“Blockchain” could win the award for most-hyped buzzword, so consulting firm Deloitte has introduced a “Blockchain in a Box” (BIAB) to help marketers and others undertake a more visible demonstration of the technology.
Packaged inside a portable shipping container, the BIAB provides three screens from three embedded laptops, networking cables and four small, rectangular networking interfaces for the nodes. A node is a communication point in a blockchain, from which information about the transaction is conveyed.
The demonstration kit is intended to be protocol-independent, so it could work with Ethereum, Hyperledger or other blockchain protocols.
Made more visible
A blockchain is a network that provides a distributed ledger, where each of the participants can immediately receive a copy of all transactions on the network, and where transactions can be approved by a consensus process that doesn’t need a central authority.
It has been wildly hailed in some ambitious claims, such as reinventing the legal system or the financial system, although those claims have been brought down to earth. While its eventual role is still being determined, it is finding value in such uses as tracking financial transactions across borders, enabling self-fulfilling automated agreements, and verifying transactions in the often-opaque world of digital advertising.
“Blockchain is one of those technologies that the community can’t get its head around,” Deloitte Consulting Principal Linda Pawczuk told ClickZ, so the intention with the BIAB is to make blockchain-enabled use cases more visible.
One node to another
That visibility, however, is still very abstract, such as in smart contracts, one of the most promising uses of blockchains. In a smart contract, an agreement is expressed as code that can be digitally verified and fulfilled, such as if/then conditional statements. If the digital ad is verified as being delivered and viewed on that web site, then release the payment for the ad.
In the BIAB’s demonstration of a smart contract, Pawczuk said, a user sees the encryption of the data, the code where it is transported through the network, the code where it lands on participating nodes, and the notification to an end user that the user’s encryption key can be utilized to authenticate the results.
The BIAB kit, said Deloitte Advisory Managing Director Mike Prokop, is designed to let users see the transaction data as it moves from one node to another.
Other use cases that could similarly be demonstrated in this way include tracking the provenance of a product, such as premium chocolate beans’ origination in a farm in Peru, or the creation of a blockchain-enabled decentralized application or DApp.