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Blockchain demystified

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By Julie Sengl

“Moving forward, I think almost anybody in business, in a leadership role, is going to have to at least understand the capabilities of blockchain technology.”  

With elements like cryptography, hashes, algorithms, and a distributed network of nodes, a non-technical person might be inclined to dismiss blockchain as an enigma, turn and walk away. Here’s why that would be a mistake. 

Blockchain is right up there with IoT (the Internet of Things), AI (artificial intelligence) and RBA (Robotic Process Automation) as one of the big four technologies transforming the world of business and, by extension, the world. 

At its core, blockchain is a transaction ledger and is frequently used as an event tracking system — made accessible through an app — that can help companies share data, streamline their processes, manage their supply chains, build trust, transparency, accountability and consensus into daily transactions (both tangible and intangible) and, of course, save money. 

Once information is logged into a block, it’s immutable, which means it can’t be tampered with or changed without leaving a digital footprint. And with each block hashed, or linked to the previous block, the chain of events is recorded verbatim. 

person working on laptop with hologram overtop

Cross-industry disruption

It’s a hefty tool in the digital arsenal, and while a deep dive into blockchain’s inner workings may best be left to accomplished programmers, one doesn’t have to understand the technology behind it to understand what it can do and why it’s growing in popularity among businesses in just about every sector.

In the world of finance, for example, blockchain is being used to track and validate cross-border trading data in real-time, streamline fund transfers and garner trust in business-to-business payments.

Grocery chains are using blockchain to manage quality control and to track produce from farm to cart. If they can precisely pinpoint the origin and distribution of their produce, grocers can avoid costly generic recalls when there’s a listeria or salmonella contamination issue. Likewise, customers can check the provenance of their purchases.

The health care sector and pharmaceutical companies are using blockchain to curb drug tampering and other counterfeit or fraudulent activities.

In the energy sector where prices fluctuate day to day, oil and gas companies are using blockchain to verify that the market price of the fuel they purchase aligns with the day the tanker is actually filled and shipped to them. 

The United Nations is looking to blockchain to help people in developing nations establish digital identities and thereby can gain access to resources they need to survive and thrive. Governments are employing blockchain to secure data and prevent fraud. 

As more and more organizations unlock the potential of blockchain, its applications will only continue to expand. 

Shaping the future

In the future, every programmer is going to have to learn how to connect and build blockchain,” says Jon Trask, the CEO of Blockchain Guru, a Calgary-based consulting and software development firm and one of SAIT’s valued industry partners.

“Moving forward, I think almost anybody in business, in a leadership role, is going to have to at least understand the capabilities of blockchain technology.”  

SAIT is currently offering courses which touch on blockchain through the Centre for Continuing Education and Professional Studies, including:


This story was originally published in the Centre for Continuing Education and Professional Studies guide in the Fall 2020 issue of LINK magazine

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