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It's no surprise that interest in blockchain is rapidly heating up, as companies scout out new uses for the distributed ledger technology that powers Bitcoin.
A number of IT vendors are already testing it in their products -- in some cases, as a reaction to customer inquiries about how it can be used in enterprise security, data storage and for file-sharing.
It's even being used to run an energy microgrid in Brooklyn, where Park Slope residents are now able to sell power generated from rooftop solar panels via a microgrid enabled by blockchain. (The blockchain ledger records every transaction made with a local utility.)
So what is it, exactly, and how can it be useful in business?
In short, blockchain is a public electronic ledger -- similar to a relational database -- that can be openly shared among disparate users and that creates an unchangeable record of their transactions; each one is time-stamped and linked to the previous one.
Every digital record or transaction in the thread is called a block (hence the name), and it allows either an open or controlled set of users to participate in the electronic ledger. Each block is linked to a specific participant.
Blockchain can only be updated by consensus between participants in the system, and when new data is entered, it can never be erased. The blockchain contains a true and verifiable record of each and every transaction made.
What makes it unique is that it's a peer-to-peer network combined with a distributed time-stamping server. That means blockchain databases can be managed autonomously without the need for an administrator.
Financial services were among the first to recognize its potential -- think Bitcoin -- but healthcare IT also sees promise, as do companies with record keeping and auditing needs.
Stories in this package are:
* Blockchain: Overhyped buzzword or real-deal enterprise solution?
* FAQ: What is blockchain and how can it help business?
* Blockchain used to power Brooklyn microgrid for solar energy re-sale
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