Bring on The Blockchain!

If I told you that in the next five to ten years you will be able to visit a doctor, even one you've never seen before, and provide her access to all of your medical records instantaneously, would you believe me? Is it possible you might also be able to transfer money virtually anywhere in the world, in real time and at very little expense?

What if all of those loan documents and endless numbers of signatures required to open a new bank account or to take out a loan were to simply disappear? These are just a few examples of how new advancements in something known as “blockchain” technology are likely to impact our everyday lives in the near future. 

By now, you have probably heard of bitcoin. Regardless of what you may think of bitcoin the cryptocurrency, the blockchain technology underlying bitcoin has the power to radically change the way we store information and complete transactions. Blockchain technologies utilize new security features that protect our sensitive information and our assets from getting stolen or abused by malicious actors. NCMIC is excited about the prospects for these new technologies and is monitoring their progress closely. We are also investing in a number of companies that are working diligently to harness these advancements into working solutions. 

Health-care professionals see blockchain technology as a way to streamline the sharing of electronic health records in a secure way, giving patients more control over their information. Rather than allowing a single institution to store your health records, the information would be held on a secure, open-access blockchain that cannot be hacked, corrupted, or deleted. Not only would such a system save time and effort, it would no doubt save many lives. Healthcare professionals would be able to see a patient’s health history and allergies, and could avoid harmful drug reactions. Designing and implementing a universal blockchain solution is challenging for a host of reasons. However, the technology is available and the considerable benefits of such a system are generating a great deal of interest among technologists and healthcare professionals alike. The momentum is building and the question has become when, not if, such a system will become available. 

Blockchain technologies are also likely to lead to important improvements in how we interact with our banks and other financial institutions. Moving money around the world can take several days to complete and the fees can add up to be very costly.  One of the companies we are monitoring is working with hundreds of banks around the world to significantly speed up the process for wiring funds across geographic borders. This company is developing a blockchain-based protocol that allows bank customers to send funds across the globe in a matter of seconds, not days. 

In addition, banks are required to “Know Your Customer” (“KYC”) to ensure criminals and terrorists are not using their services to launder money or fund illegal activities. In order to comply with KYC regulations, banks require customers to complete a burdensome amount of paperwork to verify identity when opening an account or applying for a loan. NCMIC is actively monitoring a company that utilizes blockchain technology to store verified personal data that meets KYC requirements. Instead of asking customers to complete a set of paperwork every time they want to open an account or take out a loan, this third-party organization can provide the bank with necessary identity verification any time you want to open an account. Not only will this save a great deal of time for the both the bank and the customer, but it will be more secure because the bank will not have to handle and store sensitive customer information. 

While the future of bitcoin and all of the other cryptocurrencies will no doubt be volatile, the underlying blockchain technologies are progressing at a rapid pace.  Continued advancements in this space will lead to quicker, cheaper and more secure access to money and sensitive personal information. The examples above just scratch the surface of what is possible with blockchain technologies. NCMIC is excited about what the future holds and will look for opportunities to incorporate blockchain-based solutions as they become available to help our customers save both time and money in the years to come.

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