Leading blockchain expert Shin’ichiro Matsuo has joined the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) at Virginia Tech as a research professor.

Matsuo, who was previously at Georgetown University, is a research scientist in cryptography, an expert in international standardization, and is building a new architecture for security evaluation of information systems.

“Shin’ichiro’s strong industry ties, expertise, and international reputation in blockchain technology and governance are vital additions to CCI,” said Luiz DaSilva, CCI executive director. “We are excited about the new connections and research projects we can explore with him.” 

Matsuo also is the principal investigator on multiple blockchain research projects and is the co-director of the CyberSMART research center, which is a National Science Foundation Industry University Research Center that leads blockchain research.

“I became interested in cryptography while working at my first professional job with the Bank of Japan in the 1990s,” Matsuo said. “I was implementing smart card wallets for the bank’s first Central Bank Digital Currency project. I still carry my original smart card in my wallet for inspiration.

“Securing blockchain technology is an important research challenge. I’m looking forward to working on it with the team at CCI and Virginia Tech,” he said.

What is blockchain?

“Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network," according IBM Corp.'s website. "An asset can be tangible (a house, car, cash, land) or intangible (intellectual property, patents, copyrights, branding). Virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, reducing risks and cutting costs for all involved.” 

Beyond Bitcoin

Cryptographic Time stamping is a key building block of blockchain.“We can prove we have this document on this date in October at noon, so time stamping of the document is like a notary service,” Matsuo said. 

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin is the best-known example of blockchain technology, but it's a very simple use case, Matsuo said. There are more complex challenges such as securing smart contracts. A sophisticated, secure software program could enable numerous companies to work on a contract at the same time with fewer points of failure, changing the way business is currently conducted, he said. 

Smart contracts could transform international trade such as the import and export of goods, Matsuo said. 

“Currently, the import-export trading industry is very old-fashioned,” he said. “They don't have a common [information technology] platform to manage the complicated process of importing or exporting goods, including calculating tax. 

“Even now, companies use paper to process exporting and importing and financing the trading process,” he said. “But a blockchain application can manage the entire process of trading goods, including payment, tracking all goods, paying taxes, in one blockchain application. The use of blockchain eliminates points of failure in many complicated processes by multiple stakeholders. This is one example of what a smart contract can do.” 

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