As part of the 2017 ERCIM spring meetings in Paris, ERCIM held a half-day workshop on blockchain technology on May 23 2017. Co-chaired by Georges Gonthier (Inria) and Wolfgang Prinz (Fraunhofer FIT), the workshop provided a high-level overview of blockchain technology and its opportunities for computer science research to the senior-level workshop attendees. The attendees included executives of ERCIM member institutes as well as a number of researchers.
Wolfgang Prinz (Vice-Chair of Fraunhofer FIT Institute) started out the morning by giving a comprehensive introduction to blockchain technology, its application areas, and related computer science research questions. In particular, he outlined the various areas of computer science research that blockchain technology is touching and using, which include:
- P2P networks
- Distributed systems (in particular scalability)
- Cryptography (with a focus on crypto-agility)
- Consensus-building and validation
- Software lifecycle of smart contracts.
The presentation also provided a classification of the design space which different blockchain technologies are using (unpermissioned versus permissioned, logic-oriented versus transaction oriented). Finally, Wolfgang outlined a number of potential areas of collaboration between ERCIM members, including the creation of an ERCIM blockchain infrastructure.
In the second talk of the day, Georges Gonthier (Inria SPECFUN Unit) talked about the application of formal methods to smart contracts. He outlined the pitfalls of languages currently used for programming smart contracts and their consequences, including the bug in the Ethereum blockchain network that led to the highly visible loss of 53 million dollars (which were later recovered). He argued for the use of formal proof and analysis of smart contracts to prevent this type of issue in the future. The second part of the presentation focussed on new challenges and ideas in the area of name services.
In the final talk of the morning, Arnaud Le Hors (IBM, Member of the Hyperledger Technical Steering Committee) presented the Hyperledger open source project and its quickly growing success in terms of participants and applications. In particular, Arnaud reported that Hyperledger is the fastest growing project in the history of the Linux Foundation, with 300% growth in the first year. He further described the workings of the project, including working groups that are open and free for anyone to participate in, as well as regular hackathons, hackfests and meetups. Then, Arnaud provided a detailed description of the Hyperledger 1.0 “fabric” architecture, covering the ordering service, single and multi channel networks, chaincode and endorsement policies. Arnaud concluded his talk explaining how to get started using Hyperledger, and how to get involved in the community.
Philipp Hoschka, ERCIM Manager