A blockchain is a continuous sequential chain of blocks containing information according to certain rules. Most often, copies of blockchains are stored on many different computers independently of each other.
For the first time, the term appeared as the name of a fully replicated distributed database implemented in the Bitcoin system. That is why blockchain is often referred to as transactions in various cryptocurrencies. However, blockchain technology can be extended to any interconnected information block.
As of May 2018, three efficient generations of blockchain were used:
- The first technology, Blockchain 1.0, appeared in 2009 and proposed a new transaction registration principle.
- In 2013, the Ethereum platform introduced smart contracts that stored terms of the contract in blockchain and allow to automatically execute it subject to a number of contract terms. This reduces intermediaries, costs, and bureaucratic expenses. The risk of third-party intervention is eliminated.
- By 2017, Blockchain 3.0 projects such as Cosmos, DFINITY, and EOS appeared. They are more productive than the technologies of the first two generations.
The third generation of blockchain technology is still in the process of development. However, active work is already underway on solutions that can bring about a revolution in the industry. This is the Seele project, which is often referred to as the fourth blockchain generation. The technology involves the development of large-scale industrial applications that can simultaneously manage many processes, process, and store huge amounts of data, ensuring their logical interconnection and consistency.
Many companies are exploring the possibility of using blockchain technologies everywhere, from finance to manufacturing.
- Microsoft is developing Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) software on its Azure cloud platform.
- IBM launched its own BaaS offer; it is supposed to be integrated with other products of the company, such as the IBM System z computer network, the Watson artificial intelligence system for the Internet of Things, etc.
- Blockchain Foundry focuses on blockchain-based services for prototyping and industrial production.
- BigchainDB offers scalable blockchain services.
- Chain advertises the blockchain platform for financial services.
- IBM and Samsung are working on the ADEPT concept, in which blockchain technology will be used to form the basis of a decentralized network of devices – the Internet of Things. Blockchain is planned to be used to register billions of devices that will autonomously broadcast transactions in a system with a three-tier architecture.
The European Commission, which launched the EU Blockchain Observatory in partnership with the ConsenSys blockchain start-up company, played a significant role in promoting blockchain.