by Rebecca Merrett

How Bitcoin blockchain technology is being applied across industries

Dec 10, 2015
Technology Industry

From enabling the Internet of Things, to managing the use of digital content and improving the efficiency of global payments, there’s more to blockchain technology than just Bitcoin.

A panel from diverse industry sectors discussed how they are using Bitcoin blockchain technology at a Blockchain Workshop in Sydney on Thursday. The blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a list of all transactions made through it using Bitcoin, and allows for peer-to-peer payments over the Internet.


Eric Jennings, co-founder at wireless infrastructure provider, Filament, said blockchain technology is helping enable the Internet of Things by registering the identity of devices that connect to infrastructure or physical assets and recording payment for the use of each device.

Jennings said 71 per cent of all industrial infrastructure across gas pipelines, agricultural plots, manufacturing lines, and fleets and vehicles, is disconnected.

Filament is connecting old machines used by companies in these markets with small IoT devices. These devices send out calibration data over wireless radio networks to identify problems with equipment, which leads to massive cost savings and efficiencies, he said.

Filament’s interest in blockchain technology came about when the company’s customers wanted to pay to use their IoT device on a monthly or yearly basis. Jennings said he looked to the blockchain so that he could embed “provable payments” in the devices.

“The payment receipt for that actually lives on the blockchain, and the device only looks to see if they paid for it by looking at blockchain. We also do small micro transactions if people wish to pay between devices with Bitcoin,” he said.

Each IoT device is registered with a digital identity through the blockchain, which enables the company to track payments to that device, as we all between devices, he said.

In remote mining areas with poor connectivity, payments are made using Bluetooth-enabled devices, he said.

Digital rights management

Tracking the use of art works was a challenge for Ascribe. Chief policy officer, Greg McMullen, said the company is using the blockchain to ensure artists and content producers are being paid fees for use of their intellectual property.

“We want to provide visibility to where [content] goes and where it’s been. When a user registers their work, we take a hash of the file, which creates a unique cryptographic ID for the file, and writes that as metadata as part of the blockchain transaction.

“If I transfer the work to you, then I transfer that small amount of bitcoins to you, which signifies that the work has gone to you as well,” he explained.

A piece of content can be transferred again and again, making it hard to trace. But the blockchain records all these transfers automatically so there is always a trace, he said.

“On top of that, we built a machine learning system that will go out and search the Internet, find uses of work and report back to the creator,” he added.

“But it also allows the end user, who sometimes might wonder who created a file to go back and find the origin of it.”

Global payments

Juan Llanos, a FinTech expert and compliance executive and advisor, said having grown up in Argentina, he knows the value of saving foreign currency that is stronger and more stable than the local currency. But the laws and regulations around this can be a hindrance, he said.

“There are countries where there’s monetary restrictions, capital controls, there’s some jurisdictions that impose, due to political agendas, controls on people’s freedom to acquire foreign currency or buy and sell currency or invest.

“The problem is governments in some countries have criminalised the purchase of [foreign] currency above a certain level. So how do people protect the value of their currency, their savings? And of course, we have high inflation episodes every 10 years, which basically decimate the savings of entire generations.”

Now people can securely store large amounts of money through Bitcoin and then cash it out in a foreign currency of their choice, he said.

There are also applications for many international, global companies where they generate revenue in the local currency and need to convert it into the currency of their head office, he said.

As Bitcoin transactions on the blockchain take an average of 10 minutes to record, this could significantly speed up the time it takes to send and convert money back to a head office, he said.

“Every company that has subsidiaries across the globe that generate income or revenue in local currency has to convert that back into the currency of the headquarters.”