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Overview

Blockchain represents a new paradigm for digital interactions and serves as the underlying technology for most cryptocurrencies.  

A blockchain is a collaborative, tamper-resistant ledger that maintains transactional records. The transactional records (data) are grouped into blocks. A block is connected to the previous one by including a unique identifier that is based on the previous block’s data. As a result, if the data is changed in one block, it’s unique identifier changes, which can be seen in every subsequent block (providing tamper evidence). This domino effect allows all users within the blockchain to know if a previous block’s data has been tampered with. Since a blockchain network is difficult to alter or destroy, it provides a resilient method of collaborative record keeping.

NIST researchers have been investigating blockchain technologies at multiple levels: from use cases, applications and existing services, to protocols, security guarantees, and cryptographic mechanisms. Research outcomes include scientific papers and the production of software for experimentation as well as providing direction for other NIST endeavors in this space. Blockchain has the potential to be implemented in many different systems, to include manufacturing supply chains, data registries, digital identification, and records management. 

 

Image depicting what a blockchain is.  A blockchain is a collaborative, tamper-resistant ledger that maintains transactional records. The transactional records (data) are grouped into blocks.  (see more information in page writeup)
Credit: NIST

NIST Projects

NISTIR 8202 – Blockchain Technology Overview
Point of Contact: Dylan Yaga
Summary: A high-level technical document explaining the technology involved in blockchain systems, as well as how the systems work.

Blockchain for Industrial Applications Community of Interest
Point of Contact:  blockchainCOI@nist.gov
Summary: The BIA COI – with members from government, industry, and academia – is providing guidelines to create a (better) synergy between end users, research community, and solution providers to reduce complexity, cost, and delay of adoption of blockchain technologies.

Enhanced Distributed Ledger Technology 
Point of Contact: D. Richard Kuhn 
Summary: The Enhanced Distributed Ledger Technology project examines the traditional blockchain data structure and seeks to create a new data structure (the block matrix) to provide high reliability, and security while also enabling deletion or updating capabilities not currently found in most blockchain systems.

NIST Cybersecurity White Paper - A Taxonomic Approach to Understanding Emerging Blockchain Identity Management Systems 
Points of Contacts: blockchain-idms-paper@nist.gov
Summary: A high-level technical document breaking down the key components, emerging standards, and system architectures that support blockchain-based identity management systems.

NISTIR 8301 – Blockchain Networks: Token Design and Management Overview
Points of Contacts: blockchain-token-paper@nist.gov
Summary: An overview of token data models and important building blocks for account, transaction, and infrastructure management in an effort to lower the barriers to study, prototype, and integrate token-related standards and protocols