A distributed ledger is a database that can securely record financial, physical or electronic assets for sharing across a network through entirely transparent updates of information. Its first incarnation was ‘Blockchain’ in 2008, which underpinned digital cash systems such as Bitcoin. The technology has now evolved into a variety of models that can be applied to different business problems and dramatically improve the sharing of information.
A shared ledger is essentially a database that keeps track of who owns a financial, physical or electronic asset: a diamond, a unit of currency, or items inside a shipping container, for example. Crucially, every participant can keep a copy of the block chain, which is updated automatically every time a new transaction occurs. The security and accuracy of the information is maintained through mathematics — specifically by cryptography — to ensure that all copies of the ledger match each other. Almost anything that exists on paper today could exist on a shared ledger.