In the press, in seminars or in a conversation between colleagues, Blockchain is on everyone's lips!
If this new system for storing and sharing information promises to create a climate of trust, it is still unclear for many of us.
So how do we define blockchain in simple terms?
This is the mission we gave to one of our engineers, Thierry Grandjean, who specialises in information systems security, before diving into the EBSILUX project, launched in 2020, in cooperation with the Ministry of Digitalisation, the University of Luxembourg and the non-profit organisation Infrachain.
Let's start by defining the notion of blockchain – it is a register comparable to the one merchants used in the past to manually transcribe and date their transactions. In the case of blockchain, this register is shared on a "Peer To Peer" computer network.
Before being included in the register, each transaction must be verified and validated by the members of the network – this is known as the consensus mechanism.
Each member has a copy of the register and can consult its history at any time.
This structure makes blockchain more resilient, by avoiding single points of failure, and more secure, by using cryptographic calculations rather than a trusted third party.
Another important feature of blockchain is its immutability. No member can change the history of transactions, which opens new possibilities, particularly in terms of traceability.
In April 2018, the European Commission launched the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) to develop cross-border public services via a blockchain system.
The energy consumption of certain blockchains, such as Bitcoin, being heavily criticised, the Commission’s choices naturally focused on less energy-consuming systems.
The Commission proposed then various use cases to the Member States and Norway, including the certification of diplomas, Luxembourg was particularly interested in, and for good reason – the Government had made of student mobility and international cooperation one of its priorities.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Digitalisation, the interdisciplinary centre for security, reliability and trust (SnT) of the University of Luxembourg and the non-profit organisation Infrachain, LIST engineers are currently working on an interoperable and cross-border solution based on the Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) concept, giving users the control of their identities and allowing them to choose the attributes they wish to share with third parties.
EBSILUX should therefore enable:
"The EBSILUX project goes far beyond student mobility and international cooperation – above all, it allows us to explore new avenues in the field of information security, with the European Commission’s support.
The idea is to strengthen our expertise in blockchain so we can apply it to other sectors of activity and turn Luxembourg into a pioneer.” confides Thierry.