Four research institutions, including Télécom ParisTech and Télécom SudParis, are embarking on a joint research initiative focused on the blockchain. Along with INRIA and the Institute for Technological Research (IRT) SystemX, this scientific task force will take on the challenge of integrating the blockchain into industrial processes. The six focus areas of this research initiative called Blockchain Advanced Research & Technologies (BART) are scaling-up, security, data confidentiality, architecture, monitoring and business models. Gérard Memmi, head of the IT & Networks Department at Télécom ParisTech explains the objectives of this initiative, launched on 6 March 2018.
Why create a joint research initiative on the blockchain?
Gérard Memmi: The blockchain is often seen as a mature technology. In some ways it is, since it is based on scientific findings that have been known for 20 or 30 years—such as Merkle trees and the Byzantine generals problem. Yet this is not enough to make the blockchain the revolutionary technology that everyone expects it to become. Constant research must be carried out behind the scenes to ensure greater security, to scale the technology up for use by companies, and to make it compatible with current and future information systems. For example, the current proof-of-work system required for maintaining the blocks is incompatible with industrial performance requirements: it requires too many IT resources and too much time and energy. There are real scientific challenges ahead!
What will each of the different partners of the Blockchain Advanced Research & Technologies (BART) contribute?
GM: We expect INRIA to provide research in the areas of formal verification, theoretical computer science, cryptography… What I believe they expect of us is related to applications: connections with telecommunications protocols, the development of IT architectures, cybersecurity, scaling-up… However, I hope there will be a lot of interaction between the researchers of the different disciplines I just mentioned. Through the involvement of IMT, we will also be able to use the TeraLab platform. SystemX contributes valuable connections with manufacturers and plans to use scientific findings to fuel work situated downstream in companies’ industrialization processes. That is their role as an Institute for Technological Research.
What is the goal of the Blockchain Advanced Research & Technologies (BART) initiative?
GM: In creating BART, we hope to form a multidisciplinary research team that will be a blockchain benchmark in France. We have the means to accomplish this partly because we have been working on this topic for a long time. Three years ago, we launched one of the first theses on the blockchain in France as part of the joint SEIDO laboratory with EDF, at a time when no one was talking about this technology. SystemX launched research projects involving industrial partners as early as 2016, specifically through the Blockchain for Smart Transactions (BST) project. We have therefore been able to begin creating a network of high-level scientific and industrial relationships.
Does this mean BART is anchored in dynamics that already existed?
GM: Yes, we are in the active launch phase. The signing of the framework agreement is not simply a matter of policy, it reflects real concrete actions. Personally, I see the BART initiative as part of a unified whole. For example, one of the PhD students funded by BART will go to Munich Technical University (TUM) to work on their blockchain platform. This cooperation really makes sense, since IMT and TUM have founded the Franco-German Industry of the Future Academy. In addition, as part of this alliance we are developing a Franco-German project called HyBlockArch devoted to blockchain architecture for industry. Although institutional connections do not always exist between these different entities, the work of each one is recognized by the others and contributes to the whole. This is also a great principle of international research: we come together with a common purpose and take advantage of all the possible synergies to make the greatest possible impact on science and society.
Also read on I’MTech: Is blockchain the ultimate technology of trust?