Over the past few years, blockchain technology has emerged as a way to track and document cryptocurrency. The Euromoney website defines blockchain as:
“A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain. Each block in the chain contains a number of transactions, and every time a new transaction occurs on the blockchain, a record of that transaction is added to every participant’s ledger. The decentralized database managed by multiple participants is known as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).”
Over time, as the technology matured more industries found usages for blockchain, broadening the definition to:
“Blockchain is a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system.”
Now, I bet you are wondering how it works. Staff members request a transaction using the blockchain application. The transaction could be records or other assets of value. Remember, the record itself is not uploaded into the blockchain, just the metadata..
The block that will be created contains information (metadata) about the transaction, for example, sender, receiver, name of the record reviewed, record series number, date created, and other vital information for context and tracking. Then the transaction is sent to a peer-to-peer network made up of distributed nodes. The nodes validate the transaction by using algorithms. Once the transaction is finished and authenticated, the new block is added to the blockchain.
At CPS, we work with blockchain with our trusted systems offering. restorVault, our partner, uses blockchain technology.
You may have noticed that ECM industry analysts have jumped on the blockchain bandwagon. They’re announcing that blockchain is a revolution in business operations. Equally as enthusiastic are archivists in the EU, who are accessing its potential for long-term (permanent) records management. Also, InterPARES Trust, the multi-national, interdisciplinary research project exploring issues of trust and trustworthiness of records and data in online environments has declared that blockchain solves the records documentation issues inherent to ECM. Simultaneously, they also suggest that further study was necessary.
If blockchain can track financial transactions, then there are other uses, such as tracking information assets. While it won’t ever replace ECM, another area where blockchain has obvious potential is compliance and records management. Some ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) are asserting that blockchain can be used to authenticate and add an audit trail of authorized interactions. Although Laserfiche has an audit trail product, so I guess it’s a matter of what you are auditing. If it’s your records management procedure/system, you can use Laserfiche. I could see where blockchain works with Laserfiche to ensure records can’t be changed, like with our trusted systems offering.
Another blockchain scenario is facilitating information and records exchanges of documents with digital signatures between multiple agencies and the public, by ensuring a secure, transparent, and trusted exchange. Through its cryptographic functionality, certain metadata and the hash are retained and stored in the blockchain ledger. This assures that the signatures and therefore the record can be verified for authenticity. Recently, I read that blockchain may have applications within the process of voting.
To answer the question posed in the title, while I think the technology is interesting, I’m not entirely convinced of all the suggested blockchain use cases outside of cryptocurrency and records validation. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for how it can further support Laserfiche.