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Blockchain technology – Bitcoin, Libra and other promises

Bitcoin is the most famous application of blockchain technology. But it can move a lot more than money. It should make medicine safer, food cheaper and even train on time.

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Applications of blockchain technology: rail, commerce, banks

Deutsche Bahn has been experimenting with blockchain technology for some time. At his Frankfurt Innovation Lab, Matthias Felder works with his team. It wants to improve, among other things, processes in rail transport.

What the track does with blockchain technology

For this, trains, tracks – in short, every element of infrastructure – should be equipped with unique "personal keys". These are long numbers that uniquely identify each participant in the blockchain network.

Matthias Felder, Deutsche Bahn (Photo: SWR, Sebastian Felser)

Matthias Felder from Frankfurt's "Innovation Lab" (Deutsche Bahn) in front of the Blockchain test railway.

Sebastian Felser

These trains then interact with each other. Using the blockchain procedure, the train can reserve a route section binding, automatically and without the risk of double booking.

Every kilometer of the railway costs money, every stop at the train station costs money.

Matthias Felder, German Railways

Exact trains?

The team can understand the blockchain procedures at any time: "When was any part of the route booked?"

They first tested it with a wooden train and two train stations.

Wooden Train (Photo: SWR, Sebastian Felser)

Sebastian Felser

The next phase was then a two-train railway running its own routes.

Test Model (Photo: SWR, Sebastian Felser)

Sebastian Felser

The signal boxes, on which countless railway officials still manually set the course, are now just nodes of the network.

More accurate trains through network nodes?

These nodes are used to communicate between trains and tracks. This also shows why the train hopes for minor delays: If the signal box fails today, all trains must stop in their area.

On the other hand, if one network node succeeds, the other nodes take over the system. At the same time, the charge between passenger trains and used lines will automatically expire.

Another blockchain app: supermarket shelves that serve themselves

Logisticians are also trying to use blockchain technology. Here, supermarket shelves were able to communicate with their warehouses and the central distribution station was automated.

Say: The supermarket shelf registers the sensor that the chocolate bars are off. This reports the shelf to the supermarket warehouse, replenishment arrives.

The supermarket warehouse checks for sufficient reserves and, if necessary, reports to the central distribution station. The next big delivery is all about what the systems have reported automatically.

Cooling shelf in Bonn supermarket (Photo: SWR, imago pictures / wolterfoto)

Refrigerated shelf in Bonn supermarket

imago images / wolterfoto

Medical databases

Blockchain technology is even possible digital patient records. Developers are primarily concerned with security: the blockchain application is, on the contrary, protected from counterfeit products.

Who wants to manipulate them does not have to hack the central computer, but at the same time more than 50 percent of the computers in the network. This shuts off in large networks.

Safe internet capabilities

Public administration could also jump. If citizens are logged in with a passport in the blockchain app, voting booths may have had their day.

Back then, "go go" meant just a click on a smartphone. Blockchain technology should ensure that every voice is counted correctly.

The end of the banks?

The rebellion over the most famous application, the digital money "Bitcoin" and the announcement by Facebook that it will do business with "Libra" also caused some nervousness in the banks.

Bitcoin (Photo: SWR, dpa / image-alliance - Jens Kalaene)

Pay digitally with Bitcoin

dpa / image-alliance – Jens Kalaene

In fact, consumers who run their money managing the blockchain app could no longer pay transaction fees or account maintenance fees.

Despite this, Dirk Elsner of DZ Bank, a commercial bank of Volksbanks and Raiffeisenbanks, does not believe that customers are turning their backs on banks in large quantities. Unless you have an account, you always run the risk of losing money or looting it.

It is similar to blockchain applications in banking transactions: if one loses his or her access information, there is no money left.

Everyone can think for themselves what they are worth. I think the prices are below the bill, for payments clearly below.

Dirk Elser, DZ Bank

Manuscript of the show