There has been a lot of talk about how Blockchain will revolutionize the secure transfer of information.

However, quite a few are still unclear on exactly what Blockchain is, where its applications can be used and how anyone will be able to deliver usable software to potential buyers.

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As an emerging tech trend, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has been tracking Blockchain’s birth, development and progress for years. S&T is interested because of the potential for building resilience into digital transaction systems.

By understanding its potential applications and impact, and setting universal standards for usage, S&T is paving the way for multiple agencies such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and others to successfully and easily integrate Blockchain into their mission.

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But first things first, just what is Blockchain?

Blockchain gained wide notoriety as the system that runs the Bitcoin digital currency transaction confirmation process.

What makes it so different from previous models is each transaction of the digital monies forms a new “block” in a public ledger. The ledger is transparent and communally verifiable within an open and shared database. As a shared, synchronized and geographically disbursed database, with no centralized data storage, the system is designed to remove the “single point of failure” risk (including technical malfunction and malicious alteration) present in other systems.

One of the other key differentiators from previous structures is since it is a “distributed electronic ledger,” if one wants to track the historical transactions of a specific unit of currency (or data) from its introduction into the system until a specific date, that can be done and verified by multiple independent users. The blocks form an unbroken “chain” that acts as a visible digital paper trail.

So far, Blockchain has proven extremely resistant to any type of hacking or alteration, and that makes it especially attractive for Homeland Security Enterprise (HSE) uses.

S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) bridges the public/private sector gap by cultivating relationships, advising and educating innovators on DHS needs and then offering opportunities to fund and test technologies.

“About three years ago, we saw that the global interest in Blockchain technology was not matched by technical investments that ensured that the technology incorporated fundamental security, privacy and interoperability functions,” said Anil John, SVIP technical director. “In other words, while its capabilities could represent a dramatic change in the way that things will be done in the future, so much so that it could disrupt the current norms in multiple sectors, there were still missing links in the chain. That’s when we offered our assistance.”

And with that, S&T launched a program for Blockchain that focused on security, privacy and interoperability specifications and standards.

S&T is taking the lead in developing the processes for the use of Blockchain. This work will accelerate the development and deployment of this important technology throughout the HSE and other government agencies. By modernizing these systems, Blockchain will save time, money and reduce fraud.

Development of standards enables a robust and competitive marketplace for Blockchain uses that will benefit government clients and the private sector industry manufacturers and sellers.

Meanwhile, S&T SVIP is continuing to fund and explore new ways to facilitate the speedy and secure transfer of authenticated data and the verification of documentation to secure trade, travel and ultimately, the country.

“The work we’re doing with Blockchain will enable the HSE to execute its mission more efficiently. By automating a multitude of time-consuming tasks, agents will be freed to focus on other areas of trade, travel and security,” said John, “The program’s success will serve as the foundation of our ‘whole of government’ approach to Blockchain in the future.”

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