A recent survey by HSBC bank found that 60% of consumers have never heard of blockchain and that 80% of consumers who claimed to have heard of it don’t understand it at all. For many people it is still “something far away” and the constantly dropping cryptocurrency rates do not really help to hype this pioneering technology. It is believed that technology is to be of interest only to large companies while, in fact, practical applications for consumers already do exist. Recently I have been able to discuss the impact of blockchain on our society in depth. I always share the following top 4 implementations of the technology for consumers that already exist:

1) From Seed To Sale

The many food scandals of the past few years and the constant disclosures by consumer organizations about misleading products, from broiler chicken to horse steak, haven’t contributed to the good name of the industry. More than half of consumers now want to know exactly where products come from and how they are made, particularly because buying decisions are increasingly being based on the level of environmental and social responsibility shown by the producing company. Recent research also shows that making this supply chain transparent can ensure lifelong relationships with customers.

Many companies are currently realizing this wish at great speed. Albert Heijn started a pilot with orange juice, allowing consumers to see the entire chain via an app all the way back to the tree. Fairfood has placed Indonesian coconuts and Colombian coffee on the blockchain, not only to make the entire chain transparent for consumers but also to draw attention to the unfair way in which profit is shared in the chain, which pushes many farmers to live below the poverty line. The American supermarket Walmart went one step further; from next year it wants to put all its fruit and vegetables on the blockchain.

It is not just food but also products like diamonds, cannabis, drugs, and cars that already have been successfully placed on the blockchain. This has not only led to more significant transparency in the chain but has also demonstrated cost reduction and more efficient use of materials.

2) Payments

Blockchain technology predominantly gained a reputation in relation to financial transactions. Not just the Bitcoin blockchain, which started the revolution 10 years ago, but also predecessors such as Digicash focused on simplifying transactions. It is likely that the blockchain will have the biggest impact in this area in the time to come, resulting in many positive outcomes for consumers. It will reduce transaction costs as well as the duration of a transaction. This will have a major impact in developing countries in particular since a regular transaction through companies like Western Union can sometimes take a few days and they can charge up to 10% of the transaction amount. There are already various Bitcoin ATMs throughout the Netherlands and the introduction of Bakkt, a project that wants to support the massive adoption of cryptocurrencies by offering a trusted infrastructure for trading, launching and storing the currency, is expected to give the go-ahead for further development from crypto payments.

3) Retaking Control Of Your Own Data

Personally, I consider the opportunity for consumers to reclaim control over their own data to be one of the best examples of the applications of blockchain technology. Various projects have already been successfully started in the Netherlands whereby, for example, personal data is put on the blockchain to allow processes to run more efficiently and without errors. For example, hospitals currently print out data from patients and send it by post to another hospital where another employee captures the information. The startup Labchain from Heerlen, the Netherlands, ensures that by putting patient’s medical data on the blockchain the data can instantly be exchanged with another hospital cheaply and without errors.

Various Dutch municipalities are already experimenting with placing WMO (Social Security Support) and PGB (Personally Allocated Budget) files on the blockchain that usually involve other organizations too. By placing these files on the blockchain, they are always available in real-time, while it also guarantees that everybody will use and access the latest version, something that currently often goes wrong and which has unpleasant consequences for the people involved.

Facebook and Google own more data about us than we would like. Furthermore, various studies show that advertisements and popups are perceived as very negative and that more and more people are therefore installing adblockers. Various applications have already been developed on the blockchain, which give consumers power over their own data and whereby advertisers can let the consumer pay directly for the supply information, without the intervention of the Facebook and Google advertising duo. A technology that brought the Dutch startup Faktor fame is the one from which the very popular Brave web browser originated.

4) Validate Authenticity

The European Union has calculated that 5% of imported products are counterfeit. This doesn’t just mean Nike shoes and Louis Vuitton bags; products like Chiquita bananas, olives and medicines are also being copied on a large scale. Tens of thousands of people die in Africa every year because 1 in 10 medicines sold is, in fact, fake.

By putting products on the blockchain and providing them with NFC (microchips), consumers not only have the possibility of reviewing the production chain of a product, but they can also check whether the product is genuine. Kayne West already did this with his sneaker line and H&M has set up a pilot with the Chinese blockchain startup VeChain to allow consumers to trace their clothing.

Capgemini has calculated that the use of technology by banks and insurers will save the average consumer $500. Blockchain startups are currently introducing new applications for consumers at great speed that will allow items to become more efficiently, cheaply and easily accessible. This ranges from loyalty programs to insurance, and from charities to real estate.

However, there is still much that needs to be done before a real mass adoption of the technology will become reality. Applications must be made more user-friendly as well as easier and faster to scale up. Stablecoins are expected to eliminate the strong volatility of crypto rates and bring consumers confidence that the value of currency won’t drop sharply and suddenly.

I’m looking forward already to all the great developments that will come in 2019!

Jan Scheele is active in the web3 (blockchain, crypto, NFTs, DeFi) industry since 2013. Besides (former) CEO of a web3 scaleup and founder of an advisory boutique (working for governments, family offices and several multinationals), he is Digital Leader at the World Economic Forum and Board Member at the Blockchain Netherlands Foundation (BCNL). He is writing, consulting, speaking and training regularly about everything web3, all over the world. Furthermore, he is currently finalizing his book about the rise and global impact of blockchain technology.