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Sep 4, 2018

Are You Blockchain Bound?

Sponsored Content provided by Robert Burrus - Dean , Cameron School of Business - UNC-Wilmington

This Insights article was contributed by Dr. Brian R. Kinard, Professor of Marketing, Cameron School of Business

Blockchain – the distributed cryptographic ledger technology that has given rise to the cryptocurrency craze – is now becoming a building block in business school curriculum.

Top business schools, such as Duke, MIT and Harvard, have added a series of courses in blockchain technology to their programs over the past two years, and Stanford University recently launched a Center for Blockchain Research. The emergence and rapid expansion of courses designed around blockchain development and cryptography should come as no surprise, as Upwork ranked blockchain as the fastest growing freelance skill in the United States for the second consecutive quarter.

These facts may lead you to ask a few basic questions:


What makes blockchain technology so useful?

Peer-to-Peer Transactions – a blockchain allows for the use of cryptography to verify transactions without the need of a central authority. This implies that you can exchange goods and services without the need of traditional intermediaries, such as a financial institution. Utilizing this bypass increases transaction speed and generally reduces the cost incurred when going through a middleman.

Transparent Tracking – the cryptographic ledger chronicles every event that occurs on a blockchain. It also operates on a distributed platform that allows every member of the network access to view and trace the continuous ledger records. This means that you can always verify the origin, authenticity and any future dissemination of information by auditing the transaction trail.

Trustless System – a single shared version of the cryptographic ledger exists, so any change or update (i.e. transaction) must be verified and approved by consensus among participants in the network. This is considered to be a trustless system, since everyone has access to the blockchain, yet no single entity can control it.


How are businesses using blockchain?

While the initial focus of blockchain implementation has been in the financial sector, the technology is already benefiting numerous industries.

Anheuser-Busch InBev launched its first advertising campaign through a mobile marketing application that utilizes blockchain to track hourly impression, engagement and price metrics.
 
Starbucks recently announced a pilot program to incorporate blockchain technology into their supply chain system in order to track coffee bean shipments from Costa Rica, Colombia and Rwanda.
 
Air New Zealand is experimenting with blockchain to track traveler baggage, while American Express is incorporating blockchain into its customer loyalty programs.
 
Blockchain is even finding its way into politics, as the state of West Virginia will allow military personnel stationed abroad to use a blockchain-based mobile voting application during the midterm elections this year.  
 
It seems there is no shortage of use cases for this technology. So, what can blockchain do for you? Are there any opportunities to introduce blockchain technology into your business in a way that it might increase efficiencies, reduce costs or enhance trust?
 

Can I benefit from blockchain?

Keep in mind that while blockchain is likely to be a disruptive technology in many industries, it may not be suitable for your organization. Are you relying on a third party to execute transactions? Do you contract with outside agencies to create a sense of trust with customers? Do multiple people in your organization need to access and verify the same information? Are you required to monitor and track shipments from multiple suppliers?
 
If you doubt any of these issues are of importance, then you may fail to realize the inherent benefits of blockchain.

Robert T. Burrus, Jr., Ph.D., is the dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, named in June 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Prior to his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance. Burrus earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Wake Forest University. The Cameron School of Business has approximately 60 full-time faculty members and 20 administrative and staff members. The AACSB-accredited business school currently enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate students in three degree programs and 200 graduate students in four degree programs. The school also houses the prestigious Cameron Executive Network, a group of more than 200 retired and practicing executives that provide one-on-one mentoring for Cameron students. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit http://csb.uncw.edu/. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected]. 

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