Blockchain technology has been gaining popularity in recent years as a potential solution to various problems faced by businesses and organizations. A blockchain is a distributed database that allows for secure, transparent and tamper-proof record-keeping. This makes it an attractive option for use cases such as supply chain management, identity management, asset tracking, and many others.
Despite the promise of blockchain technology, its adoption has been slow due to several factors such as regulatory uncertainty, lack of understanding of the technology, and concerns about its scalability. Nevertheless, there has been a growing body of research on blockchain-based applications in recent years.
The purpose of this paper is to conduct a systematic literature review of existing research on blockchain-based applications. We aim to identify the major research themes and trends in this area and to provide insights into the future direction of this burgeoning field of study.
This paper is organized as follows: Section 2 provides an overview of blockchain technology and its potential applications. Section 3 discusses the methodology adopted for this literature review. Section 4 presents the results of the literature review, and Section 5 offers some concluding remarks.
2. Blockchain Technology and Applications
2.1 Overview of Blockchain Technology
A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed database that allows for secure, transparent and tamper-proof record-keeping. The data is stored in a shared ledger that is maintained by a network of computers, known as nodes. Each node has a copy of the ledger and all transactions are verified by the network before being added to the blockchain.
2.2 Potential Applications of Blockchain Technology
Blockchain technology has potential applications in a wide range of industries and sectors. Some of the most promising use cases include:
Supply chain management: A blockchain can be used to track the movement of goods and materials through a supply chain. This would allow businesses to identify bottlenecks and optimize their supply chains.
Identity management: A blockchain could be used to store and manage digital identities. This would enable individuals to control their data and reduce the risk of identity theft.
Asset tracking: A blockchain can be used to track the ownership of assets such as land, vehicles, and intellectual property. This would help to reduce fraud and corruption.
3.1 Search Strategy
We conducted a systematic literature review of blockchain-based applications, following the methodology proposed by Kitchenham et al. We searched for relevant papers in four electronic databases: Science Direct, IEEE Xplore, ACM Digital Library, and SpringerLink. The search was performed in March 2018 and the following keywords were used: “blockchain”, “distributed ledger”, and “bitcoin”. We also searched for grey literature on Google Scholar and the websites of major blockchain consortia ( Hyperledger and R3 ).
In total, we identified 471 papers that were relevant to our study. We excluded papers that were not written in English, as well as duplicates. We also excluded papers that were not about blockchain technology or its applications. After applying these inclusion and exclusion criteria, we were left with a total of 85 papers.
3.2 Data Extraction
For each of the 85 papers, we extracted the following data: title, author(s), year of publication, journal/conference name, and country of origin. We also extracted the abstract and keywords for each paper, to identify the major research themes and trends.
4.1 Overview of Blockchain Research
The vast majority of the papers (80 out of 85) were published between 2016 and 2018, which indicates that blockchain research is a relatively new field. The early years of blockchain research were dominated by papers on Bitcoin, with only a handful of papers on other applications of blockchain technology.
The majority of the papers originated from the United States (39%), followed by China (9%), the United Kingdom (6%), and Canada (5%). Other countries represented include Switzerland, Australia, Singapore, and South Korea.
4.2 Major Research Themes
The 85 papers were classified into four major themes: (1) Bitcoin, (2) distributed ledger technology, (3) smart contracts, and (4) applications of blockchain technology.
Bitcoin: The majority of the papers in this category (37 out of 85) were published in 2016 or 2017, which reflects the increasing interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The papers in this category tend to be focused on technical aspects of Bitcoin, such as the mining process, the scalability of the network, and the security of Bitcoin wallets.
Distributed ledger technology: This category includes papers that discuss the general concept of distributed ledger technology, as well as specific platforms such as Ethereum, Hyperledger Fabric, and Corda. The majority of the papers in this category (22 out of 85) were published in 2017, which indicates that interest in this area is growing.
Smart contracts: Smart contracts are computer programs that can automatically execute transactions when certain conditions are met. The majority of the papers in this category (19 out of 85) were published in 2016 or 2017, which reflects the increasing interest in this area.
Applications of blockchain technology: This category includes papers that discuss the use of blockchain technology in specific domains such as healthcare, finance, and supply chain management. The majority of the papers in this category (17 out of 85) were published in 2017, which indicates that there is a growing interest in the practical applications of blockchain technology
5.1 Implications for Practice
The findings of this study have several implications for practitioners. First, the rapid rate of change in the field of blockchain means that practitioners need to keep up-to-date with the latest developments.
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