Blockchains and Smart Contracts

There is tremendous interest in Switzerland and the larger world in blockchain or distributed ledger technology, but current blockchain systems are extremely limited in the scalability, security, and privacy they offer. For example, the DEDIS lab at EPFL, led by Bryan Ford, has for the past several years been building a next-generation open source blockchain platform, which is already in use for experimentation and prototyping by numerous industry partners. C4DT will lead a collaborative effort between EPFL and its industry partners to further develop, harden, and operationally deploy a next-generation blockchain supporting massive scale and transaction processing capacities, low transaction latencies, and privacy features that no other current blockchain platform can offer.

While there are numerous other blockchain-related industry initiatives and associations, there is none competitive with C4DT in the technical space it targets. First, the vast majority of the blockchain initiatives are primarily business-oriented and have little leading-edge technical direction or expertise. Second, even those blockchain associations that do have some technical component – such as HyperLedger and R3 – have little expertise in or emphasis on the critical security/privacy space. As a result, the so-called “blockchain” software these initiatives have produced so far (including the R3 Corda and HyperLedger Fabric systems) have numerous single points of failure and compromise, thereby stretching the definition of the term “blockchain” to a breaking point and offering little more (and often less) security and privacy than that offered by conventional networked and cloud computing systems. To our knowledge none of these initiatives have managed to publish a single peer-reviewed paper at a top-tier systems or security/privacy conference, and we believe would be unable to do so because the architectures they propose are fundamentally deficient in security and privacy. In contrast, EPFL is the only institution in the world that has both developed its own next-generation blockchain technology, and successfully published numerous peer-reviewed papers on it in recent years at the very most selective and competitive, top-tier security and privacy conferences such as IEEE Security & Privacy (“Oakland”) and USENIX Security.

Due to EPFL’s existing blockchain expertise and recognized leading-edge track record in researching and prototyping next-generation blockchain systems, C4DT is uniquely positioned to bring the Swiss quality and security “brand” to the blockchain ecosystem. By working with its partners to refine, harden, and deploy the blockchain architecture designed and prototyped by EPFL, C4DT will be able to take the lead in setting security, privacy, and scalability standards in the blockchain ecosystem, and in turn foster further blockchain ecosystem activity and entrepreneurship throughout Switzerland. While the central blockchain design comes from EPFL, C4DT will rely on its partners to bring further development and operational deployment expertise, to help focus the blockchain development on application pillars relevant to its partners (such as health, FinTech, and digital identity).