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Human beings have always needed to store data in protected places. Blockchain technology – a specialized method of sharing and validating data – is revolutionizing an ancient model, the fortress resistant to invasion. It enables secure communication and authentication of data stored in blocks. As Kaiwen Zhang explains, “Ultimately, it’s essentially the same approach, a variation on the concept of the safe.ˮ
A Distributed Ledger
Professor Zhang, who joined ÉTS almost three years ago as a research professor in the Software and IT Engineering Department, is a specialist in what is known as “distributed ledgersˮ. A ledger is said to be “distributedˮ (as opposed to a centralized ledger) when it is simultaneously recorded and synchronized on a network of computers managed by different stakeholders. This network evolves by adding new information, previously validated by the entire network, that will never be modified or deleted.
The blockchain forms the technological underpinning for distributed ledgers. It represents a revolution in terms of information storage, but also in terms of data security. It is virtually impossible to rebuild the chain for malicious purposes by hacking and tampering with information from existing blocks. Because the chain is completely transparent, all its users know how it works, as well as its limits.
Dr. Zhang is involved in several research projects led by the FUSEEE research group, which he founded at ÉTS. These include a project on performance modeling for the Bitcoin network, a project with Bitfarms on modeling the Internet of Things and another with Ericsson on traceability for machine learning.
Now that data theft is a global scourge and protecting personal information has become a major international concern, especially with the imminent arrival of 5G connectivity – which will increase the data in circulation tenfold – and on the eve of the artificial intelligence revolution, blockchain technology is becoming a must.