Blockchain & Contracts

Blockchain & Contracts

While traditionally the Internet was designed as a highly decentralized system, most of today's Internet services are central platforms that are controlled by global organizations. Examples include services offered by Google, Facebook, Uber and many more. Consequently, the majority of (private) data is controlled by a small group of players thereby endangering privacy, fair market competition and eventually future innovation. Blockchain technology -- originally inspired by decentralized cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum -- offers the infrastructure and technology to allow a shift towards a decentralized autonomous society. In addition, because research on Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies is still largely in its infancy, it offers great potential to carry out interdisciplinary research. Our main goal of is to build foundations for blockchain technology and develop novel applications for, e.g., the Internet of Things, Fintech and secure autonomous systems. Concretely, we are currently investigating the following research directions:

“Scalable'': Scalable blockchain infrastructure

Two important disadvantages that hinder Blockchain technology to get applied at large scale are: (i) its huge amount of energy consumption to carry out the proof-of-work computation; and (ii) the limited number of transactions that can be processed by the network. For instance, the VISA network processes up to 47.000 transactions per second, while Bitcoin is currently limited to only 7 transactions per second. The goal of this project is to overcome these bottlenecks by applying techniques from cryptography and develop highly scalable blockchain technology for large scale decentralized systems.

”Contracts'': Foundations of Smart Contracts and Applications

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum allow users to execute so-called smart contracts that can be used to describe arbitrary self-enforcing contracts. As the recent DAO fiasco illustrates\footnote{\$ 50 mio were stolen by hackers from a flawed Ethereum contract}, it is highly complex to design and develop smart contracts that are guaranteed to execute as intended by their developers. The goal of this project is to establish foundations for secure smart contract design and development. To this end, we will follow a 2-step approach. In the first step, we establish an abstract modeling of smart contract functionalities, and describe pseudocode that provably implements these functionalities. In a second step, we intend to design tools that automatically compile such pseudocode into executable smart contract code that can, e.g., be deployed on Ethereum. This project may have significant impact on the future cryptocurrency ecosystem.

"Autonomy'': Blockchain-based secure autonomous systems

The Internet of Things (IoT) is characterized by myriads of “devices” that form smart systems interacting with each other in a fully autonomous way. Because Blockchain technology enables to secure decentralized systems, it is commonly viewed as an important building block for enabling an autonomous society. Possible applications are for Smart Logistic, Smart Mobility, Smart Energy and more general for the Internet of Things. The goal of this project is to develop Blockchain technology that is particularly suited for applications in the industry and the public sector.

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