...by Daniel Szego
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Leonardo da Vinci

Friday, July 24, 2020

European Blockchain Infrastructure

EBSI (European Blockchain Service Infrastructure) is a blockchain service provided by the European Union in a test phase for the time being, with the aim of providing a single blockchain service to Member States. The antecedents of the project include the European Blockchain Agreement of 2018, to which Hungary also joined in 2019. On the other hand, the Alastria network, which provides the countries of the Iberian Peninsula with a quasi-state distributed general ledger technology platform, using a modified Ethereum / Quorum technology.

The development of the platform runs on several levels: on the one hand, they try to integrate as many countries as possible at Member State level and run local nodes in as many places as possible. From this point of view, the system can be considered as a consortium blockchain: no one can connect to the network and run their own node completely freely, but it is possible to create a fixed number of dedicated nodes per country. On the other hand, there is a strong emphasis on developing the base platform. This is not a completely new distributed general ledger technology, but the integration of existing and somewhat functional blockchain platforms into a single framework. Currently, the platforms to be integrated are a consortium solution from Ethereum, the Hyperledger Fabric consortium blockchain solution, and the Hyperledger Indy framework for decentralized identification. However, this list is not necessarily final, new basic blockchain technologies may be used in the future.

In addition to the development of the basic platform, the testing of use cases at the small experimental level has also started in parallel. In 2019, the following applications were launched:

- Notarisation: one of the features of the blockchain is that it is very difficult to change the entered transactions, so it is excellent for auditing the consistency of critical data and contracts. In practice, digital fingerprints of sensitive data and an associated timestamp are usually written into the blockchain so that the state of a given document at a given point in time can be audited.

- Diploma: the user case allows university diplomas awarded in the territory of the Union to be verified and easily exchanged between countries.

- European identity system: the use case aims at digitizing the various solutions used for identification in the Union.

- Authentic data sharing: aims at reliable and credible data sharing between the different institutions of the EU Member States.

The list is by no means final. It is planned that new application cases will be selected and implemented each year.

Technologically, the EBSI framework is organized into layers:

- The lowest infrastructure layer is responsible for a reliable and secure network connection between the nodes.

- The “chain and storage” layer implements the specific blockchain services by supplementing it with a so-called off-chain solution suitable for distributed storage.

- “core services” implements EBSI’s core services in a blockchain agonistic way, allowing the underlying blockchain platforms to change.

- The “user-case” layer implements the application cases listed above.

- The aim of the top tier is to enable the Union's industry to implement complex business applications using the layers mentioned above.

As mentioned at the beginning, EBSI is by no means a final service, after the 2019 start-up and initial deployment cases and test phase, new deployment cases will be selected in 2020, followed by the second version of the base platform from 2021. While it is still conceivable that we will have to wait a year or two before we can develop productive applications over EBSI, it is definitely worth keeping an eye on the evolution of the technology.