The much-hyped, little-understood distributed ledger technology takes aim at big business, with promising pilot programs and rising demand for blockchain skills, though security and buy-in questions remain.

Blockchain, the complex technology that supports bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, is poised for a move into mainstream business.

A growing number of industries and at least three national governments are conducting pilots or, in a few cases, actual deployments of blockchain applications. Early use cases are aimed at harnessing the technology to improve supply chain management and food safety, verify identities, conduct real estate transactions, and handle medical records and insurance transactions. There’s serious money involved as IBM, Microsoft and a host of startups are building blockchain platforms, and companies looking for blockchain engineers and developers are paying premium salaries.

“There have been many prototypes in the last two years, and now we’re starting to see the first serious blockchain applications,” says David Treat, a managing director for financial services at Accenture, a business consulting company. “Beyond financial services there are two overarching themes: identity and supply chain.”

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