In Spring 2019 semester, Blockchain at Berkeley continued its journey in Blockchain space. With the goal of becoming a center for blockchain innovation, we helped launch the first Blockchain-focused accelerator at UC Berkeley through a joined effort with Berkeley Engineering’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Haas School of Business. In addition, we have held regular events and meetups that are accessible to students and professionals interested in blockchain. Internally, with Blockchain at Berkeley’s powerful alumni network and plentiful resources, our members never ceased to explore new applications of blockchain and new areas of knowledge related to blockchain. As a result, we have had many outstanding internal projects which we will explain further in this article.
Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator
With a joint venture between Blockchain at Berkeley, Berkeley Engineering’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, and the Haas School of Business, we have launched a new blockchain-focused accelerator, the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator. The new accelerator will help entrepreneurs pursue ventures in the blockchain space, tap into the vast resources of UC Berkeley and Silicon Valley, and receive expert industry guidance to create high-value blockchain startups.
On March 19, the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator welcomed its first batch of teams. Drawn from a very competitive pool of applicants from all over the world, these teams were selected based on their unique approaches and potential for delivering real-world use cases for blockchain. The Spring 2019 cohort is made up of 12 teams (AnChain.ai, Bitmark, DataAgora, Dyson Network, FourthState Labs, Insolar.io, PlayTable, Source, SWFT Pay, TruSource, Vinc, and zkSystems) that utilize blockchain technology in a variety of ways, ranging from data ownership to tabletop gaming.
Public Events and Meetups
The Meetup program is a place for B@B members and the community to engage in comprehensive technical workshops and openly discuss advanced topics relating to blockchain technology and decentralized systems. These insightful and comprehensive technical workshops are primarily geared toward developers. In Spring 2019 semester, we have organized the following events:
1. Cosmos Introductory Talk ~ Many Chains, One Ecosystem: An introductory overview of the critical infrastructure and tooling provided in the Cosmos technology stack.
2. Smart Contract Security: Overview of security vulnerabilities in solidity such as overflow as well as typical attacks/defenses and analyze historical hacks like DAO hacks.
3. Blockchain for Social Impact: Blockchain and decentralized technologies stem from ideologies of personal freedom and equality; naturally, their potential for social good is vast and has been explored by many humanitarian organizations. Examples include energy and the environment, democracy and governance, agriculture including ethical sourcing, financial inclusion, and digital identity. However, with such a nascent technology, many challenges must be overcome before true impact is possible, and the blockchain space is constantly evolving with new advancements and breakthroughs every day. Our goal is to get an idea of what has been made possible by blockchain so far, what problems need to be solved to make more progress in social issues, and what we can expect in another ten years.
4. Blockchain in 2019: How we got here and where we’re going: The blockchain industry has undergone massive change, both good and bad, since the inception of Bitcoin in 2009. While there has been a Cambrian explosion of over 2,000 crypto assets, many of these are, or will be, failed experiments. Despite setbacks, the industry continues to innovate on scalability solutions, use-cases, and user adoption.
Come learn from the world’s leading crypto investors how the landscape has developed over the last decade, the state of the industry today, and how it will evolve in 2019 and beyond.
Upcoming events in April include:
1. she256 Recolor: Annual Conference 2019: she256 is a nonprofit dedicated to increasing diversity and breaking down barriers to entry in the blockchain space. Recolor is meant to be an amalgamation of experiences, opinions, and takeaways from this foundational year in the blockchain space. Because this is space is still in its infancy, we have the opportunity to set a precedent right now, to build in diversity and inclusion as a priority and value from the very beginning.
2. Developing on Hyperledger Technologies: Hosted by Blockchain at Berkeley and members of the Hyperledger community in Berkeley, this event will walk through how to develop on Hyperledger Fabric and help the public gain a deeper understanding of the processes behind Hyperledger and Ursa. The workshop will feature developers from IBM and Fujitsu. The workshop will feature both a non-technical overview as well as a hands-on lab.
Each semester, selected members are presented with the opportunity to build internal consulting projects to be showcased to B@B’s greater community. Below is a snippet of present projects for Spring 2019:
1. Textbook Rental Project：Textbook rental and purchasing are problematic on various fronts — , particularly regarding online textbooks. A blockchain network has the ability to solve these problems. The issue of ownership could be alleviated by recording the transfer of rights from one individual to another upon the sale of these textbooks through tokens and could be used to lock out individuals and prevent them from accessing content that they have resold.
2. Curated Academic Journal：By creating a blockchain-based academic archive where anyone can submit a paper or contribute to the process of peer review, we hope to standardize and streamline the publishing process. This project will consist of a direct feedback system where verified experts are incentivized to review curated papers on a global scale.
3. Campaign Funding: For the target audience of individual campaign funders who want to fund and keep a record of the spending of campaigns without the need to trust other organizations, the team proposes the solution of building a hybrid blockchain platform. The first level of this platform is that individuals will send their donation from public blockchain, and platform will deposit it to the designated campaign. For this second level, the team aims to design a consortium blockchain with nodes of campaigners, companies that will work with campaigners and regulators for validating spendings to create an environment for recordkeeping of spendings.
Another important department of Blockchain at Berkeley, Education’s mission is to learn by teaching and offering accessible, open-source, world-class blockchain education to everyone, free of charge.Education members have put a lot of effort into enriching these educational experiences; this semester, they have also put in a lot of effort into conducting research on different topics whose results will be integrated into our educational resources. Here are some highlights of these projects:
- edX Blockchain for Developers: Blockchain at Berkeley is launching the Blockchain for Developers course on edX, which will provide prospective developers a comprehensive overview of relevant topics in blockchain development, as well as hands-on experience in developing and deploying their own smart contracts. The course will cover the fundamentals of blockchain, the Solidity programming language, as well as relevant industry tools such as Metamask, Geth, Truffle, and Ganache. Through completing the course, students will be confident in their ability to develop and deploy blockchain-based solutions on important industry issues.
- Distributed Systems Simulation: Consensus mechanisms are a core topic in distributed systems. Consensus can be approximated or avoided (as with traditional internet architecture) or can be explicitly defined and executed in conjunction with Sybil control systems, as with many of the projects in the blockchain space. We design a system for simulating relaxed instances of various consensus mechanisms. Our system is firstly an educational tool focused on clean user experience, but the modularity of design and data pipeline have been carefully considered for future data analysis/ML workloads.
- Financial Class Papers: The Financial Instrumentation team of Blockchain at Berkeley has switched gears from its past semester of researching bonds, derivatives, and credit swaps to topics in developing economies and the potential blockchain have in stimulating and revitalizing economies. From corruption and fluctuating currencies to foreign direct investment and identity ownership, we are eager to investigate how blockchain can reduce income inequality, curb centuries of societal injustice, and move towards global progression.
- Privacy Research: This project is focused on learning and contributing to zero-knowledge research. We start with modular math, RSA, Diffie-Hellman, and other cryptographic protocols, so we can understand their relation to the technical implementation of zero-knowledge proofs with the goal of contributing to current open-source projects working on zk theory, development, and optimization.
- Derivatives Platform Research: Working on revolutionizing the financial industry through a better exchange to replace the slow swaps/bonds/forwards market. We aim to equalize potential in the financial industry through decentralization.
Research & Development
Besides our initiatives in education, we have also put in a lot of effort in conducting original academic research on various topics in the field. Here are some of the highlights of our accomplishments for this semester :
- DHT: The Distributed Hash Table (DHT) team is focused on creating a distributed hash table that has byzantine fault tolerance built in as a primitive. It works via a traditional DHT with a protocol that reaches local and shard-level consensus through simple gossip-based views similar to avalanche and a main Byzantine fault-tolerant chain that is used to settle disagreements with the rest of the network.
- Bitcoin Network Analysis: The team conducts a literature review process that has covered 28 articles published between 2011 and 2019, which analyze data from the Bitcoin Network. Using research methodologies including, clustering, labeling and graph modelling, the team comes up with the research result that shows literature related to Bitcoin Data analysis is centered around three main objectives: Presenting descriptive analytics of the networks and study its evolution; evaluate privacy guarantees, attempt to de-anonymize entities (users) and characterize their behaviour; create software or theoretical frameworks to better process data or model the network.
- Cryptoeconomics research: Innovators in the blockchain space are beginning to bring financial products sold and traded in traditional markets to a decentralized marketplace. The objective of our project is to design a robust and secure decentralized market for insurance products. The cryptoeconomics research team is focused on designing a distributed Oracle, marketplace, and reputation system to facilitate the offering and purchase of insurance policies.
Want to know more about Blockchain at Berkeley and connect with us?
YouTube: Our YouTube Channel features notable videos from our conferences, meetups, whitepaper circles, deep dives, and lectures.
Discord: In an effort to further grow our community, we have decided to move forward with a switch to Discord. We hope to be a center of blockchain discussion for anyone and everyone! Expect resources on relevant topics, direct connection to Blockchain at Berkeley members, daily trivia questions, information on upcoming events, and more! Join here.
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