Source: Kindra Gordon

The term “blockchain” is one that is going to be heard — and used — much more in society in the years ahead, according to Steve Lupien with the University of Wyoming. In fact, he predicts blockchain is going to become as ubiquitous — or ever present — as the internet.

Lupien is director of the Center for Blockchain and Digital Initiatives within the College of Business at the University of Wyoming. He addressed attendees via a virtual presentation at the 2021 Range Beef Cow Symposium hosted Nov. 16-17, 2021, in Rapid City, S.D.

“Blockchain is a new type of digital database where multiple people can see the same information at the same time and trust that it’s valid.”  — Steve Lupien

For those unfamiliar with blockchain technology, Lupien offered this definition: “Blockchain is a new type of digital database where multiple people can see the same information at the same time and trust that it’s valid.” Lupien further noted that with blockchain, the data is “immutable, unique, encrypted and distributed.”

To explain these characteristics, he points out that when something is immutable it cannot be deleted and the record can’t be changed. A new “block” of information can be added to the chain, but the original record remains in the chain.

“Imagine land records [using blockchain] to track ownership and build trust,” Lupien gave as an example.

Regarding blockchain data being unique, Lupien says, “This makes it collectable and gives it value.” Although blockchain data is encrypted, it can be easily viewed by participants, and it is held in a “distributed system” that creates a chain among everyone on the system.

“When you make a transaction, they are stacked in blocks and chains, and each block builds; the longer the chain, the safer and more secure the data is,” Lupien explains. “The safety and security of blockchain comes from its architecture. To corrupt it, you would need to gain control of the majority of the networks — which could be tens of thousands of nodes.”

While this is potentially possible, Lupien says it would be very difficult and expensive. He notes that bitcoin, which is built on blockchain technology, has never been hacked in its 13 years of existence.

In total, Lupien says, “Blockchain is changing the way businesses operate.”

The technology has unlimited applications where trust and security are required, he says. “We now have a technology that provides that trust, and we don’t need a third-party intermediary anymore.”

The food industry — including beef — is already using the technology for process-verified program (PVP) records, and he anticipates growing use for branded programs to prevent counterfeit product, as well as various payment systems that no longer require a third party be involved.