HALF MOON BAY, Calif. \u2013 Experts at a recent technology conference agreed that blockchain has a bright future, but warned it may be a rocky ride until that future arrives. Blockchain is a distributed database that uses a secure digital ledger of transactions that users can share across a computer network.\u00a0It\u2019s also the technology behind virtual currency bitcoin. \u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u201cWhen you are at the leading edge there will be mistakes. People will get a lot wrong in the next five years. I think of it kind of like running with scissors,\u201d says Constellation Research analyst Steve Wilson at the Oct. 26 Connected Enterprise conference hosted by his company.But blockchain enthusiast Richie Etwaru, chief digital officer at IMS Health, had a different take. He started by pointing to the colorful pair of sneakers he was wearing and noted he bought them using bitcoin, the controversial digital currency that\u2019s been plagued by security issues.\u201cI think blockchain is the biggest thing I\u2019ve seen in my life,\u201d says Etwaru. \u201cI work in healthcare and bitcoin to blockchain is like what AOL chat was to the internet, and bitcoin is only one substantiation of blockchain.\u201dBlockchain can help the healthcare industry build trustIn the healthcare industry Etwaru says blockchain can help establish new business models that overcome what he describes as the massive absence of trust that exists today among patients, doctors, the pharmaceutical industry and the government.\u201cWe started thinking of how we can engineer trust into the network and the distributed ledger (i.e. blockchain) is a great way to solve the trust issue because the information is owned by everyone and no one, and can be seen by everyone and no one,\u201d he says. \u201cIt\u2019s immutable, you can\u2019t reverse it, it\u2019s pretty decently encrypted and it can be permissions-based.\u201dOne example Etwaru points to is that trials for new drugs are often flawed because patients don\u2019t trust how their information is going to be used. \u201cWith blockchain you could do things like citizen research for healthcare. There could be autonomous organizations like a Wikipedia of research on cancer based on an abundance of trust enabled by blockchain,\u201d said Etwaru.Blockchain can disrupt the cybersecurity landscapeMike Kail,chief innovation officer at Cybric, a company that\u2019s looking to \u201cdisrupt the cybersecurity landscape\u201d with new services, says blockchain has got people thinking differently about what\u2019s possible.Kail says blockchain technology promises to change the status quo of having to trust a broker to complete financial transactions to a system of automated, verifiable transactions that eliminates the middleman. Speaking more broadly, he says blockchain can bring more efficiency to every company with a supply chain challenge.For companies looking to test the blockchain waters he suggests figuring out a small use case where you can apply blockchain methodology and monitor the results.Another speaker, Shawn Wiora, cofounder and CEO of Maxxsure, a cybersecurity and cyber insurance company, is using blockchain to offer new kinds of services. \u201cWe\u2019re able to offer things like variable premiums for a cyber insurance policy that changes as your cyber profile changes,\u201d said Wiora. \u201cDoes anyone else offer that?\u201d he asked rhetorically.But even with some companies already innovating, veteran Silicon Valley product executive Chirag Mehta says blockchain\u2019s best days are clearly ahead of it. \u201cBlockchain looks like what the cloud looked like 10 or 15 years ago,\u201d says Mehta, a former executive at SAP and adjunct professor at Santa Clara University where he teaches such topics as web services and cloud computing to graduate students.One difference he sees vs. the cloud though that\u2019s surprised him, is that companies big and small seem to be interested in exploring blockchain\u2019s potential. \u201cBig companies weren\u2019t as interested in the cloud in the early days,\u201d says Mehta. \u201cThey weren\u2019t as ready to jump in.\u201dWhat blockchain does really well, he adds, is provide the technical integrity necessary to let you trust a series of events. \u201cBut don\u2019t confuse that with security,\u201d he emphasized.If blockchain needs a blue chip, big name advocate it has one in IBM. Aron Dutta, global head of blockchain at IBM, says he\u2019s already running blockchain technology globally across industries. He sees blockchain as giving companies a way to rethink business models and make more money.Dutta says he has over 4,000 PhDs and 100,000 consultants he can call on to aid his work at IBM, so stay tuned. \u201cIt\u2019s not about use cases,\u201d he emphasizes. \u201cIt\u2019s about business models.\u201dDavid Needle is a technology journalist based in Silicon Valley.