Blockchain technology took a huge step toward broad acceptance in the marketing community with the announcement Wednesday that Salesforce is launching its own blockchain platform connected to its popular customer relationship management (CRM) system.
The company says this is the first use of a low-code blockchain platform for CRM.
While blockchain has been touted for a wide range of uses – many of which are still blue-sky – a key and unique value is its ability as a distributed ledger to securely share authenticated data across members of a participating group. That’s the use case for which the new Salesforce Blockchain is primarily designed: the creation and exchange of verified documents, particularly ones confirming transactions or processes.
In a blog post announcing the new platform, the company gave a few potential examples. When a house is purchased, for instance, the appraiser, inspector, real estate agents, title company, bank, county, buyer, and seller can all securely exchange authenticated documents relating to the sale.
Similarly, authenticated documents can be exchanged following a car accident insurance claim between drivers, claim adjuster, auto repair shop, tow service, and others. Or transcripts, certificates, and diplomas can be exchanged between high schools, colleges, and students.
Of course, such documents can be exchanged without employing blockchain, but that often involves overnight shipping, manual handling of documents and multiple email threads, as well as some methods to authenticate that the documents in question are real.
Salesforce said customers currently using this new platform include Arizona State University, which has created an educational network that lets universities verify and securely share info, such as transcripts.
IQVIA, a provider of tech services for the life sciences industry, is exploring the use of Salesforce Blockchain to authenticate, track, and share drug label processing and various regulatory data. And financial analytics provider S&P Global Ratings is employing the platform to more quickly share authenticated documents, so as to reduce the time to review and approve bank accounts.
Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology, which means that each party has a copy of the entire blockchain, immediately receives all shared files and can verify each step in the process. The addition of a diploma, for instance, can be verified by any participant in that blockchain as having been authenticated by a particular high school.
The company also envisions other possible applications, such as using blockchain to validate the safety and origin of pharmaceutical drugs or food, moving healthcare records between medical providers, or authenticating art and jewelry. Additionally, by connecting this blockchain platform with its CRM, Salesforce is opening up other possibilities for functions not yet realized, such as privacy-compliant identity verification or the open exchange of targeting data.
Since blockchain emerged some years ago as the technological protocol underlying the digital currency of bitcoin, it has evolved from that realm into a wide variety of applications that are being tested or launched in digital advertising, retail sale of unique products, finance, healthcare, and many other industries. Step by step, it has also become usable by non-technical users.
Salesforce takes that evolution a step further. Its new Blockchain platform is based on the open source Hyperledger Sawtooth blockchain protocol, and is powered by its Lightning technology, a platform that lets non-technical users create and modify many kinds of online applications and functions.
“You don’t have to go out and recruit blockchain developers,” Salesforce’s SVP for Emerging Technology Adam Caplain writes in the blog post announcement, adding that “any Salesforce admin or developer can use Salesforce Blockchain.”
The company says that users can click their way through building and maintaining blockchain networks, apps, and smart contracts. Smart contracts are blockchain-based code that triggers an action when a verifiable event occurs. One example: when a digital ad is verified as having been successfully delivered to a web page, a payment is automatically released by a smart contract to the owner of that web site.
Additionally, Salesforce says, non-technical users can add complex blockchain data to existing workflows, like search queries or process automation, utilize blockchain-based data in AI-based forecasts and predictions, and add APIs or pre-built apps.
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