NISTIR 8202: Blockchain Technology Overview (DRAFT)

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by Dylan Yaga, Peter Mell, Nik Roby, and Karen Scarfone | Jan. 24, 2018


This paper serves as an introduction to the concept of blockchains and a high-level overview of the field. The authors begin with an overview of basic blockchain architecture, followed by an explanation of various consensus mechanisms, forks, and smart contracts. The paper compares permissioned and permissionless blockchains; as well as contrasting different types of blockchain platforms (cryptocurrencies, hyperledgers, multichains). Finally, it discusses some of the limitations and misconceptions about blockchains.



Blockchains are a significant new avenue for technological advancements, enabling secure transactions without the need for a central authority. Starting in 2009, with Bitcoin leveraging blockchain technology, there has been an increasing number of blockchain based cryptocurrencies. Possibly more importantly, new applications beyond the realm of currencies are building upon the fundamentals of blockchain technology. ... The use of blockchains is still in its early stages, but it is built on widely understood and sound cryptographic principles. Moving forward, it is likely that blockchains will be another tool that can be used to solve newer sets of problems. Financial organizations are likely to be the businesses most impacted by blockchains. They may need to adapt or even completely change their practices to focus on being platforms for value exchange and not just places to store value.