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 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 enforces those obligations.
For example, suppose you rent an apartment 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 me and you, 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 with 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.