Cover: Understanding the landscape of Distributed Ledger Technologies/Blockchain

Understanding the landscape of Distributed Ledger Technologies/Blockchain

Challenges, opportunities, and the prospects for standards

Published Oct 18, 2017

by Advait Deshpande, Katherine Stewart, Louise Lepetit, Salil Gunashekar

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Research Questions

  1. What are the challenges and opportunities in relation to Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT)/Blockchain?
  2. What are the priority areas that may require future standardisation to support the growth of the technology?

In this report, we present an overview of the current landscape of DLT/Blockchain developments and closely examine the issues that are central to the development of DLT/Blockchain. We articulate a set of areas for further consideration by the DLT/Blockchain community regarding the potential role of standardization. Rather than providing a definitive list of topics, the aim of the study is to provoke further discussion across the DLT/Blockchain community about the potential role of standards in supporting the development and adoption of the technology. The research has been carried out using a mixed methods approach involving a focused review of the literature, in-depth interviews with experts from public and private organizations, and an internal workshop.

Key Findings

Challenges facing DLT/Blockchain

  • Lack of clarity on the terminology and perceived immaturity of the technology.
  • Perceived risks in early adoption and likely disruption to existing industry practices.
  • Insufficient evidence on business gains and wider economic impact.
  • Lack of clarity on how the technology is/would be governed.
  • Uncertainty around regulation.
  • Multiple non-interoperable implementations and resulting fragmentation.
  • Maintaining security and privacy of data.
  • Ensuring integrity of data and strong encryption.
  • Energy-intensive nature of the technology.
  • Lack of clarity regarding smart contracts and how to implement them through DLT/Blockchain.

Opportunities for DLT/Blockchain

  • Providing efficiency gains (including cost savings) for businesses and end-users.
  • Enabling new economic and business models.
  • Improving resilience and security in transactional systems.
  • Empowering end-users and improving trust in transactions.
  • Offering benefits for recording and reporting of data and activities through immutability capabilities.
  • Enabling management of digital identity through public key cryptography.
  • Providing the underlying mechanism for smart contracts and enabling smart auditing capabilities.

Prospective role of standards in relation to DLT/Blockchain

Although it is too early to consider standards related to technical aspects, standards can potentially play a role in the following areas:

  • Establishing consensus on consistent terminology.
  • Ensuring interoperability between multiple implementations.
  • Addressing security, privacy and data governance concerns.
  • Fostering trust, including managing end-user identity.
  • Facilitating implementation of provenance tracking.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was funded by the British Standards Institution (BSI) and conducted by RAND Europe.

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