What is blockchain?

Blockchain, Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are currently the hot topic in almost every industry. Set to change how currency and banks operate, this new technology can seem intimidating, but its benefits cannot be ignored.

Blockchain is a system used by cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, to regulate transactions as a bank would do with physical currency. It is a public ledger containing each cryptocurrency transaction, with each block representing a recent transaction compiled in chronological order. Every blockchain has multiple copies downloaded onto each node (a computer connected to the overall network) which is updated automatically every time there is a new transaction.

Because blockchain is recorded through automatically updating nodes rather than central record keeping, the authenticity can be checked by the community computers storing the copies. To maintain the block integrity further, each one contains the information from the blocks before it and is encrypted to ensure the data is impenetrable. Consequently, the risk of double transactions and data breaches are significantly reduced.

The impact of blockchain on the translation industry

The blockchain system is beginning to appeal to a range of industries, from insurance and finance to tech start-ups, but mostly those that trade globally and in different currencies. For the language service industry, a blockchain system would mean faster payments to in-country freelancers and clients. By removing the middle-man of banks and their processes, rather than taking days, transactions could only take minutes through the internet blockchain system.

It could also have benefits for freelance translators in developing countries. Some experts have argued that the current lack of conventional pay systems, such as PayPal, denies many low-cost translators the chance to enter the industry. Access to blockchain-style cryptocurrency would mean these translators could be paid quickly and easily with minimal transaction cost.

However, many are still hesitant to adopt the technology that has only recently been recognised as an improvement to current payment recording systems. Banks have concerns about security and fraud and many major banks have launched investigations into blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Consumers are also struggling to understand the system and its implications, so are unlikely to embrace it anytime soon.

That being said, in countries like China cryptocurrency and blockchain is trusted much more than in Europe and North America, with digital payment methods becoming more common than cash exchanges.

The language services industry can gain a lot from cryptocurrencies and blockchain, whether it’s faster payments to translators or translating systems. With the global potential of blockchain, new opportunities are opening up. Not only restricted to coding, we are also embracing the changing technology and the chances it brings to the global marketplace. You can find out more about the digital translation services Language Insight offers here.