Chain of Custody is a fundamental concept in determining the authenticity and identity of both valuable and fungible goods. Distributed ledgers offer many new innovations in industries in which authentication is a paramount concern in order to deter and catch counterfeits, such as valuable collectibles. The most obvious use case being art and many companies are exploring these concepts via various blockchains. Fungible goods (or those that can be freely exchanged among each other) can also be cataloged via a blockchain.
If Echo Pepper puts a durian in the cupboard and then Sylvantine comes along and switches out Echo’s durian with a different durian, there is no proof that these sweet smelling fruit are not one in the same. If they weigh and look the same, then there really hasn’t been a provable theft; Sylvantine replaced Echo’s durian with a very similar yet still different fruit. The durian is considered a fungible good. If Echo wanted that specific durian, unless there is a way she can prove that the durians are in fact different, then she is not going to have much luck in the courtroom if she decides to bring a case against Sylvantine for durian banditry. Being able to prove that a crime has been committed relies a tremendous amount on an accurate chain of custody. This is a cornerstone of most legal systems operating in the world at the moment.
Now durians and random cabinets are fun and all, but fungiblity comes up a lot in court cases, especially those involving possession of evidence in criminal cases. A more transparent and accurate accounting for the location, identity, and authenticity of evidence can provide a universal boon to the legal system. This will provide protection for all parties involved. Evidence tampering is a known issue and many innocent men and women have been incarcerated due to the vulnerabilities in the current system. Some very violent criminals have been acquitted due to issues with the custody of evidence. Using a blockchain to catalog and index evidence would be a step forward in creating a more transparent and fair legal system.
Currently many blockchain companies are looking to private industry first as this will generate the greatest profit as we debut these new ideas. However, there are many applications in the public sphere that can benefit from the use of distributed ledgers, but this naturally entails less immediate profit and forced engagement with politicians and bureaucrats (something that disincentivizes most interested in free market economics).
As the larger multinational corporation begin to develop their own blockchain powered technologies and applications, the small companies trying to carve out ground in the private sphere are going to find an increasingly difficult and competitive market. I think that developing smart contracts and deploying them toward public administration issues will provide economic opportunities for small companies in the blockchain ecosystem that might find it difficult to compete with larger players in the global economic system.
This use case scenario I’ve laid out, has hopefully demonstrated an area in public administration which can benefit from a distributed ledger. Given the direction of the crypto ecosystem, I think that there is still some room for smaller companies to develop blockchain applications that aren’t going to be competing with IBM on supply chain applications.
Moral of Story: Hiding durians in cabinets can cause issues