Many of you are following the growth and evolution of Blockchain, and possibly wondering if Blockchain is not just good for security, but for business overall. If new to the discussion, much has been said about the use of Blockchain and cryptocurrency. Blockchain has already passed the early adoption stage and is now on track to becoming a disruptive force in the market. The general consensus is that Blockchain enhances transaction security. But could Blockchain benefit other business areas too?

Blockchain provides open ledger functionality, and does so in a secure, efficient and distributed manner.  For many of us in the technology world, version control of code stems, subversion, asset management, database transaction commitment,  peer-to-peer networks and collaboration systems operating across networks and organizations is nothing new.    But what Blockchain adds is a secure, unique and unequivocal way to store transaction steps as blocks, linked together in a chain via cryptographic hash strings. 

The approach offers significant benefits: Eliminates concurrency issues when committing transactions (the infamous double pay issue) and prevents historical transaction re-writing, where steps within a transaction timeline are rewritten to change the nature of the transaction itself.  Easy to understand why many industries are interested in Blockchain. Healthcare companies such as Optum, UHC and Humana are already conducting Blockchain pilots for provider directory applications.

But what about the rest of your enterprise?  It’s all wonderful, that recording and storing company transactions can operate at an industrial grade, minimizing exposure to record alteration or hijacking.  But what about company agility?  What about applications that are not transaction focused?  What about essential business intelligence driving operational and strategic objectives?  Will these areas benefit or suffer if Blockchain is adopted?

Highly lauded security properties aside, I’d like to discuss a couple of concepts that Blockchain opens up that can benefit the enterprise: triggers, and thresholds.

Blockchain provides support for triggering actions when events are recorded in a block.  Imagine, for a second, that Blockchain was operating in your business.  You are recording exchanges between you and your customers — EMR interactions, customer service exchanges, payments.  What if you could trigger actions at the very moment when events are recorded?  What if you could immediately estimate resource consumption, benefit thresholds or payment balances?  Or run pattern matching to identify problematic populations, initiate machine learning algorithms to process completed transactions?  Or generate alerts… The possibilities are endless.  

The general paradigm is to associate pre-established actions with specific data. When such data is recorded in a block, the associated actions are immediately executed.  

Actions are software procedures that would query or update repositories in real-time, collect data, initiate procedures in non-transaction applications or ongoing processes, or generate alerts to staff advising about significant situations.   Actions could also trigger privacy alerts, compliance and governance violations, or the generation of certificates upon de completion of a process.  Hence writing block data could trigger the execution of actions that can go beyond Blockchain’s scope. 

Which leads us to another useful concept: thresholds.    

Thresholds represent exchange-value conditions that are met or crossed.  A threshold could be as simple as a counter, or as complex as a sophisticated set of model conditions.  Actions can update, maintain, reset, detect and alert when thresholds are met.  When an exchange-value threshold is met or crossed, it’s easy to see how further actions could be triggered, causing changes, input or output in operational or strategic processes.   

Effectively, exchange-value thresholds become “sensors” that detect meaningful conditions, very useful to the rest of the enterprise. Thresholds can support non-transactional services, business intelligence, consumer-oriented systems, or AI-based solutions such as machine learning, pattern recognition and high-order modeling. 

Together, triggers and thresholds enable Blockchain to become a backbone for the rest of the enterprise. 

In business intelligence the holy grail is to collect and produce just-in-time data, integrate it with existing data assets, funnel it through on-demand modeling to identify significant operational and strategic actions, and to disseminate valuable information across the enterprise in a timely manner.   With triggers and thresholds, Blockchain can become a backbone of valuable, just-in-time data that can have a transformative effect in healthcare service speed and design. Even more significant, could also improve business intelligence agility by providing an event-centered methodology to collect, produce and distribute intelligence across business units, services and applications.