“2018 is a year of building public awareness and acceptance of blockchain”
Blockchain is becoming more than just a trend but will it dominate the sector of economic transactions this year? What milestones will the technology behind Bitcoin achieve in 2018? We talked with David Huseby, Hyperledger’s Security Maven about all this and more.
JAXenter: Should we expect blockchain to dominate the sector of economic transactions in 2018?
David Huseby: Blockchains are just now being pushed into production and I anticipate that we’ll see big pushes to move economic transactions over to these new systems as they become more robust and widespread. However, I wouldn’t say that blockchains will be the dominant way transactions will be processed in 2018, mostly because of the conservative nature and cautious pace of new technology rollouts in the financial sector.
Blockchains are exciting and represent a significant sea change in how transactions are processed, but right now we’re just getting started.
JAXenter: Blockchain and AI are two powerful buzzwords that will only grow bigger this year. Do you think they’ll collide or will they stay separate? Could you give an example of a real-world use case for blockchain and AI?
David Huseby: Blockchains and AI are complementary types of technology. Blockchains are a better way for multiple computers to agree on the validity of data and what parts get stored and shared. AI is just a technique for deriving knowledge from data and synthesizing action (e.g. AI watching news feeds and making stock trades in response). The public, distributed nature of blockchains means that it can become a great source of data that AI’s can leverage. A real-world example is a UK startup known as Eclipse. They built an AI-driven “blockchain forensics” tool.
JAXenter: Simplicity is a new cryptocurrency language which promises to further improve on existing cryptocurrency languages, offer improved safety and help you build useful smart contracts. Hyperledger Fabric is already a well-known framework but do you plan to create languages as well?
David Huseby: What you are calling a language in this context is a domain-specific programming language directed at transaction validation — a.k.a. smart contracts. All of the Hyperledger blockchain platforms — Iroha, Indy, Sawtooth, and Fabric — have dynamic transaction validation solutions, but none of them have custom domain-specific programming languages.
Writing a custom language, like Simplicity, isn’t necessary to achieve a flexible transaction validation system. Hyperledger Fabric uses the popular Go programming language for its transaction validation code. Hyperledger Sawtooth has pluggable transaction validators allowing developers to write them in a number of programming languages such as Java and Python. It even has the ability to use the Hyperledger implementation of the Ethereum Virtual Machine, allowing developers to use Ethereum smart contracts to validate transactions. Even though there aren’t any custom domain-specific programming language projects at Hyperledger, there is no reason why we couldn’t have any in the future.
JAXenter: We’ve been talking about the advantages blockchain brings to the finance industry but how about cybersecurity? How can this technology help fight cyber attacks?
David Huseby: There are a number of ways blockchains can enhance cybersecurity and help prevent cyber attacks. Blockchains are revolutionizing digital provenance — the chronology of ownership and custody of data. Everything from farm-to-table food production to just-in-time manufacturing will be greatly enhanced with blockchains tracking every part of the supply chain from where it is created all the way to where and when it is consumed.
In cybersecurity, blockchains can be used for tracking the software supply chain. Keeping track of every change to a piece of software and the compiled programs that are created from the software can all be tracked with a blockchain. In network security, having a blockchain to look at after a breach occurs would greatly increase the efficacy of digital forensics and speed up remedies. Blockchains could record and distribute events on a network or in a system so that it could be analyzed — potentially by an AI — to spot cyber attacks in real time. The entire provenance of the events would be there to look at in real time and for later analysis to stop and prevent similar future attacks.
It is likely that we’ll see blockchains moving into applications where evidence preservation and forensics are of serious concern.
JAXenter: What are the new areas in which blockchain is likely to be used this year?
David Huseby: It is likely that we’ll see blockchains moving into applications where evidence preservation and forensics are of serious concern such as safety-critical systems (e.g. medical devices) and data recorders (e.g. aircraft black boxes). Blockchains are interesting in that they provide not only tamper evident/resistant storage but can also prove the timing and ordering of data through the use of cryptography.
JAXenter: What milestone do you think blockchain will achieve this year?
David Huseby: This is the year when non-technical and generally uninterested people will learn about and begin to understand what a blockchain is. 2018 is a year of building public awareness and acceptance of this technology.
JAXenter: What’s next for Hyperledger?
David Huseby: In 2018, we will hopefully see more 1.0 milestones; more production deployments: for example, Change Healthcare has announced an early 2018 go-live for their claims processing blockchain built on Hyperledger Fabric. There will be a growing Hyperledger staff and presence at events, creating more content, supporting a growing set of projects and working groups and more membership growth. We are reaching out to a broader set of industries than ever, and are deepening our relationships with our existing members. We really want to focus on modularity and connecting developers, enterprises and the non-tech world, which can benefit from blockchain technologies.
Hyperledger projects will explore integration and interoperability with each other even further, allowing a greater number of options to be available to developers. We can’t wait to see how we can work closer with the developers and wide community to collaborate and make blockchain great.