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The Internet is buzzing with how blockchains can solve problems and disrupt multiple industries.

But what exactly is a blockchain and how can it benefit merchants?

A blockchain is a “distributed ledger” —i.e., data spread across many computers — that can be used to record any transaction, such as a money transfer, a contract between two parties, or an order shipment.

Multiple parties can update the data simultaneously without a central party controlling it.

Each update is secure and trusted, by encrypting data and verifying each transaction based on set of predefined rules.

Each data record is called a “block” and a series of these blocks form a “chain” — hence the name “blockchain.” Each block consists of three items: (a) an identification code, also called “proof of work” as it can only be created using a set of complex algorithms, (b) a pointer to the previous block’s code, and (c) transaction data.

Each block is time-stamped and cannot be changed, but it is open for anyone in the chain to view.

New blocks can only be added to this chain after they have been validated by complex algorithms. Blockchains are appealing, in part, because they enable secure transactions without involving a third-party middleman. Industries that have traditionally required a third-party, such as escrow for home mortgage, can be disrupted using blockchains.

Blockchain is a new technology, with new use cases appearing frequently.

Here are 10 examples of how blockchains could benefit merchants. A drawback to mobile payments has been security risk.

Blockchain eliminates mobile payment fraud by recording all transactions in the distributed ledger and otherwise enabling peer-to-peer money transfers. Loyalty programs have two primary functions: accrual of loyalty points and redemption of these points.

Blockchain can facilitate having the right contracts in place to manage both functions.