More secure blockchain applications

maintaining a record of who is buying and selling power from their solar panels and wind farms to the grid.

The broader effort at Vanderbilt is tackling blockchain fundamentals. That includes developing more secure “smart contracts” that are a foundation of the technology. Jules White, an associate professor of computer science, said a meta-analysis of 20,000 smart contracts found 8,000 with security issues.

“The major bugs actually came from the creators of blockchain platforms,” he said.

Yet permanence is part of classic blockchain theory—the idea that each step in a transaction is ledger entry that cannot be changed. When problems, including serious security breaches, surface the fixes are not easy.

Experts at Vanderbilt are attacking that problem from multiple fronts, including developing a secure test bed where researchers and developers can try out their ideas.

“If you cannot change anything how do you learn from your mistakes?” said Abhishek Dubey, assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering. “We are creating an environment in the lab containing tools to build blockchain smart contracts and ensure they are correct.”

Anastasia Mavridou,  a post-doctoral researcher on the team, focuses on correct-by-design smart contracts. Advanced mathematics techniques can prove the soundness of the code; the test bed, or foundry, uses verified blockchain “recipes” as a starting point and examines new code based on patterns known to be glitch-free.

The application generates code, as well as validates it .

Advancing blockchain tech a Nashville priority
Vanderbilt says that experts at the Vanderbilt’s Institute for Software Integrated Systems, leveraging components of earlier work done for DARPA, medical devices, and satellite security, want to accelerate the development of secure blockchain technology to solve some thorny problems with transactions that involve digital assets.

The comprehensive push also adds to Nashville’s reputation as a hub for healthcare IT innovation, including technologies with roots in blockchain fundamentals.  Jumpstart Foundry parent company Briovation, for example, recently launched an investment fund for healthcare specific blockchain technologies. Music City ranks No. 17 on a list of metro areas for blockchain jobs in the U.S., according to a recent study by CyrptoFundResearch – ahead of Oakland, Santa Clara and Washington D.C.

The Center for Medical Interoperability, a nonprofit cooperative research and development lab founded by major health systems, is based here, aiming to simplify data sharing among medical systems and technologies. Healthcare IT providers have their own proprietary blockchain-related products in the works and, to some extent, in the market.

Vanderbilt researchers, however, approach blockchain-based applications from an open source mindset. They already are working with the city economic development leaders, who consider development of blockchain technology for healthcare vital to the city’s competitiveness.

Greater Nashville is home to healthcare companies with $84 billion in annual revenue, and the industry is ripe for technological disruption. Vanderbilt’s deep expertise in this area is among the assets Nashville is leveraging to lead the disruption—not follow it or get left behind altogether.