What Is Smart Contracts?

What are Smart Contracts?

Smart contracts help you exchange money, property, shares, or anything of value in a transparent, conflict-free way while avoiding the services of a middleman.

The best way to describe smart contracts is to compare the technology to a vending machine. Ordinarily, you would go to a lawyer or a notary, pay them, and wait while you get the document. With smart contracts, you simply drop a bitcoin into the vending machine (i.e. ledger), and your escrow, driver’s license, or whatever drops into your account. More so, smart contracts not only define the rules and penalties around an agreement in the same way that a traditional contract does, but also automatically enforce those obligations.

As Vitalik Buterin, the 22-year-old programmer of Ethereum, explained it at a recent DC Blockchain Summit, in a smart contract approach, an asset or currency is transferred into a program “and the program runs this code and at some point it automatically validates a condition and it automatically determines whether the asset should go to one person or back to the other person, or whether it should be immediately refunded to the person who sent it or some combination thereof.”In the meantime, the decentralized ledger also stores and replicates the document which gives it a certain security and immutability.


Example:
Suppose you rent an a guesthouse from me. You can do this through the blockchain by paying in cryptocurrency. You get a receipt which is held in our virtual contract; I give you the digital entry key which comes to you by a specified date. If the key doesn’t come on time, the blockchain releases a refund. If I send the key before the rental date, the function holds it releasing both the fee and key to you and me respectively when the date arrives. The system works on the If-Then premise and is witnessed by hundreds of people, so you can expect a faultless delivery. If I give you the key, I’m sure to be paid. If you send a certain amount in bitcoins, you receive the key. The document is automatically canceled after the time, and the code cannot be interfered by either of us without the other knowing since all participants are simultaneously alerted.
You can use smart contracts for all sort of situations that range from financial derivatives to insurance premiums, breach contracts, property law, credit enforcement, financial services, legal processes and crowdfunding agreements.

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