Blockchain: Inria and the start-up Utocat push forward research on smart contracts and transaction management
For the last year, the Rmod* project team, from the Inria Lille - Nord Europe research center, has been working with the start-up Utocaton the blockchain. Through three recent publications, the two partners are demonstrating the dynamics of the research carried out as part of this collaboration. Moreover, several other publications are currently in the process of being prepared. In parallel, theUtocat- Inria collaboration is intensifying with a new research agreement recently signed with another team from the center: the Inocs* team.
Within a blockchain, smart contracts are programs designed to make the data they contain impossible to forge. They form one of the most promising functionalities of theblockchainas they enable contract obligations to be executed once all of the conditions are fulfilled. In October 2017, for example, Utocat worked with the insurance company AXA on a parametric insurance enabling airline passengers to be automatically reimbursed in the event of a delay. This application was made possible thanks to the data certification provided by the use of the blockchain. Within this framework,smart contracts allow for conditional payment.
Facilitating access to the data stored in theblockchain
At present, correcting bugs on a smart contract published in the blockchain is very complicated. Or even, quite simply, checking that everything is working properly. Inria andUtocathave therefore worked together on the development of tools in order to understand, debug and explore the transactions in a blockchain. Within this context, the Rmod project team has created a solution called “Smart Inspector”. It enables developers to inspect a contract and correct its bugs without having to redevelop everything*. As a result, the smart contracts become more accessible and more transparent, which should enable their widespread adoption without any loss to their integrity. “The development of this new tool will simplify the maintenance of the smart contracts that we have put in place for our clients”, Clément Francomme, CEO and founder of Utocat explains.
Accessing the data stored in theblockchain
Moreover, the volume of data stored in the blockchain is constantly increasing, and retrieving information can be complicated. With this in mind, the Rmod project team has created a query language on the blockchain, enabling users to easily and rapidly find the transactions carried out in the electronic registry and the associated information stored there.
These advances will be presented during international workshops: IWBOSE(1st International Workshop on Blockchain-Oriented Software Engineering), WETSEB 2018(International Workshop on Emerging Trends in Software Engineering for Blockchain) and ICSE (International Conference on Software Engineering). These workshops are relatively new because the importance of software engineering for the blockchain is only just starting to emerge.
A continued collaboration between Utocatand Inria
For the Lille start-up, a collaboration in currently under way with another team from the Inria Lille - Nord Europe research center: Inocs*. The aim of this partnership, as with the previous one, is to explore the uses of the blockchain in order to optimize its applications.
Utocat is a publisher of blockchain solutions for the banking and insurance sector, and was created in 2014 by Clément Francomme. The FinTech proposes two products: Blockchainiz, an experimentation and deployment module for blockchain applications, and Catalizr, a management solution for unlisted securities aimed at accelerating processing times by simplifying the use of this type of investment.
It joined the EuraTechnologies acceleration program in Lille in 2015, still keeping an office in Paris, and has a team of 16 people. It has more than ten clients, including AXA and BNP Paribas.
*Rmod is a joint project team between Inria and the University of Lille − Sciences and Technologies, within joint research unit UMR 9189 CNRS-Centrale Lille-University of Lille − Sciences and Technologies, CRIStAL.
*Inocs (jointly with Centrale Lille and the Université Libre de Bruxelles), within joint research unit UMR 9189 CNRS-Centrale Lille-University of Lille − Sciences and Technologies, CRIStAL.
*This solution has been developed in Pharo, the programming language created by Rmod.