Friday, 29 Mar 2019 10:10 GMT

What does blockchain mean for the industry?

It is best known for its association with cryptocurrencies, but blockchain technology could have a significant use for the print industry.

The latest report from Quocirca has aimed to separate fact from fiction when it comes to assessing the impact of blockchain on the print industry.

Over the last two years, blockchain has been hailed as the technology that can revolutionise supply chain efficiencies, reduce operational costs and increase cybersecurity across numerous industries.

Whilst the technology is still fairly new, Quocirca advises print companies to consider how it might impact the industry.

Research director Louella Fernandes comments: “As the initial hype around blockchain begins to subside, businesses are starting to explore its applications for their sector and the print industry is no different.

“Faced with pressure to evolve to combat the risks of disruption, print companies are keen to gain competitive advantage from innovations such as blockchain, but also cautious over the risks of backing a relatively immature technology.

Faced with pressure to evolve to combat the risks of disruption, print companies are keen to gain competitive advantage

“Our report analyses the applications for blockchain within the print ecosystem and identifies areas of opportunity and the potential hurdles to adoption.”

For those unfamiliar with blockchain technology, it operates as a distributed universal ledger that secures transactions via a peer-to-peer transaction network.

Each ledger update, or ‘block’, is provided with a unique footprint via digital cryptography, meaning that a new block is only added when previous transactions have been verified by other nodes (computers) in the network.

Once a record is added to the chain, it is very difficult to remove. This is the reason for its use in underpinning cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Unlike traditional ledgers, blockchain operates on a decentralised network, meaning there is no master computer and users must be verified to join the network.

Making sense of the blockchain opportunity is important... the challenge will be turning a disruptive technology into a strategic advantage

There is the suggestion that blockchain could be built into the offerings from managed print suppliers, in an industry that has evolved from hardware to an ‘as-a-service’ provision.

Utilising something like blockchain could give PSPs further integrity, as so many have reported data losses due to insufficient security measures.

The report looks at five main areas of blockchain application, including IoT (Internet of Things) printer security, content management and storage, and 3D printing.

Fernandes adds: “Making sense of the blockchain opportunity is important for the print industry. The challenge will be turning a disruptive technology into a strategic advantage.

“We’re already seeing some forays being made by sector leaders, but there will need to be greater understanding and commitment from both vendors and the channel before the full picture of blockchain’s applications in print becomes clear.”

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