Project

Blockchains for Smart Communities

We are focusing on creating smart and connected community solutions, which provide participants the capability to not only exchange data and services in a decentralized and perhaps anonymous manner, but also provide them with the capability to preserve an immutable and auditable record of all transactions in the system. Blockchains form a key component of these platforms because they enable participants to reach a consensus on any state variable in the system, without relying on a trusted third party or trusting each other. Distributed consensus not only solves the trust issue, but also provides fault-tolerance since consensus is always reached on the correct state as long as the number of faulty nodes is below a threshold. However, it also introduces new assurance challenges such as privacy and correctness that must be addressed before protocols and implementations can live up to their potential. For instance, smart contracts deployed in practice are riddled with bugs and security vulnerabilities. Our group has been working on a number of projects in this interesting area, including work on transactive energy systems. Our research focuses on both the reusable middleware aspect as well as the foundational technologies required to ensure the rigor and correctness of the platform. We collaborate actively with Prof. Aron Lazka, University of Houston in this project.

Blockchain Platforms

Internet of Things, Cyber-Physical Systems, and Data Sciences are fueling the development of innovative solutions for various applications in Smart and Connected Communities (SCC). These solutions are often data-driven, which makes them vulnerable to data integrity attacks. Additionally, the increasing dependence on dynamic data-driven support systems implies that any operational breach in the underlying SCC networks or services due to attacks or failures will have cascading effects.

These challenges have led to increasing focus on SCC platforms that provide participants the capability to not only exchange data and services in a decentralized and perhaps anonymous manner, but also provide them with the capability to preserve an immutable and auditable record of all transactions in the system. Such transactive platforms are actively being suggested for use in Healthcare, Smart Energy Systems, and Smart Transportation Systems.

Blockchains form a key component of these platforms because they enable participants to reach a consensus on any state variable in the system, without relying on a trusted third party or trusting each other. Distributed consensus not only solves the trust issue, but also provides fault-tolerance since consensus is always reached on the correct state as long as the number of faulty nodes is below a threshold. Further, blockchains also enable performing computation in a distributed and trustworthy manner in the form of smart contracts.

However, while the distributed integrity of a blockchain ledger presents unique opportunities, it also introduces new assurance challenges that must be addressed before protocols and implementations can live up to their potential. For instance, smart contracts deployed in practice are riddled with bugs and security vulnerabilities.

Our group has been working on a number of projects in this interesting area focusing on both the reusable middleware aspect as well as the foundational technologies required to ensure the rigor and correctness of the platform. Key projects in this area are:

TRANSAX

This project is developing privacy and safety preserving decentralized trading mechanisms for transactive microgrids. It supports local peer-to-peer energy trading within microgrids to reduce the load on the distribution system operators (DSO). More information is available from the following publications: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]

Solidworx

Solidworx provides the generic middleware for resource sharing in smart communities. It is the foundation on which TRANSAX is built [5] .

MODiCuM: Mechanisms for Outsourcing via a Decentralized Computation Market

There are many compute devices which spend a significant amount of time idle. MODiCuM seeks to provide a platform to make these resources available for outsourced computational tasks, similar to how cloud computing is used currently. In this context the compute nodes are not owned or maintained by a single organization which introduces complexity not found in the cloud computing paradigm. The complexities addressed in this work are (a) how to reach consensus on which services are to be run on a given compute node, and (b) how to address bad actors while expending as few additional resources as possible.

References

  1. M. A. Walker, D. C. Schmidt, and A. Dubey, Chapter Six - Testing at scale of IoT blockchain applications, in Advances in Computers, vol. 115, Oreilly, 2019, pp. 155–179.
  2. A. Laszka, S. Eisele, A. Dubey, G. Karsai, and K. Kvaternik, TRANSAX: A Blockchain-Based Decentralized Forward-Trading Energy Exchanged for Transactive Microgrids, in 24th IEEE International Conference on Parallel and Distributed Systems, ICPADS 2018, Singapore, December 11-13, 2018, 2018, pp. 918–927.
  3. S. Eisele, A. Laszka, A. Mavridou, and A. Dubey, SolidWorx: A Resilient and Trustworthy Transactive Platform for Smart and Connected Communities, in IEEE International Conference on Internet of Things (iThings) and IEEE Green Computing and Communications (GreenCom) and IEEE Cyber, Physical and Social Computing (CPSCom) and IEEE Smart Data (SmartData), iThings/GreenCom/CPSCom/SmartData 2018, Halifax, NS, Canada, July 30 - August 3, 2018, 2018, pp. 1263–1272.
  4. A. Laszka, A. Dubey, M. Walker, and D. C. Schmidt, Providing privacy, safety, and security in IoT-based transactive energy systems using distributed ledgers, in Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on the Internet of Things, IOT 2017, Linz, Austria, October 22-25, 2017, 2017, pp. 13:1–13:8.
  5. J. Bergquist, A. Laszka, M. Sturm, and A. Dubey, On the design of communication and transaction anonymity in blockchain-based transactive microgrids, in Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Scalable and Resilient Infrastructures for Distributed Ledgers, SERIAL@Middleware 2017, Las Vegas, NV, USA, December 11-15, 2017, 2017, pp. 3:1–3:6.