Many industry watchers have described the distributed ledger technology as the most important invention after the internet. This may be apt even as the technology is in its infancy and applications are still being discovered. The most popular use so far is Bitcoin, the peer-to-peer financial network that eliminates third party involvement in the so-called “trustless” network. However, among other uses, blockchain finds application in document verification.
Why Use Blockchain In Document Verification?
One of the merits of blockchain technology which has also found application in document verification is the elimination of third parties which makes cost of transactions on the network low. It is, therefore, much preferred because it saves cost. Its other advantage is its “scalability” enabling very high speed so that transaction time could be as fast as a few seconds. This is why traditional financial institutions are looking at it as a means of saving costs and quick service delivery.
There is also the immutability aspect of the technology. The blockchain network stores data in a form that makes it impossible to alter; this is accomplished through the use of cryptography, a mathematical concept that involves encryption of data using hash functions. This means that once there is a consensus on the network about the data, it becomes unalterable. It has found use in finance as we noted earlier with Bitcoin, in telecommunications, IoT, book-keeping and even document verification.
Documents, such as land deeds, hospital records, certificates and call records of telecommunications companies can be placed on the distributed ledger technology, so that people can have access to this information if need be. These documents can also be placed on the blockchain and secured in a way that only authorized persons can access it using private keys. For instance, a company that maintains aircrafts can keep the maintenance records on a blockchain, hashing it to the ID of each plane, so that technicians and engineers in different parts of the world where the airplane flies to can easily access it.
The advantage of using blockchain to verify documents is that it is quick to access, the document will be unalterable because it is protected by cryptography, which practically cannot be hacked. The blockchain’s resistance to modification is the reason for its desirability in the verification of documents.
Document Verification Process
There are times people need to have their documents validated such as during court proceedings or when hunting for jobs. This can easily be done using blockchain technology. The document that needs to be verified must already have been placed on the distributed ledger.
In storing a document on a blockchain network, it is not the digital copy, but rather a cryptographic copy that is stored. For instance, a university could decide to use the distributed ledger technology to store its degrees certificates. The first process is to convert the content of each document using cryptography as a one-way hash code. This code is now placed on the blockchain. That one-way hash code is exactitude of the document but has been changed to a string of codes. Those codes act as a marker for the document. When the same document is presented elsewhere, the code generated will be exactly the same as the one stored on the blockchain.
So if a student from the university presents their degree certificate to an employer, the employer can authenticate the certificate by hashing the content to a cryptographic digest. If it is the genuine document, the cryptographic marker produced will be the same as the marker stored on the blockchain by the university. If the document has been altered in any way, the markers will not match. This is how the blockchain verifies documents and it is applicable to any document.