Blockchain: Making Data Cleaner, More Secure

Probably most professionals who deal with business data have at least heard the term “blockchain” bantered about as potentially the “next big thing” for a wide range of industries, agriculture included.

But what is it? One could imagine a Jerry Seinfeld comedy routine: “What is the deal with blockchain? Is it a block, is it a chain — what is it?” If you, like Jerry, are confused, you’re not alone. This article attempts to demystify the concept so, when it comes to a business discussion near you, you’re equipped with some sense of what all the fuss is about.

At its most basic level, blockchain is a system for organizing and storing related data points in a chronological order. In other words, blockchain is a virtual or electronic ledger that can be used to capture, organize and validate data.

Blockchain gets its name from being made up of a number of “blocks” of data. Each data block represents a single data point or a series of data collected concurrently. Each data block will include a date and time stamp.

These blocks are sequentially linked together by a chain. The “chain” portion of the blockchain is typically a “hash” identifier generated by the blockchain platform through the use of a hash function. A hash is typically an alphanumeric sequence of a designated number of characters that is generated by running a data set through a hash generating function. If the underlying data of a block is changed, the hash will also change.

In blockchain, a hash that is based upon the data contained in the previous data block is inserted into each block. Thus, changing the data in a block will result in a different hash and this feature can be used to authenticate the data in the previous block.

More Security By Design

An added benefit of the blockchain structure is that it’s built upon a decentralized network — a copy of the blockchain is stored on a number of storage nodes instead of a centralized server. The blockchain is maintained through a syncing function, which updates and syncs the data on each node at a given time interval. The syncing function may include re-running the hash function for some or all of the blocks to validate that the underlying data in a block hasn’t been altered.

In some blockchains, a consensus of users must be obtained prior to a block being added to the blockchain. Because blockchain is decentralized, it can be set up for peer-to-peer transactions, and applications can be set up to regulate access to authorized users. In addition, data collected and stored in a block chain is irreversible, and blockchain platforms can incorporate programming to provide some automated actions to occur using — or based upon — the data.

One additional, significant feature of blockchain is that access can be set to regulate who has access and control of data at various levels. For example, some members can be authorized to update the blockchain by adding data, whereas another group of members may only be allowed to view data on the blockchain.

How does blockchain provide advantages from a legal perspective?

From a legal perspective, blockchain offers several benefits.
(1) Security features.
(2) Data authentication.
(3) Transparency.
(4) The ability to control who accesses and uses data contained in a blockchain.

From a data security standpoint, conventional centralized networks, data storage and access systems are vulnerable in that data is stored in one location and accessed from many. If a hacker can access or infiltrate that one location, the hacker can steal or sabotage the data or take it hostage.

In contrast, the decentralized nature of blockchain requires a hacker to infiltrate each and every node to effect a permanent change in the blockchain before the blockchain syncs. And because there are numerous copies of the blockchain simultaneously maintained, a hacker would have a difficult time holding data hostage. And with increased adoption, blockchain security will get increasingly robust.

Authenticating electronic data has been a challenge. Data can be permanently altered without detection fairly easily. In many applications, having altered data can be worse than having the data stolen in the first place. The decentralized nature of blockchain provides safeguards of the data’s authenticity. And because access to the blockchain is limited and each action by a user of the blockchain is tracked, one can identify and follow track any questionable access of the data or actions to the authorized user’s account. While it doesn’t prevent someone gaining access to the blockchain without authorization, it may quickly help to identify the access point.

Finally, blockchain’s use of hash identifiers in each block allows verification that the data in the previous block is authentic as the hash function can be re-run to confirm that the underlying data has not changed. Accordingly, blockchain not only provides benefits from a data security standpoint, but also provides comfort from a data authentication perspective.

Blockchain’s Possibilities

Many predict blockchain technology will be ubiquitous in the not-so-distant future. The first blockchain applications are just getting implemented, but most software developers and companies are still trying to create applications for this technology and to more fully understand how the application of blockchain technology can improve current business processes, create new efficiencies, and help create new revenue streams.

Although the application of blockchain technology in the marketplace is in its infancy, data-driven industries like precision agriculture stand to reap several benefits. Blockchain offers many advantages over traditional data storage and electronic record keeping. Seizing these advantages in precision agriculture applications may make transactions more efficient, streamline record keeping, allow the maximization of revenue from data licensing and help meet your contractual obligations without having to do anything to fulfill your contractual obligations after the contract is initially defined.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Blockchain: Making Data Cleaner, More Secure

  1. Indeed, a excellent overview on the theme. The narrative on a complex subject as this makes this article a must-read for Agtech apprentices.

Data Management Stories
Data ManagementDigital Farming: Keep It Simple Analytics
May 15, 2018
In previous articles, I tried to lay out some logical components and processes that enable digital farming to get inside Read More
NOAA-Snow-Depth-Analysis-April-15
Data ManagementRebounding Spring for 2018 Planting: Cold April Weather Finally Gives Way to Promising May Forecast
May 14, 2018
This month, I am taking a break from discussing weather technology or opining on how to better apply weather and Read More
Steve-Pitstick
Data ManagementHow Industrial AI Can Maximize the Potential of Agriculture’s Planting Season
May 10, 2018
I go to great lengths to speak with growers and meet with them in the field. For those of us Read More
Big Data
AmericasUSDA, AgGateway Join Forces on Data Standards
May 1, 2018
AgGateway and USDA have forged an agreement to work together on data projects to benefit American farmers in the transition Read More
Trending Articles
Ernie-Chappell-Screenshot
EventsEFC Systems Sponsorship Demonstrates Commitment to Continuing Education for Retail Dealerships
May 16, 2018
Enterprise software manufacturer EFC Systems, scholarship sponsor of the inaugural PrecisionAg® Professional Accelerator professional development conference this June in Brookings, Read More
Dr Brian Arnall Oklahoma State Paul Schrimpf
Excellence AwardsPrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence Nominations Accepted Through May 18
May 14, 2018
Nominate an outstanding individual for one of four PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence. Recipients will be honored at a special ceremony during the 2018 InfoAg Conference in July. Read More
EventsMeister Media Debuts Growing Innovations
May 10, 2018
As a service provider, you and your grower customers probably can agree on this much: While innovation abounds in agriculture, Read More
UCANR_booth_Food_IT_forum
EventsForum Calling All Innovators of Agriculture Technology
May 2, 2018
The challenges that come with feeding the world continue to grow. Luckily, so do advances in information technology that are Read More
Farm-Storm-Clouds-Photo-Eden-Hills
Data ManagementThe Precipitation Problem in Agriculture
April 17, 2018
Precipitation is arguably the most important agricultural weather parameter, yet it is the most difficult variable to precisely measure. For Read More
SDSU-drone
Business ManagementInside the Key Strategies For Selling Precision Ag Services
April 13, 2018
In its earliest manifestation, the motive for developing precision agriculture service was entirely pure. Agronomists knew that crops were responding Read More
Latest News
Imagery/SensingBREAKING: Mavrx Swallowed Up by Israeli Imagery Provide…
May 17, 2018
Taranis, an Israel-based provider of high-resolution agriculture aerial imagery and deep learning, today announced the acquisition of all Mavrx assets, one Read More
PrecisionAg Professional Accelerator
EventsWhat’s Stopping You From Maximizing Your Precision Prog…
May 16, 2018
Day 2 of the PrecisionAg® Professional Accelerator will challenge you to evaluate and improve your approach to customer value and Read More
Raven-screenshot
EventsRaven Focused on Retail Education with Top Gun Training…
May 16, 2018
It’s no secret that the demand for precision ag technology is growing. As the world population increases, so does the Read More
Ernie-Chappell-Screenshot
EventsEFC Systems Sponsorship Demonstrates Commitment to Cont…
May 16, 2018
Enterprise software manufacturer EFC Systems, scholarship sponsor of the inaugural PrecisionAg® Professional Accelerator professional development conference this June in Brookings, Read More
Industry NewsPinnacle Joins Crowded E-Commerce Segment With My Pinna…
May 16, 2018
Pinnacle announced today the launch of its new website along with a new interactive grower-customer portal, My Pinnacle. The No.6-ranked Read More
Veris Soil EC
Sensors/IoTUsing Electrical Conductivity (EC) Sensors in Precision…
May 16, 2018
The measurement of soil EC is widely used in agriculture. However, there is still confusion around the meaning of the Read More
Corn Field Sunset
Industry NewsRaven Announces DOT Joint Development Agreement
May 16, 2018
Raven Industries announced today it will be utilizing its precision agriculture technologies to power the autonomous farming solutions of the Read More
Field-Equipment
Sensors/IoTTop 6 Digital Transformation Trends in Agriculture
May 15, 2018
In recent years, technology in agriculture, also known as AgTech has rapidly changed the industry, writes Daniel Newman on Forbes.com. Read More
Data ManagementDigital Farming: Keep It Simple Analytics
May 15, 2018
In previous articles, I tried to lay out some logical components and processes that enable digital farming to get inside Read More
NOAA-Snow-Depth-Analysis-April-15
Data ManagementRebounding Spring for 2018 Planting: Cold April Weather…
May 14, 2018
This month, I am taking a break from discussing weather technology or opining on how to better apply weather and Read More
Dr Brian Arnall Oklahoma State Paul Schrimpf
Excellence AwardsPrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence Nominations Accepted T…
May 14, 2018
Nominate an outstanding individual for one of four PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence. Recipients will be honored at a special ceremony during the 2018 InfoAg Conference in July. Read More
Ag Retailer and Growers with tablet WinField United
Industry NewsCommoditAg Announces Enhanced E-Commerce Platform
May 11, 2018
CommoditAg launches CommoditAg LIVE, described as “an enhanced ecommerce platform providing more benefits to growers, and a superior customer experience”. According Read More
Industry NewsTrimble Adds Crop Health Imagery, Work Orders Features …
May 10, 2018
Trimble announced today that it has added Crop Health Imagery and Work Orders features to its Trimble Ag Software. The Read More
Parkland College Student Training
AmericasBushel Garners $7 Million Private Investment Round
May 10, 2018
Bushel today announced a $7 million private investment round to accelerate its patent-pending digital platform for the grain industry. The Read More
Steve-Pitstick
Data ManagementHow Industrial AI Can Maximize the Potential of Agricul…
May 10, 2018
I go to great lengths to speak with growers and meet with them in the field. For those of us Read More
EventsMeister Media Debuts Growing Innovations
May 10, 2018
As a service provider, you and your grower customers probably can agree on this much: While innovation abounds in agriculture, Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
AmericasFarmers Edge, Raven Announce Collaboration Agreement
May 9, 2018
Raven Industries and Farmers Edge announced today a marketing and collaboration agreement. The two companies are working together to develop Read More
Canton-Fair
AsiaChina’s Canton Fair Sheds Light on Agricultural T…
May 7, 2018
Last month I visited China to learn more about agriculture by attending the largest import and export fairs — the Read More