This week Peter Coy and Olga Khariff wrote a thorough examination of the state of “blockchain” for Bloomberg BusinessWeek. It looks at some of the technology’s use cases being developed by banks and even companies like Toyota, which is imagining a smart contract system to govern car loans:
Some ideas for blockchain are a little scary. Toyota Financial Services has toyed with using a blockchain contract in which “if a finance payment isn’t made, the smart contract automatically transfers ownership and doesn’t let the owner use the car anymore. The car wouldn’t turn on,” says Chris Ballinger, the unit’s chief financial officer and global chief officer for strategic innovation. “People would do this voluntarily, because they can then finance at a lower rate.”
It goes on to highlight the bigger dreams of some blockchain enthusiasts. That is, to fundamentally improve how groups of people organize themselves by removing the need for intermediaries.
After streamlining companies, the next step for blockchain will be blowing them up. Ethereum, for one, goes beyond the ledger function to work more like Google Docs—shared software that can be used by all but is tamperproof. You can safely do business with someone you don’t know, because terms are spelled out in a “smart contract” embedded in the blockchain. There could be blockchain versions of Uber and Airbnb that are peer-to-peer: No company would need to sit in the middle of the transaction to gather data about your spending habits or collect a fee.
The entire piece is worth reading, not just for its clean summary of the current state of play for this technology, but also its thoughtful approach to examining what life in a world increasingly streamlined by smart contracts built on blockchains might be like.