Document management has always been closely related to Capture. How people view the definition of a “document” of course is changing as people get acclimated to a digital document world. The nature of a document as proof, is also transforming in the digital world where security features are employed to render a document as unalterable. The way documents are exchanged in the business process is also changing, from physical delivery to various network based systems designed to securely exchange documents and information. Blockchain is a promising technology that will likely revolutionize the way that network systems operate to securely deliver unaltered documents with a defined chain of custody.
Blockchain can be defined as an incorruptible shared digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value. Blockchain is truly distributed with no single point of failure. Ledgers are maintained on many computers. Blockchain cannot be controlled by a single entity. With the appropriate permissions the ledger can be modified without worry about version control issues. Blockchain data is embedded in the network as a whole and by definition is public. But blockchain data cannot be modified. It would take tremendous computing power to overcome all nodes on the network.
Although blockchain is the underlying technology for Bitcoin its potential uses go far beyond crypto currency financial exchanges. Financial institutions are potentially seizing the opportunity to reduce costs and improve clearing with better float through utilizing blockchain to replace the conventional clearinghouse. Thus they are investing in blockchain. The security offered by blockchain is attractive to the healthcare industry for also the secure transfer of medical records is attractive. Secure supply chain tracking is also being enabled by blockchain. The legal market looking to blockchain as a validation that documents are in an unaltered state.
Capture 2.0 Services that enable organizations to interpret and understand incoming multichannel data and thus transforming them into information. If your Capture 2.0 offering touches these applications you need to begin to understand and leverage opportunities that the move to blockchain will provide:
- Contract management – “Smart Contracts” - Distributed ledgers enable the coding of simple contracts that will execute when specified conditions are met. In this context, XBRL may well have a place – please see our Capture conference for more on this.
- Governance – by making results fully transparent and accessible a blockchain based distributed database technology can bring full transparency.
- Supply Chain – a complete unaltered record of transfer of goods from one party to another is available with the distributed ledger.
- File storage – decentralized file storage has clear security benefits by distributing the data throughout the network. Also an internet made up of completely decentralized websites has the potential to speed up file transfer and streaming times.
- Identity management - Distributed ledgers offer enhanced methods for confirming identity, along with the ability to attach digital personal documents. Anti money laundering and know your customer practices could be improved through use of a distributed ledger.
- Data management – users will have the ability to manage and potentially sell data. Crypto currency can be utilized for micro transactions.
- Land Title Registrations – publically accessible ledgers can make record keeping more efficient. Currently land titles are costly, labor intensive and susceptible to fraud. Blockchain could provide opportunities for improvement.
- Other deeds and transfers.
Capture vendors participating in developing markets should become aware and take tie into this technology trend where appropriate. In the developed world there is a relatively high level of trust in financial institutions and other corporations where information is exchanged, but that is not the case in developing markets in Africa, India, Eastern Europe, Russia, etc. The security provided by blockchain is very attractive in these markets.
Financial markets are further along exploring and investing in blockchain than manufacturing and healthcare markets. As Blockchain relies on a new distributed way of information exchange there are barriers to adoption. Of course this new technology has drawn the attention of regulatory agencies. In the US the Center for Medicare Services have expressed interest but are still in the consideration stage. As blockchain is new there can be missteps in applying this architecture. Blockchain’s foundational value is in its decentralized architecture but some are attempt to utilize it as a centralized database with added security. In order to scale in a desired way, blockchain needs to be implemented in a proper manner. There can be some long term benefits to implementing blockchain but it is an expensive time consuming process. At this point, only large enterprises can afford to play.
The nature of the document, the means of transmission and sharing, as well as the validation and security of the information in the document have the potential of being enhanced by distributed ledger blockchain type technology. It is not for every application today but it will impact the way that information is shared in the future. It is just a matter of time. As this technology matures HSA will be tracking further implications on Capture 2.0 services.