business together in the back of your mind for another day.

Hopefully, this post will give you everything you need to assess whether or not you could use a system like IoT to run your company. As time goes on, this is only going to become more prevalent in society, especially as more and more people start to use smartphones and other devices which can connect to the internet.

A discussion on the dangers of cell phones, social media, and technology with Dr. Ralph G. Perrino

Two of the focuses of my blog are Science and Technology. Up to this point I’ve discussed technology from the aspects of careers and investing. In this post I’m taking a different approach and will discuss its potential dangers in our world which is becoming steadily more digital and technology dependent – a topic I’ve heard periodically discussed in numerous circles over the years.

Joining me in this discussion is mentor, veteran educator and fellow writer, Dr. Ralph G. Perrino. Dr. Perrino has his own blog, “Dr. Perrino’s Blog”. He has authored numerous articles, essays and books and both founded and directed the Northern Virginia Tutoring Service, which is how we first met. He was further responsible for my becoming a member of the board of directors for the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium.

Here on my blog I crafted a post titled Are we losing our Soft Skills due to Technology? On his blog, Dr. Perrino recently crafted two posts titled, I thought I had seen it all…until today, and Are we creating a digital dust bowl?, among other blog posts. The following is our recent discussion regarding the dangers facing our steadily increasing technology-dependent society and world.

Anwar Dunbar: Hello, Ralph. You’re one of my mentors and I of course know a lot about you, but can you give the readers a few facts about yourself for context? For example, what is your background? Also, how did you become involved with education?

Ralph Perrino: Sure, Anwar. I studied Sociology at Catawba College in North Carolina. I then did extensive graduate study in Sociology at the University of North Carolina, where my areas of concentration were in collective behavior and social movements, and social change. I also hold a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Doctorate in Education from George Mason University. I have taught full-time and part-time at Northern Virginia Community College as an associate professor of sociology and political science since 1984. I also founded and served as director/owner of Northern Virginia Tutoring Service, LLC, from 1994 until 2018. The reason I became involved in education is that I have always had a passion for teaching. I find that I often teach the content area while at the same time, I offer life lessons to students who are seeking direction in their lives.

AD: One of the focuses of my blog is Technology from the perspective of encouraging awareness of STEM – for careers and for investment purposes. While we celebrate our emerging technologies, there is a downside to them as well, which we’ve both written about from different angles. What initially raised your eyebrow regarding our society-wide ‘addiction’ to our new digital toys and devices and the plethora of applications that we use on them?

RP: While I do absolutely agree that there is a use and a place for technology in today’s world – education and research, investment and banking, professional connectedness and networking are just a few examples – I also believe that society has rushed to embrace the next bright, shiny object with little thought or concern about issues such as: personal privacy, family stability, interpersonal communication, civility in public, and empathy, compassion and concern for others. That said, I do see the potential benefits associated with the use of social media in the areas of collective behavior, social movements, and social change. However, sole reliance on digital means of communication to achieve social change is ill-advised, in my view.

AD: From our mentoring talks I know that you think cell phones particularly are a problem. I’m guilty of some of the things you discussed in your essay about the ‘Digital Dustbowl’, and I do enjoy quick access to information, and quickly connecting with other people which can cause unintended consequences. Can you talk a little bit about what you see happening around you every day?

RP: I have become increasingly alarmed by excessive dependence (some would say addiction) to technology in general, but cell phones in particular. Teens have been known to refer to their iPhone as, “My Tiny God.” There is something wrong with a society that values a material, digital possession to that extent. I tell my students at the college that if their biggest concern when they wake up in the morning is whether their cell phone is charged, they have a serious problem. I ask them, have we reached the point where owning a smartphone is a requirement for acceptance into the public (and private) discourse?

I also tell them that they should not leave college without some level of commitment to help others. Much, if not all, of that caring and compassion for others is not going to take place through social media. I remind them that nearly a billion people on earth each day do not have access to clean drinking water and that nearly 30% of the American population does not have regular access to the Internet. Virtually none of my students understand the “Digital Divide” between rich and poor in America. They take this privilege for granted. I point out to them that they are living in a bubble here in the Washington, D.C. area, and that their awareness of issues and challenges others face has been minimized as a result of their addiction to social media and their smartphone.

AD: Have you found any data looking at our dependence on digital devices like our cell phones?

RP: A recent Bank of America study, “Trends in Consumer Mobility”, reported that 71% of all Americans (adults and teens) say they sleep with or next to their mobile phone; 3% of those people said they sleep with their device in their hand; 13% said they keep it on the bed, and 55% leave it on the nightstand. Incredibly, the survey revealed that Americans consider their smartphone more important than sex, and 20% of those 18-34 years of age admit to checking their phones DURING sex. The list goes on.

Suffice it to say that we have a problem with over-use and abuse of smart phones. We see it every day in restaurants, supermarkets, shopping malls, sporting events, and a myriad of other places. On the one hand, smart phones and, to some extent, social media, have connected us digitally, yet they have separated us emotionally. They have: strained our relationships with others, significantly reduced levels of empathy towards others, caused us to avoid face-to-face interpersonal contact, and damaged the ability of children and others to read facial gestures, body language, and subtle signs of human emotion. They further have the potential to alienate children from society, placing them in an unrealistic virtual world where problem solving can be accomplished with the press of a button.

Some questions I find myself pondering are:

• Is there a correlation between cell phone usage and the rise in rates of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome?
• Is there a correlation between cell phone usage and the dramatic rise in school violence, digital alienation, mental health issues, teen suicide rates, and other social maladies?
• Is it affecting the stability of families?
• Is it resulting in miscommunication in the workplace?
• Is it affecting other institutions critical to societal stability?

Again, has it connected us digitally, but separated us emotionally? Much has been said here and elsewhere regarding the problem. The question in my mind is, what are the solutions? We might start with stronger parenting, and adults who model appropriate human interaction as their children are maturing and watching how their parents conduct their own lives. Children learn by modeling adult behavior. Their behavior is a reflection of our behavior.

AD: As an educator yourself, have you had to establish rules for your students in class?

RP: It has reached the point in my classes at the college where I teach that I have to ask my students to place their cell phones on a table at the front of the room at the beginning of the class. If I don’t do this, students simply cannot and will not stop using their phones. Their attention is distracted, and it is nearly impossible to generate a meaningful class discussion. I have had students as recently as last semester note in their course evaluations that, ‘Professor Perrino should continue to require no cell phone use during his class. It helped me to engage in class discussions more effectively.’

AD: Okay Ralph, you’ve given us quite a bit to think about and consider. Do you have any final comments, thoughts or stories on this topic?

RP: Each semester, I have guest speakers come to my class to speak to my students. These speakers include staff from a local homeless and substance abuse shelter; a speaker who works in the area of student nutrition in low-income, urban school districts, and other speakers who focus on sociological issues outside the parameters of a textbook.

The one speaker who rivets my students to their chairs is a 77 year-old woman who was a Freedom Rider in 1961 at the age of nineteen. Her story is compelling. She tells of being jailed in a Mississippi prison for three months with other Freedom Riders, as well as other injustices perpetrated on her and others during that time. When she completes her presentation, I always ask the questions: “Would you be brave enough at nineteen years of age to do what this person did? What story will you have to tell when you are 77 years of age?” The responses I get tell me much about how unengaged my students are from reality, even though they believe they are all connected and engaged through social media outlets.

AD: Okay, thank you, Ralph, for collaborating on this important discussion and sharing your thoughts. So many of us are walking around unaware of the larger implications of these technologies as our societal norms evolve with them. At the very least, hopefully we’ve gotten some of the readers to think and start discussions of their own, and you and I have to have similar discussions in the future.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this interview. Once again, please visit Dr. Perrino’s Blog for other insightful discussions like this. If you enjoyed this interview, you might also enjoy:

A look at STEM: Blockchain Technology, a new way of conducting business and record keeping
Who will have the skills to benefit from Apple’s $350 billion investment?
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing and technology story
A Cryptocurrency App Case Study
Why SEO really is the key to successful online business SEO
The best Apps for Crypto Investment
Tableau discusses educating in a data driven world revisited

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

A look at STEM: Blockchain technology, a new way of conducting business and record keeping

Two of the principles of my blog are “Creating Ecosystems of Success” and “Long-Term Thought”. While my scientific backgrounds are in the biomedical sciences Pharmacology and Toxicology, it’s imperative for me to keep my eyes on what’s happening in the other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-fields. This allows me to use my platform to help guide others career-wise, and also for investment purposes (see my Facebook and Bitcoin post).

I was encouraged to visit and discuss a new technology called “Blockchain” which is the buzz of the investing and technology worlds right now. Blockchain is actually not new for those who are already familiar with it, though it’s still early in its implementation. Not being in the “Tech” sector, I had to do some homework to be able to discuss what blockchain technology is, and I must say that it was well worth the research as it’s going to play a huge part in our lives going forward. As a testament to just how early we are in this technology, I couldn’t find a single book on it on a recent visit to Barnes & Noble.

So what is blockchain technology? Simply put, blockchain is a “Distributed Ledger” technology. Those are the exact words from two more senior gentlemen I overheard discussing it while at a happy hour in Old Town Alexandria recently. Because my mentor had alerted me to what blockchain technology was, I perked up when I heard their discussion. I was able to follow some of what they were talking about, and I eventually butted into their conversation.

They were also discussing “Bitcoin”, the new leading “Cryptocurrency” which runs on blockchain technology, and is currently highly deliberated in investing circles. Some people are skeptical that Bitcoin is an actual investment for numerous reasons. While it’s not clear what the future holds, as of now Bitcoin has turned into a very lucrative purchase for those who were exposed to it four or five years ago.

By the way, while Bitcoin is receiving most of the press attention right now, there are other cryptocurrencies which share its similar basic attributes which I’ll highlight later in this post. They include: Litecoin, Ethereum, Zcash, Dash, Ripple, and Monero. Similar to Bitcoin, all of them run on blockchain technology.  For a more in depth discussion of how Bitcoin runs on blockchain technology, I recommend reading What Is Bitcoin? Here’s What You Need To Know by Julian Goldie.  Also, to learn about how Bitcoin can be used in business transactions, I recommend reading Can You Use Bitcoin To Pay For Travel?

Let’s start with a short discussion of how blockchain technology actually works. Again as my background is in the biomedical sciences, this look at blockchain technology is not designed to get into the nuts and bolts of coding and developing, but instead to provide a comprehensive look at what appears to be the next major technological advance, and to give those a chance to participate in it, who otherwise wouldn’t have it.  If my explanation of blockchain technology is too simplistic for you and you want a more detailed explanation of how it works, I recommend reading What is Blockchain Technology? A Beginner’s Guide published by Invest In Blockain which also goes into further depth about how the technology works in the cryptocurrency exchanges.

To understand how blockchain works, first envision a generic transaction taking place involving a group of let’s say nine participants either in one organization, or in different locations around the world – maybe even outer space one day with the way astronomy and space travel are going. The participants or members of the network are involved in the transaction through interfaces called ‘nodes’ which are simply their own individual workstations. Documentation of all transactions is captured using a ‘shared’ or ‘distributed’ ledger. This ledger is ‘decentralized’ and isn’t under the control of any one party.

All communication inside the network takes advantage of a ‘cryptography’ to securely identify the senders and the receivers. When one of the nodes wants to add facts to the shared ledger, a consensus is formed within the network to determine if they in fact should be added, and this consensus is called a “block”. A series of these blocks comprise the ‘chain’ which all participants can see, and which no one can change once it’s created.

In terms of concept, an example of how a blockchain would work is the “SharePoint” web-based collaborative platform that ingrates with Microsoft Office. Document sharing technology allows multiple permissioned individuals to craft and edit the same document simultaneously on the same platform in real-time. This technology removes the need to circulate drafts of a document to the members of the team via email making production less cumbersome and giving the authors absolute control over the drafts. Those who have permission to work on the document can also see who else is making edits thereby giving the collaboration transparency. Overall, this leads to increased efficiency, and the saving of both time and resources.

At this point, I’ll summarize the three advantages of blockchain technology. I’ve pulled them from a very informative video by IBM about ‘Hyper-Ledger Blockchain’ technology. Most descriptions of the technology involve these three core attributes:

Creation of a distributed record: All parties involved in a particular transaction or business activity have a shared record of those activities. No one person or organization has ownership of the system.
Addition to the chain is permissioned: All parties must agree on a new record or block being added to the chain. This adds trust to the transactions making them tamper resistant and highly secure.
Transactions are secured: No one can change or delete a record from the chain making it permanent and eliminating the opportunity for fraud. A hacker for example cannot corrupt the records once it’s created.

It’s important to consider how blockchain will affect all of our lives, and it will do so in multiple ways. Let’s start in the context of banking/business. Anyone who checks their bank accounts as regularly as I do understands that many transactions don’t post/reconcile immediately – checking deposits for example. Money deposited from checks typically doesn’t transfer from one account to the other until the next businesses day – the check has to ‘clear’.

In a blockchain transaction, the transfer of funds is instant once it is approved by all parties. Currently in many business transactions, a third party intermediary is necessary which adds costs and additional levels of complexity to the transactions in addition to the potential for fraud. Blockchain technology eliminates the need for these intermediaries, and in addition to making the most mundane banking transactions more efficient, blockchain will also impact more complex transactions like the buying and selling of publicly traded securities like stocks.

My first example involved banking but blockchain’s application potential spans far beyond that. The other major impact will be in industries where it’s important to track ‘supply chains’ for products of all kinds. The IBM video described above highlights blockchains’s application in the supply chains of diamonds.

However the most important supply chains it could impact could be those involving agricultural commodities and other food sources. In instances where there is an E. coli contamination for example, such as the one experienced by Chipotle recently or Burger King before that, blockchain technology would make it much easier to track the sources of those contaminations and pull them out of the market. With my backgrounds in Pharmacology and Toxicology, it can also be used to accurately track supplies of drugs and other industrial chemicals. It’s also currently being implemented into federal and state government agencies to help make their functions more efficient – the distribution of welfare checks for example.

I’ve described two uses for blockchain technology, but its potential applications are vast. Industries that can be impacted by it include:

• Smart contracts
• The sharing economy
• Crowdfunding
• Governance
• Supply chain auditing
• File storage
• Prediction markets
• Protection of intellectual property
• Internet of Things (IOT)
• Neighbourhood Microgrids
• Identity management
• Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC)
Data management
• Land title registration
• Stock trading

The demand for blockchain developers is currently high and is increasingly growing. In terms of salary, many developers make over $255,000 per year. Still being in its infancy, those individuals who gain the skills to develop blockchain applications today will be on the forefront of the technology in years to come. They will work within businesses and government agencies where they will act as supervisors and directors.

In the private sector they will create and run entire firms and companies similar to how Steve Jobs and Bill Gates captained Apple and Microsoft respectively. For the younger generations, not knowing about blockchain will be particularly disadvantageous in terms of gaining employment and being able to compete in the new global and highly digital world economy.

Where can one learn to develop blockchain applications? Once again, we’re still early the technology, but some universities and companies have responded by offering a range of blockchain related courses which vary from online formats, to traditional lectures, as well as privately run boot camps. Some notable universities offering training include: MIT, Stanford, and Princeton. Companies such as IBM have courses as well. There is also an abundance of blockchain conferences scheduled in the next year in the United States and around the world.

As described above, knowing about blockchain will benefit those who learn to develop it through future employment and through working in the technology. For the lay person, it presents tremendous investing opportunities. Blockchain is only going to continue expanding in terms of its usage and application. It’s thus important to keep an eye on who is using it, and how they are implementing it, as it may lead to a similar phenomenon to what we saw with Facebook and Bitcoin. Those opportunities started off small, but those who were prepared to take advantage of them were greatly rewarded later on.

Understanding technologies like blockchain or just knowing they exist can be life changing. One of the recurring themes of my blog is that I had no STEM professionals in my own family, so I’m fortunate to have landed where I’ve landed career-wise. It was all predicated on someone realizing that I had the aptitude for science, and then encouraging me down that educational path. Thus just as it was important for me to do the research on blockchain to be able to prepare this post, it’s equally important if not more so, for readers to share this information with students and families who can benefit from it, or with individuals who can actively and creatively disseminate it.

A special thank you is extended to my mentor who will remain anonymous, for challenging me to learn about blockchain and also for encouraging me to craft this post on this very exciting and important emerging technology. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, you might also enjoy:

A discussion on the dangers of cell phones, social media, and technology with Dr. Ralph G. Perrino
Who will have the skills to benefit from Apple’s $350 billion investment?
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing and technology story
A Cryptocurrency App Case Study
Why SEO really is the key to successful online business
The best Apps for Crypto Investment
Tableau discusses educating in a data driven world revisited

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