How could blockchain be used in the enterprise?

The technology that underpins bitcoin could be used to support online voting, cloud computing, land registries and more

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Bitcoin has made plenty of headlines since the cryptocurrency first emerged in 2009, but more recently attention has turned to its underlying technology: the blockchain.

Blockchains are a way of storing information (transactions, in Bitcoin's case) in a distributed way: sharing it between many parties, thus doing away with the need for a trusted central server. See also: what is Blockchain?

The blockchain can only be updated with the consent of the majority of participants and, once entered, information can never be erased, meaning it can provide a definite, verifiable record of 'digital events'.

The decentralised, distributed nature of blockchains brings a number of benefits: stronger security as the ledger is shared by thousands of computers, transparency as all transactions are publicly recorded, and decreased risk. No single authority has control, so if there is a glitch and one of the nodes in the network goes down, the system can still function.

As a result a number of banks have started exploring blockchain's potential to make payments faster, cheaper and more transparent.

Some of the major vendors are lending their weight behind making blockchain a concretely viable business prospect. IBM and Microsoft are two companies that are dedicating serious resources towards the blockchain, with IBM spearheading the Hyperledger umbrella project of open source blockchains.

Read next: From supply chain to equity: real-world uses of the blockchain today

The potential use for the blockchain is vast. It could be applied to almost any form of record-keeping, agreement, contract or register. The UK government has started exploring how it could use the blockchain for public services. Here are just a few of the ways blockchains are being used or could be used in future.