What is Blockchain

Are you curious about the underlying technology of Bitcoin and other crypto currencies? This blog explains that technology – blockchain – in plain English for new learners.

A blockchain is a structure that enables a digital ledger of data (a block) to be recorded, stored, and shared in a computer network environment. To process a transaction requested by a user, the network will validate the transaction, add the transaction to the current block of transactions, and chain the block into an existing blocks by hashing. Hashing means a computer generates a value from a string of text using a mathematical function. All access to the blockchain and controls are managed with software.

A blockchain network is composed of nodes that contain a complete record of all of the transactions that were ever recorded in that blockchain. The nodes are located throughout the network and can be operated by anyone who has access. For example, Bitcoin has a blockchain network with about 5,000 global nodes.

We often hear about blockchain in the context of digital currencies. However, its application is much broader than this alone.

For example, Chronicled, a San Francisco-based company, built the first IoT/Blockchain lab to help track the identities of fine art, consumer products, and luxury goods. An NFC chip with a unique identifier is embedded in a product. Blockchain is used to register the identifier and verify the legality of the product, so counterfeit goods won’t be able to pass this verification.

This is an attractive alternative to the current status quo of businesses having their own databases. Interactions between these databases are time consuming and require trusted third parties. For example, when we receive a check, we need to deposit it to a bank to transfer money from another bank into our account.  When businesses move their data to a blockchain, the deposit, withdrawal, and access are going to be directly handled between a consumer and a supplier, therefore, a trusted third party is not required anymore. Additionally, it is very difficult to change or remove data when it’s in a blockchain. Therefore a blockchain enables trusted data and facilitates transparency.

This fundamental change is going to disrupt many industries. Therefore, basic knowledge of blockchain is important for business leaders. Digest the information above and stay tuned for my next blog.

NFC – A Commodity of Apple’s

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a short-range wireless connectivity technology that makes use of interacting electromagnetic radio fields. It has been widely adopted by the public transportation sector, for applications such as the ORCA card in Seattle metro, the SmartTrip card in Washington DC metro, Oyster card in London’s tube, Leap card in Ireland and NFC coin in the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit.

Most of the Android phones have been NFC enabled since years ago. While Apple was busy filing and receiving NFC patents, the NFC ecosystem was anxiously waiting for Apple to adopt NFC in the last 5 years. With Apple’s endorsement, NFC’s adoption rate would have been much better.

In 2014, Apple finally provided an NFC solution for its mobile wallet with the release of Apple Pay for iPhone6/6+. It is very encouraging for the NFC ecosystem. However, other than Apple Pay, all other NFC functionalities have not been activated. Yes. I upgraded my iPhone to leverage Apple Pay at the time.

Three days ago, when people lined up in front of the Apple store to get iPhone8, I purchased a used iPhone 7.

Why? Apple adopted the NFC reader operation with iOS 11; only iPhone 7 and above can access the functionality. I was happy to get a discounted iPhone7, downloaded the gototabs app and was able to read an NFC tag successfully. That’s good, I suppose. At the same time, it’s a disappointing user experience.

I created that NFC tag four years ago to demonstrate Android NFC reader/writer operation. When I enabled NFC on an Android phone, I could tap and read the tag without any app. Using an app to read the same tag is definitely less an experience but the offer is significant since it enables 78+Million iPhone7 users to read NFC tags. Now it’s time to leverage NFC tags!

Obviously, NFC becomes a commodity that requires Apple’s customers to upgrade their iPhone to leverage each new offer. Would I have to upgrade my iPhone again when Apple enables NFC writer operation?

Note – This blog was published in linkedin in September 25, 2017