Enjoy more free content and benefits by creating an account
Saving articles to read later requires an IEEE Spectrum account
The Institute content is only available for members
Downloading full PDF issues is exclusive for IEEE Members
Access to Spectrum's Digital Edition is exclusive for IEEE Members
Following topics is a feature exclusive for IEEE Members
Adding your response to an article requires an IEEE Spectrum account
Create an account to access more content and features on IEEE Spectrum, including the ability to save articles to read later, download Spectrum Collections, and participate in conversations with readers and editors. For more exclusive content and features, consider Joining IEEE.
Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, archives, PDF downloads, and other benefits. Learn more →
When Bitcoin was unleashed on the world, it filled a specific need. But it wasn’t long before people realized the technology behind Bitcoin—the blockchain—could do much more than record monetary transactions.