Introduction to Blockchain Technology: Key Properties, Security & Regulation

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Blockchain technology is at the heart of cryptocurrencies. It is a shared and immutable ledger that facilitates transactions and tracks balances of assets on a network.

There is a common misconception that blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies are synonymous. According to a survey of 603 business leaders in the U.S., UK, and China conducted by Casper Labs, 53% of survey respondents saw “blockchain” and “crypto” as interchangeable terms.

This is far from the truth. Cryptocurrencies represent one of the many applications of blockchain technology.

A blockchain ledger can be used to track any type of assets – tangible (e.g., real estate, cars, supply chain) and intangible (e.g., copyright, patents).

As anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain, more businesses are beginning to see the merits of adopting the technology, be it for cost cutting, streamlining operations or reaching to a global customer base.

Key Takeaways

  • Cryptocurrencies represent one of the many applications of blockchain technology.
  • A blockchain ledger can be used to track tangible and intangible assets.
  • Logistics company DHL has developed blockchain-powered supply chain management solutions.
  • Hacking a blockchain that has a large and diverse group of miners and nodes is considered extremely difficult and unprofitable for hackers.
  • Upcoming crypto rules and regulations will affect how blockchain technology is used in the future.
  • The blockchain industry is seeing rapid innovation, with new technologies like ZK proof, L2 blockchains, and modular architecture being introduced.

Properties of Blockchain

Blockchains are often referred to as distributed ledger technology (DLT). A blockchain can be private or public in nature.

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Private blockchains have a centralized operator that sets the rules for who can join and transact on the network. Public blockchains are decentralized and permissionless.

The basic concept of blockchain is fairly easy to grasp. It is essentially a data storage technology that organizes data into blocks linked to one another in chronological order to create an irreversible chain.

What makes blockchain technology special and different from other data storage technologies is its unique properties. Let’s go through them one by one.

Real-Life Applications of Blockchain Technology

The most effective way to understand blockchain technology is to learn how it is used in real life. Here are examples of how financial institutions and corporations are using blockchain tech in 2024:

1. Watford Football Club Selling Stake on Blockchain

In June 2024, English football club Watford FC announced plans to sell 10% of the club to investors in the form of digital tokens.

According to the club, the main reason for offering Watford FC shares in the form of tokens on a blockchain was to reach “a far broader range of investors.”

Traditional fundraising processes like initial public offerings (IPO) and venture capital funding are either restricted by geographies or are not accessible to everyone.

Benefits of Using Blockchain: Watford FC was able to raise funds from investors all across the world.

2. BlackRock Tokenizes US Treasuries

Tokenization of real-world assets (RWA) is one of the biggest value propositions of blockchain technology.

In March 2024, BlackRock – the world’s largest asset manager – released its first tokenized fund, BUIDL, issued on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain. BlackRock’s BUIDL token represents a fund that invests 100% of its total assets in cash, U.S. Treasury bills, and repurchase agreements.

Benefits of Using Blockchain: By tokenizing a fund on the blockchain, BlackRock’s BUIDL token fund can be traded 24/7 globally. Traditional financial markets operate only on weekdays during business hours.

3. DHL and Blockchain-Powered Supply Chain Management

Blockchain is touted as a game-changing solution for the logistics industry. Its transparent and immutable properties allow businesses to interact with intermediaries in a supply chain in a secure manner.

In this regard, global logistics company DHL has collaborated with tech company Accenture to develop a blockchain-based serialization prototype system that helps track and authenticate pharmaceuticals along the supply chain.

DHL has also partnered with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to develop a blockchain-based invoicing system to streamline supply chain operations.

Benefits of Using Blockchain: By using blockchain technology in supply chain management, DHL was able to improve transparency, traceability, and efficiency in logistics.

Is Blockchain Secure?

Are blockchains secure? Can blockchains be hacked? These are some questions on the minds of those new to the technology.

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Blockchains can be hacked and compromised. However, in reality, several factors come into play that can make one blockchain impregnable and the other vulnerable.

Let’s take Bitcoin (BTC), for example. Bitcoin is a public blockchain. Public blockchains like Bitcoin are permissionless and decentralized, which means that anyone can use it.

Bitcoin is powered by thousands of computers called miners that are distributed all around the world. Miners validate transactions and add new blocks to the Bitcoin chain. For an attacker to hack a public blockchain like Bitcoin, they must control 51% of the network’s hashing power.

Once an attacker has acquired 51% of a network’s hashing power, they can alter past transactions and create new transactions at their will.

As Bitcoin has a large, diverse, and global community of miners, it is practically impossible for attackers to collude together to hack the Bitcoin chain. Studies also suggest that attempting to hack the Bitcoin blockchain is unprofitable for hackers. Reports estimated that conducting a 51% attack on Bitcoin will cost over $20 billion per hour.

So, whether blockchains can be hacked ultimately depends on the particular blockchain in question.

Regulations Around Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology often gets a bad name for its association with the crypto industry, which has seen its fair share of hacks, scams, money laundering, and dark web use in the last decade.

In order to prevent misuse of crypto and blockchain tech, governments across the world are coming up with new legal frameworks aimed at regulating cryptocurrencies.

Upcoming crypto rules and regulations will affect how blockchain technology is used in the future.

Stricter regimes may result in blockchain tech being used in a private, permissioned, and compliant setting for supply chain management, accounting, and identity management.

Meanwhile, crypto-friendly laws will help decentralized blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum flourish.

Lawmakers are still working on how to regulate cryptocurrencies. In May 2024, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a crypto bill – FIT21 – for the first time ever.

The FIT21 bill aims to clearly define cryptocurrencies and decide which government body regulates them.

The Bottom Line: What’s Next for the Blockchain Technology?

The blockchain industry is seeing rapid innovation. New cryptography technology, such as zero-knowledge proofs (ZK), has emerged, which will make blockchains more secure.

Elsewhere, developers are solving scalability limitations that plague many public blockchains by experimenting with layer two (L2) blockchains and sharding. If successful, public blockchains will be able to compete with traditional payment network processors Visa and Mastercard in terms of throughput, cost, and reliability.

In recent years, the blockchain industry has also seen a move away from monolithic blockchain architecture. The concept of modular blockchains is gaining popularity.

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Mensholong Lepcha
Crypto & Blockchain Writer
Mensholong Lepcha
Crypto & Blockchain Writer

Mensholong is an experienced crypto and blockchain journalist, now a full-time writer at Techopedia. He has previously contributed news coverage and in-depth market analysis to Capital.com, StockTwits, XBO, and other publications. He started his writing career at Reuters in 2017, covering global equity markets. In his free time, Mensholong loves watching football, finding new music, and buying BTC and ETH for his crypto portfolio.