"BlockChain", "Bitcoins" and "Crypto Currencies" are saturating the market, media and news cycles as the latest technological craze. Gartner describes Blockchain as, "as a technology that can radically transform business and society. But for most, the technology remains an enigma". This document hopes to decrypt that enigma.
In its base form Blockchain technology is the application of a Distributed Ledger shared across a Peer-To-Peer Network. Where the name BlockChain comes from is how the entries in the ledger are stored:
- A blockchain, is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography.
- Each block typically contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data.
- A blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for inter-node communication and validating new blocks.
- Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires collusion of the network majority.
There are many components that make up the Blockchain infrastructure, these vary from system to system but all of them have the following key components:
- A Peer-To- Peer Network
- Nodes are the peers of a Blockchain network.
- They’re computers/servers running the Blockchain software .
- Any computer running blockchain software can act as Blockchain node.
Peer-To- Peer Network
A peer-to-peer network is a decentralized communication model where each participating nodes (computer) will have the similar responsibilities and share information with each other. Unlike the client-server model, any node in the peer to peer network can send requests to other nodes and respond to requests by other nodes.
A digital wallet is a component of the blockchain software that stores the private and public keys of an entity. They come in various forms, e.x hardware tokens and software applications
Different implementations of Blockchain handle transaction in slightly different methods. Simply stated a transaction is an agreement between two groups to perform an exchange. The transaction is encrypted and hashed to ensure integrity and a certain level of privacy. The transaction is then advertised to the blockchain nodes to be included in the next available block
- It’s a type of Distributed Ledger
- Members of a blockchain network are called Nodes
- Each Node has a copy of the ledger… usually
- Blockchain Nodes rely on a Peer-to-Peer network of other nodes for synchronization.
- All information on the Distributed ledger is secured via cryptography (hashing, digital signatures, etc)
- There is no centralized authority …usually
- The transactions are added to ledger based on agreement from the nodes
- Valid transactions in the Blockchain network are added to the next available Block
- Blockchain miners generate the Blocks
- Multiple Blocks make up the Blockchain.
- All valid Blocks in Blockchain are Immutable.
- The chains creates an audit trail of the transactions (Verifiability)
The technology is being evaluated in almost every facet of society. Fascinating use cases are occurring in the world of Commerce, Education, Law Enforcement, Government, Media, Information, Logistics and Finance. This alls speak to Blockchain’s potential future ubiquity.
With that said, very few organizations have transitioned to sole Blockchain solutions and the majority of initiatives are currently in the pilot, testing or development phases of implementation. Although contributions vary according to the application, the benefits of using Blockchain in these instances are usually generalized into increased data security, accuracy and efficiency, all while lowering costs in correlation with these efficiencies.
Bottom line is, it’s hard to tell exactly what the potential of a public Blockchain could be. If you ask me whether this technology has the potential to help public servants deliver services to Canadians, my answer is, “Most likely.” But these benefits are still being discovered, assessed and evaluated and this is perhaps the most intriguing aspect for Enterprise Architects. Someone out there might find a solution or application that has never before been considered, bringing about massive changes to the organization. It’s anyone’s guess as to who or what that might be.
- ISO/TC 307
Canadian Government Use
- Verifiable Organizations Network
British Columbia - Provincial http://von.pathfinder.gov.bc.ca
- NRC-RAP Grants & Contributions Publishing
Canada – Federal https://nrc-cnrc.explorecatena.com/en
- PSPC-SRICanada – Federal
- Estonia KSIEstonia – Federal
Implications for Departments
BlockChain is a disruptive technology and is forcing business to re-examine how their services are being delivered. From an SSC perspective I think the biggest challenge will be to support the use of public and private networks, as well as the integration of API’s and Container technologies. A lot of the implementations of Blockchain are running on networks available to the public, have an API to interact and access data between organizations, nodes are being automated running in containers and on cloud networks.
This section provides the reader with source material used to prepare the Technology Roadmap document and will help them find more in-depth information to the technology is the so want.
Gartner, “Blockchain-Based Transformation” https://www.gartner.com/technology/research/blockchain/
Medium, “Why BlockChain is hard”
Medium, “How does the blockchain work for dummies explained simply”