Blockchain technology could revolutionize the way people travel, making them more secure when miles away from home. FEATURE
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Blockchain technology could revolutionize the way people travel, making them more secure when miles away from home.

In a frequent traveler's Utopia, crossing international borders requires nothing more than showing up for take-off. Personal data is always safe and secure, and you won't even need to pack your passport. This global nomad's paradise may be closer than you think, thanks to blockchain technology.

Experts say blockchain can address a number of challenges in the travel industry.

Blockchain technology can be used to create and corroborate digital identities, and enable the creation of virtual passports. Blockchain technology can be used to create and corroborate digital identities, and enable the creation of virtual passports. The IT and telecommunication services company SITA, is exploring how to build next generation single travel tokens, and making the information on them accessible to multiple airports via blockchain. This can potentially eliminate the need for passengers to carry multiple travel documents, and prevent identity hacking.

While having an identity is mandatory for any traveler, not to mention tax-paying member of modern society, Maksim Izmaylov, founder of the blockchain startup Winding Tree, says verifying identity on blockchain is useful only if the blockchain is public.

"Yes, we can use blockchains for payments or secure storage of user identity, but first of all, we have to use public, permissionless blockchains, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, in order to enable these features," says Izmaylov. 

At its core, a blockchain is a decentralized database that is immutable, as it's constantly verified by the network of computers that keep it running, and maintains a growing list of records. Because blockchains are decentralized, there's no need for intermediaries to be involved when records are created. This allows for the creation of smart contracts, computer program codes that act as self-enforced agreements.

What else can blockchain do for the travel industry?

This can potentially eliminate the need for passengers to carry multiple travel documents, and prevent identity hacking. Beyond identity verification, Izmaylov believes blockchain will make travel transactions more simple by eliminating the middleman, which is essentially the premise of the technology.

Winding Tree is trying to make a play in this direction. The company is a decentralized organization and open marketplace designed to democratize data that's normally hard to access from online travel agencies to enable travel startups to innovate.

The group aims to use blockchain technology to let consumers deal directly with travel suppliers. They promise to eliminate commission fees, and enable transactions in near real-time.

Winding Tree is a fully-automated solution, with integrations directly with reservation systems of travel suppliers

The Winding Tree MVP (minimum viable product) is being built on the public blockchain Ethereum, which will provide transparency. It's source code will be open-sourced to encourage software engineers to build applications and businesses on top of the platform.

The company is currently testing its smart contracts with a few partners, and working on developing partnerships with major airlines.

While blockchain technology isn't a teleportal that can beam travelers into another timezone or dimension, it's sparking innovation in efficiency and security—something every sector and consumer needs now and will even more in the future.

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The contents or opinions in this feature are independent and may not necessarily represent the views of Cisco. They are offered in an effort to encourage continuing conversations on a broad range of innovative technology subjects. We welcome your comments and engagement.

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About Melissa Jun Rowley

Melissa Jun Rowley is an award-winning journalist, on-air host, and content strategist with a passion for all things tied to social innovation.