All you need to know about blockchain’s smart contracts

Smart contracts are far from perfection as they are still in development

Smart contracts were first introduced with the Ethereum project back in 2013.

These contracts are done up and maintained over blockchain, imposing the same limitations and obligations on agreeing parties.

Let’s take an example. Assume you want to apply for a driving licence on a blockchain mechanised process. All you have to do is just mention your social security number in the US or aadhar in India and the form will be filled up automatically and paid for with cryptocurrency.

However, blockchain will not accept your form if you do not fulfil the criteria.

The blockchain will select a driving test centre depending on mutually agreed timings and drop your details and payment to corresponding authorities and you will receive the address of test centre, application id and password.

Upon passing the driving test and road test, blockchain will automatically drop your driving licence into your email account associated with your social security number or aadhar.

All the cumbersome paperwork and time-consuming processes are minimized and automated using blockchain which eventually reduces the overall cost.

Why Smart contracts are better than the current system

1. Backup – Blockchain uses a shared ledger which is replicated on every system and connected to its network so information cannot go missing.

2. Safety – Cryptography, hashing and consensus algorithms make it nearly impossible for hackers to infiltrate the network.

3. Trust – Every transaction on ledger needs to be validated by a majority of validator nodes on the network — so it is really difficult to collude with them. Even if they adjoin a cartel to validate a fake transaction, they are the ones who will take the biggest hit. No one will think to break the trust of network participants.

4. Autonomy – Smart contracts omit the need for intermediaries and in-person meetings to implement a contract. Smart contracts work as a whole system akin to a broker, an authorizing authority, a delivery guy and a settlement organization.

5. Savings – Smart contracts save money since they knock out the requirement of an intermediary. You might, for instance, have to pay a notary for witnessing your transaction.

6. Accuracy –Galumph processes to make a contract with heaps of forms cause anomalies in the filing. Smart contracts are strictly intact and electronic which improves accuracy.

7. Speed – Time saved in filling forms, physical visits, validation and authenticating transactions speeds up the process thousands of times.

Where can smart contracts be used?

Government
Officials during every election vouch that it is impossible to rig current voting machines but nonetheless, there are always headlines concerning speculations of voting machine tampering.

The globalisation of economies and fumbling voting process have resulted in low voting participants.

Smart contracts of blockchain-based voting systems can solve both problems as we will be able to vote online while validating the voter’s identity via blockchain which is almost impossible to hack.

Management
Smart contracts in businesses can act as business process management tools.

Usually, the lag in decisions in business creates deadlocks for other processes, blockchain can make sure decisions are taken as soon as possible and there’s no lag in conducting actions on previous orders.

Information passed on in the next step will only be available to concerned users and the transactions will be recorded in real time.

Supply Chain
Smart contracts of blockchain coupled with IOT play a vital role in transforming the supply chain applications to record real-time transactions to eliminate the possibility of fraudulent activities.

Data from suppliers, logistics, warehouses, retail stores are recorded using RFID tags, trackers and barcodes.

Walmart and Maersk already use this technology to securely record transactions in real time — reducing time lag in delivery and making the system more efficient.

Automobile
The developments in AI, IOT, smart contracts, high-speed computers and data communication has preponed the era of autonomous transportation.

AI and IOT based self-driving cars and applications like Uber enable us to summon transportation whenever we need. This mode of transportation will be cheap and safe as the automated process will eliminate the possibility of accidents as the network will know about the coming traffic.

A company called Zoox has already developed an AI-based self-driving car that can be summoned anytime. They are in the pursuit of the testing phase and making this solution cheaper to make it viable for global markets.

Real estate
You can get more money through smart contracts.

Ordinarily, if you wanted to rent your apartment to someone, you’d need to pay a middleman such as Craigslist or a newspaper to advertise and then again you’d need to pay someone to confirm that the person paid rent and followed through.

The ledger cuts your costs. All you do is pay via bitcoin and encode your contract on the ledger. Everyone sees, and you accomplish automatic fulfilment. Brokers, real estate agents, hard money lenders, and anyone associated with the property game can profit.

Healthcare
Personal health records could be encoded and stored on the blockchain with a private key which would grant access only to specific individuals.

The same strategy could be used to ensure that research is conducted via HIPAA laws (in a secure and confidential way). Receipts of surgeries could be stored on a blockchain and automatically sent to insurance providers as proof-of-delivery.

The ledger, too, could be used for general healthcare management, such as supervising drugs, regulation compliance, testing results, and managing healthcare supplies.

Why isn’t blockchain being widely used even after a decade from its launch date?

Smart contracts are far from perfection as they are still in development.

The real problem for developing smart contacts is that there are so many rules and regulations for a particular solution and blockchain should act according to ever-changing norms.

Let’s take another example where we want to replace traditional option contracts with smart contracts.

Option contracts are usually an exchange-traded contract which gives buyers a choice to buy an underlying asset with call options or an underlying asset with contracts at a particular strike price or before its expiry date.

Whereas, the writers of these contracts have a legal obligation to honour the contract.

There are two types of option contracts: American and European options contract.

In American option contracts, the buyer can profit from his/her advantageous position with respect to the current market price by exercising the choice any time before the expiration date. But, in European option contracts, the choice cannot be exercised before the expiry of the contract.

NYSE (New York stock exchange) uses American options contract and NSE (National stock exchange) of India uses American Options contract for individual stocks and European options contract for indices.

NYSE considers the third Friday of the month as expiration date whereas NSE considers last Thursday of the expiry month as expiration date if the expiry day is a trading holiday then expiration date of the contract is preponed to the previous trading day.

The options contract can be traded and closed until the previous day of the expiration date.

Contracts, where option buyers are in an advantageous position called ITM (In the money) on the date of expiry, will be exercised by exchange and others will expire as worthless.

The real problem lies in the regulations and anomalies in smart contracts slowing down the consensus algorithms which in consequence affects the performance of blockchain catastrophically.

Unless and until these problems are addressed effectively smart contracts are ruled out from the list of viable solutions.

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