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3 Lesser-Known Future Uses of NFTs

When you think about NFTs, PFPs, vIRLs and game assets immediately come to mind – but are there other future use cases for NFTs we should be looking out for?

JANUARY 12, 2022. OPINION. WRITTEN BY ROBERT BAGGS.

The initialism “NFT” clambered onto the podium as Collins Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2021. Most other authority figures on words went for “vaccine” or a variation of it, which is a fair alternative, but likely no less contentious.

There’s a wealth of misconceptions when it comes to NFTs, with many citing the whole industry as a scam and a pyramid scheme. I can forgive those people – though the media outlets I cannot forgive. After all, blockchain is a relatively new technology and it isn’t simple to explain.

Many scoffed at the advent of email in the 1990s as bizarre and superfluous, given the overwhelming use of the postal service – incidentally now known as “snail-mail” – and NFTs have suffered a similar start in life.

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Perhaps the most accurate parallel to draw is to the Dot Com boom, where eager members of the public and companies alike were spending inordinate amounts of cash on domain names and websites.

The general perception of what was being bought was too narrow and too near-sighted. I suspect the average consensus over NFTs is remarkably similar, with many leaning on oft-cited Jpeg and right-click tropes.

One of the worst consequences of this ridiculing of NFTs is that it presupposes NFTs as only art or digital collectibles. While many of us NFT enthusiasts enjoy that application of the technology, it has far more dimensions that are as profound as they are far-reaching.

We’ve seen the rise of gaming NFTs, digital land, and even vIRL NFTs with physical counterparts – but what are some lesser-known uses for NFTs?

Whistleblowing

I want to start this list with the most obscure use cases, and one I’ve yet to see mentioned thus far.

I’ll take whistleblowing to mean; “reporting the wrongdoing of a higher power”, particularly if it’s of public interest.

We’ve seen myriad examples of this over the years, with the most famous whistleblowers having to flee their homeland to somewhere unlikely to extradite them.

Arguably the most notable example is Edward Snowden, who flew to Hong Kong before releasing NSA documents, then moved to Russia.

The danger of whistleblowing isn’t the only barrier to overcome, and this is where blockchain technology could have a role.

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One of the most significant challenges of whistleblowing is getting the information into the public domain without it being silenced somewhere along the way. With a decentralized, public ledger, blockchain can enable the horse to bolt before the gate can be shut.

Not to slip into too conspiratorial a narrative, much of mainstream media is controlled by powerful individuals and therefore it is far from a guaranteed way to leak wrongdoing, particularly when it likely involved powerful people.

With documents and leaks being issued as NFTs, the origin can be confirmed, the information is immutable (which is crucial for the integrity of the reports), and the NFT will be publicly available and untouchable.

Blockchain technology has the power to solidify the “freedom” in freedom of information.

Anti-Fraud

There are numerous common examples of certification of authenticity when it comes to blockchain, usually referencing qualifications, identity, licenses and so on, however, a closely related use is the role NFTs can play in anti-fraud efforts, eliminating even the highest-quality counterfeits.

By issuing an accompanying NFT with a product – particularly those of a high-cost – the sale of the physical item can be supported by the transfer of the matching NFT. Anyone who doesn’t have the issued NFT with the item either has a stolen product or a counterfeit.

One interesting example of this use was introduced to me last year, and is already well in the works.

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Until recently unbeknownst to me, a problem is rife in expensive wines: fakes. Given the nature of wines having to be opened to be tested for authenticity, there is a degree of trust in the industry which is being exploited.

An NFT issued with each bottle of wine acts as a certificate of authenticity and proof of provenance. WAX’s vIRL technology is an excellent fit for this sort of application.

As NFTs become more complex and further utility is added, we could even see collectors buy wines and use the NFT to track their purchase’s progress, from grapevine to transit.

Although this sort of functionality might be niche, it has far more widespread uses – leading us to our third use-case.

Logistics

Logistics is a broad term, but blockchain’s application to it is similarly wide in scope.

There are a few key applications of NFTs to logistics and supply chains. For example, the fashion industry has harboured some condemnable practices – along with much of modern manufacturing in all fairness – where garments have been created using exploitation in developing nations.

With blockchain technology, a garment could be monitored throughout its creation process, from raw material to factory to shop, enabling the consumer to view the true sourcing of the product.

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This could be expanded to allow individual components of a product to be tracked, with that journey recorded to the blockchain. This is not only valuable for more complicated products such as cars or computers, but allows for supply chains to become more transparent and trackable – a high-priority in our increasingly conscious world.

One industry that stands to gain from this is agriculture and food processing, as it will allow shipments to be tracked accurately and immutably.

The Louis Dreyfus Company, a major food merchant, trialled the use of blockchains within its systems, and found that it not only streamlined and improved a lot of their processes, but cut costs too.

In Closing

It’s important to remember that the application of blockchain technology and NFTs to industries is still so new. Companies large and small are dipping their toes in, but presently, we must focus on the potential and dream of future uses – without succumbing to tunnel vision.

NFTs and blockchain technology are not perfect and not without risks. Though many blockchains have all but solved environmental concerns, there are still ethical considerations.

For example, there are limited repercussions for Intellectual Property theft or illegal content. It can be removed and blacklisted from marketplaces, but once it’s out there, the very nature of decentralization means it cannot be reeled back in.

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While these are worth mulling over, they shouldn’t detract from the many positive uses spanning every industry.

Art and gaming already have been revolutionized by NFTs and will continue to change as their technology reveals new pathways, but many other industries stand to gain enormous amounts too.

NFTs and blockchain technology have the capability to touch all facets of the modern world and we have scarcely unearthed a fraction of their true power.

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Robert Baggs
Full-time professional crypto writer and Editor of Token Gamer. Obsessed with MMOs. London based. Once ate lobster with Lionel Richie.
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