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Blockchain breakthroughs – just how much can the tech do?

If you’ve been following the technology space over the past year or so, you can’t have failed to notice increasing talk about blockchain. First implemented in 2009, the technology consists of ‘blocks’ that hold batches of timestamped transactions, with each block linked to the previous one through cryptography, thus forming a chain.While it was originally envisioned as a means of facilitating cryptocurrency exchanges, because blockchain offers the possibility of creating a fraud-proof system for conducting transactions it has huge potential for use outside of the digital currency sphere, attracting interest not just among traditional financial institutions, but in areas as diverse as manufacturing and food production, among others.Blockchain technology has advanced rapidly in recent months to become one of the most exciting and highly-anticipated fields in the tech world – but what can it really mean for you? We take a closer look at some of the biggest blockchain breakthroughs that are on the way.
Banking
One of the most immediate use cases for blockchain is in the financial and banking sectors, where ensuring speed, security and efficiency are all paramount. Thanks to blockchain’s decentralized infrastructure, the technology could allow banks and other financial organizations to carry out transactions faster and more efficiently.In particular, blockchain can help tackle security challenges, helping to prevent fraudulent activity or cases of identity theft by providing a trackable record of all transactions happening on a network.
Mastercard is among the financial firms looking to harness the power of blockchain to make transactions easier and safter
A number of leading financial institutions have already signed deals to bring blockchain into their operations, including IBM, which has partnered with Axoni and R3 to develop and deploy distributed ledger technology, potentially enabling faster and more secure deals.Blockchain could also work on a national scale, with several developing nations that lack traditional banking infrastructure instead implementing blockchain-based national currencies, and the technology is also being used by several major charity projects to help those without bank accounts.
Retail
In a similar vein, blockchain could also help bring a number of efficiencies and improvements to the retail sector.Payments for retailers could be greatly simplified through using blockchain, not least in helping allow transactions to be completed through virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. The use of cryptocurrencies has a number of advantages for cross-border payments, which can often be tied up in financial legislation, and can also often be the victim of fraudulent interference. Using blockchain could ensure payments of all sizes would be safe, and allow transactions from other sides of the globe to go through quickly and safely.
Blockchain technology could be used to enable fast and secure international payments
Customers would also be able to benefit from much more advanced loyalty and reward programs using blockchain systems. Tokens and vouchers could be streamlined using blockchain, allowing real-time updates on loyalty or frequent shopper programs that customers will love – and again offering a more secure system hopefully resilient to the data breaches that happen all-too-frequently today.Lastly, blockchain systems could also help retailers and manufacturers alike track their supply chains more easily. For big businesses in particular, a supply chain can be a hugely complex web of different firms dotted around the world, each with their own systems and processes. Blockchain could simplify this by allowing real-time updates and data sharing on areas such as shipping progress – with less chance of interference or fraud as well.
Security
As mentioned, the decentralized nature of blockchain technology gives it a major advantage in the security stakes – an important consideration in today’s cybersecurity-conscious world.Blockchain is theoretically more secure than current systems, offering higher levels of data security and protection against fraud due to its distributed ledger structure, which breaks up and then parcels out data to multiple locations, rather than being stored in one central location.
Blockchain technology could be used to prevent cybercrime such as the WannaCry ransomware attack
Building this approach into an organization such as a bank or a hospital could greatly increase the level of security protection available, in theory safeguarding against typical forms of cyberattack, with blockchain networks continually updated to ensure even greater protection.However, as with any security platform the risk of attack is always present, with cybercriminals engaged in a constant battle of wits with security experts. It may be that the blockchain system comes under attack, although for now it seems to offer protection far above that of any other platforms.
Storage
As the world around us becomes smarter and more technology-dependent, the amount of data being created each day has skyrocketed. This has led to increasing concerns about just how all of this information is going to be stored and monitored – and here again blockchain potentially provides the solution.Cloud storage has rapidly become a cost-effective and popular method for storing large amounts of data; however, there remain major concerns around stability and security. Blockchain technology could be the answer, powering open-source P2P networks that connect users with their data via a distributed network that should be stable even under great stress, with users able to offer up or rent out storage as required.The security of cloud storage could also be given a significant boost by blockchain, particularly where the data is valuable financial or personal information. Public sector organizations which handle large amounts of such information, such as governments or schools, are often ill-equipped to do so, relying on outdated systems or technology.
And all this, in the palm of your hand
The smartphones of today are light years ahead of their counterparts of a few years ago, and with their processing power increasing all the time, it’s certain that blockchain will soon be coming to your phone.HTC made headlines earlier this year with its Exodus device, which it says will be the first mass-market blockchain smartphone.
Could mobile devices such as HTC’s Exodus be the future of cryptocurrency trading?
The firm says the Exodus is the launchpad for its new native blockchain network ecosystem, with individual devices acting as nodes for cryptocurrency trading between users.Set to go on sale soon, the device will feature a cold storage wallet that will support all major cryptocurrencies, including the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum, as well as decentralized apps. The device will also be extra-secure due to high-level encryption tools, as well as the ability to connect to super-fast networks to ensure speedy transactions.It remains to be seen just how viable a blockchain smartphone will be, but it looks like the future of the technology could well be mobile-powered.
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Pixel Slate could be the real name of Google’s next 2-in-1 Chromebook

A fresh leak claims that Google has named its 2-in-1 Chromebook device – previously referred to as ‘Nocturne’ – and it will apparently be christened the Pixel Slate.This is according to David Ruddock, managing editor of Android Police, who tweeted that he heard the news from a trustworthy source (and it’s a potential name which has been kicking around for a little while now).
So, the Google Pixel Slate? The immediate reaction to the name in the TechRadar office was dubious, it has to be said, and it’s perhaps too closely adhering to the philosophy of ‘does what it says on the tin’, and lacking somewhat in imagination.
Pixels aplenty
The name has a ring of truth to it, though, as far as we’re concerned, and obviously fits in with Google’s other Pixel-named products.This hybrid Chromebook is expected to be revealed at Google’s big Pixel 3 phone launch on October 9, alongside another Chrome OS device (possibly the Pixelbook 2, which is rumored to be available before the year is out).As we’ve reported previously, the Pixel Slate/Nocturne will be a 2-in-1 tablet with a detachable keyboard, allegedly with third-party keyboards on offer – we’ve seen a leaked product image of the device with a keyboard made by Brydge.Another spilled image also points to the fact that the tablet has a depression at the top-left, which is likely to be a fingerprint sensor. All this, as ever, remains in the domain of speculation.At least the Google Pixel 3 event is coming soon on October 9th and we expect to see official announcements for all of the search company’s new products including the Google Pixel Slate.
These are the best Chromebooks we’ve seen in 2018
Via 9 to 5 Google

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