Blockchain is a trending topic most commonly known as the technology behind digital currencies, like Bitcoin. But a Clemson University researcher is looking to analyze how businesses can make better use of blockchain’s capabilities to improve their processes.

Marten Risius and Kai Spohrer are researching blockchain's many uses

Kai Spohrer, left, and Marten Risius are researching blockchain and its benefits to business.
Image Credit: Clemson University

Marten Risius, assistant professor of management in the College of Business, is collaborating with Kai Spohrer, assistant professor of information systems with the University of Mannheim, Germany, to explore various blockchain platforms so businesses will know which blockchain technologies are best suited for them and how to deploy them.

“In essence, a blockchain is a fully distributed and cryptographically secured database of sequential events and transactions. Blockchains offer certain characteristics such as transparency, automation, and immutability.” Risius said. “While it is often discussed that blockchain applications may replace businesses, we are interested in how businesses can use blockchains for their own, and their business partners’, advantage.”

Risius and Spohrer recently received a $32,000 grant from the German Academic Exchange Service to conduct their research. The exchange service provides support for junior academics and students who are pursuing international scholarship.

The Clemson and Mannheim researchers will focus their study on various applications of blockchain to determine why service providers choose to work on certain blockchain platforms, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Corda.

“All of these platforms have different characteristics. We’re interested in understanding why certain services are built and offered on different platforms,” Risius said. “By understanding the applications and their entangling with the underlying platform, we will be able to inform businesses how to leverage blockchain technologies for their needs,” added Spohrer.

Although the financial services industry has been one of the first to experiment with blockchain, Risius said its benefits extend well beyond digital currencies. He highlighted supply chain management as one area that is ripe for the technology.

“For instance, by implementing blockchain within the food supply chain it’s easy to determine when and where a food product was produced,” Risius said. “The recent mass disposal of romaine lettuce could have been minimized by the blockchain technology. There would have been an uploaded record of specifically when and where the contaminated lettuce was produced. By pinpointing its origins, much of the lettuce that was removed from stores could have been consumed.”

Blockchain technology is beginning to affect the way we work and see the world, Risius said. Its uses span many industries, including digital identifications and voting, real estate, land and auto title transfers, medical recordkeeping, tracking prescription drugs and weapons tracking, to name a few.

“The uses of this technology are without boundaries,” Risius added. “You can pinpoint when and where auto parts were manufactured, odometer fraud could be minimized, the mining of precious gems is another area where it would benefit a consumer, who can be assured they’re not purchasing ‘blood diamonds’ that are supporting a warlord in third-world war zone. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The technology has major implications to businesses and products everywhere.”

Blockchain research is nothing new to Risius. He has authored, or co-authored several papers, including, “A Blockchain Research Framework,”, “A Blockchain Decision Path for Businesses”, “A Blockchain-Based Approach Towards Overcoming Financial Fraud in Public Sector Services,” “Initial Coin Offerings: An Introduction to the Novel Funding Mechanism Based on Blockchain Technology,” and “Virtual Reality and Blockchain Technology in the Era of 5G: Disrupting Business and Society.”

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