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Research Talks

Title Researcher(s) Bio Abstract Watch on YouTube
Blockchain@UBC February Research Talk- Dr. Atefeh (Atty) Mashatan
Dr. Atefeh (Atty) Mashatan is the founder and director of the Cybersecurity Research Lab (CRL) at Ryerson University and recognized as a leading expert in cryptography, blockchain technology, quantum-resistant solutions, enterprise security architecture and Internet-of-Things (IoT) security. Expertise at the frontlines of the global cybersecurity field was recognized by SC Magazine in 2019, when she was named one of the top five Women of Influence in Security. She was recognized as one of Canada’s Top 19 of 2019 Tech Titans at IBM CASCON Evoke conference for her efforts in developing emerging technological solutions to address timely societal needs. In 2020, she received the Enterprise Blockchain Award in the category of New Frontiers in Blockchain Academic Research by Blockchain Research Institute for developing the Mosaïque Digital Wallet.

Dr. Mashatan presents the key attributes of the Equitable Smart Unified Real Estate (eSÛRe) system. With eSÛRe, Canadians can use a digital wallet, allowing them to securely list, view, bid on, buy, sell and safely register a property. eSÛRe is currently made up of three interoperable platforms which can be used together or as standalone systems. The Transparent Bidding Blockchain tracks property bids made by buyers’ agents and allows the sellers to see the bids placed on their property. The Smart Property Ledger begins with the registering of a property on the blockchain and finishes with the title transfer of the property. The Pre-construction Contract Registry shows how pre-build real estate contracts are executed and tracked in a system. These systems are intended to work together with their inputs and outputs matching up, but can also operate as independent systems. Moreover, we will present our in-progress work on building Mosaïque, a digital wallet for the real estate industry that uses self-sovereign identities (SSIs). The wallet can be applied to a broad range of business applications including payments, transactions, digital signatures, asset management, due diligence, and general identity management services.

Blockchain@UBC January 19th Research Talk- Dr. Shumo Chu
Shumo Chu is an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He obtained his PhD from the University of Washington and was a research scientist at Algorand. His current research interests are on privacy preserving systems. He has been working on database systems, formal methods, and large-scale graph analytics.

Manta: Privacy Preserving Decentralized Exchange

Cryptocurrencies and decentralized ledger technology have been widely adopted over the last decades. However, there is not yet a decentralized exchange that protects users’ privacy from end to end. In this paper, we construct the first ledger-based decentralized token exchange with strong privacy guarantees. We propose the first Decentralized Anonymous eXchange scheme (DAX scheme) based on automated market maker (AMM) and zkSNARK and present a formal definition of its security and privacy properties.

Blockchain@UBC March Research Talk- Dr. Oriol Caudevilla, 柏傲齊 LL.B., MBA, PhD.
DR. ORIOL CAUDEVILLA, 柏傲齊 LL.B., MBA, PhD. FinTech Advisor, Management & Strategy Consultant and Researcher (Digital Banking and Finance, Central Bank Digital Currencies, Blockchain, Crypto and M&A). Oriol works as a Management Consultant at AirHelp, Advisor for a Hong Kong-based FinTech company, ixFintech, Strategic Advisor at a Hong Kong-based WealthTech company, ETFCool, Strategic Advisor at ScallopX and FinTech Mentor at F10 Incubator & Accelerator, Singapore. Oriol is a member of the Blockchain, Digital Banking and Greater Bay Area Committees at the Fintech Association of Hong Kong (FTAHK), as well as the Singapore Fintech Association (SFA). He is a Fellow at the Digital Euro Association (D€A) and at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), and a Member of the Advisory Council at the Blockchain Council. Furthermore, he publishes articles in several media, including China Daily (both the Global and Hong Kong Edition) and Macau Business. He has given talks and seminars on the Chinese Financial System, Central Bank Digital Currencies and the Digital Yuan in several universities in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as in international conferences, like the recent Israel/UAE Fintech Week and the Future of Fintech Saudi Arabia event.

A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) is a new form of Central Bank money accessible to the general public, accepted as a means of payment, legal tender, safe store of value by all citizens, businesses and government agencies. Theoretically, a CBDC should enable the cheap, secure and real-time transfer of value, be accessible without a bank account and be built on an open infrastructure to foster competition and innovation. Last April, after several years of work, the Chinese Government announced the starting of the tests of DCEP (“Digital Currency Electronic Payment”) in four major cities (Shenzhen, Suzhou, Chengdu and Xiong’an). The tests are currently being extended to more areas, such as Hong Kong, where last December 4, Hong Kong’s Monetary Authority (HKMA) Chief Executive Eddie Yue announced that the HKMA and the Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) are discussing the technical pilot testing of using the Digital Yuan for making cross-border payments, However, even though China is leading the CBDC race in Asia, there are many other pilot projects about to start in 2021, such as the digital won´s tests in Korea and the digital yen´s tests in Japan, as well as the recently finished UAE´s and Saudi Arabia´s Project Aber.

Blockchain@UBC Monthly Research Talk- December 8th- Chris Were and Dr. Ray Ng
Chris Were is an Australian based technology entrepreneur who has led the development of a decentralised, peer-to-peer data storage framework with his company Verida. He previously co-founded Community Data Solutions, providing secure CRM solutions for not-for-profit organisations and government, growing the company to 150 customers across Australia. Dr. Ray Ng, MD was born a polymath and entrepreneur: physician by day and avid technology entrepreneur, coder, and blockchain developer by night. MD with board certification and licensure in Canada and US. Ray now runs the COVID19 assessment site in Vancouver, Canada. In his most recent venture as co-founder at cybersecurity company Securable.io, Ray focused on assisting biotechnology, health informatics, and enterprise executives build and maintain strong security protocols while achieving the highest risk management levels. Securable.io was acquired in October 2017. After this sale, Ray returned to his roots on the West Coast of Canada to re-focus on his medical practice and study mindfulness, meditation, and other holistic forms of wellness that compliment his board certification in Integrative Medicine. Information on Verida Verida began as a research project in 2018, with the mission of helping people own and control their data. The team created architecture for decentralized control that could be used with traditional database technologies. The project evolved and an open source library was released that enabled any decentralized application to be built where users could own, control, and store their data using public encryption keys. Verida Vault was then launched with the goal of developing different web and mobile applications.

Digital health information remains an untapped resource in the information age due to its inaccessibility and severe underutilization in today’s medical institutions. Decentralizing this data will be key to improving care and saving lives. There have been many technical challenges that have prevented the decentralization of health data in the past. However the emergence of blockchain, decentralized databases and decentralized identity standards mean the time is right now for this transition to commence. This talk includes a live demonstration of applying decentralized technology to unlock health data, allowing a patient to own their personal medical records. It will illustrate how this new decentralized future unlocks enormous efficiency gains across the whole health ecosystem. A walk through of the technology will provide an overview of how this can be achieved using public blockchains (such as Ethereum) and open source libraries to facilitate secure messaging, data sharing and encrypted data storage.

Blockchain@UBC Monthly Research Talk- July 21st- Dr. Victoria Lemieux
Victoria Lemieux
Victoria L. Lemieux is an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia School of Information. Her interests include risk to the availability of trustworthy records, in particular in blockchain record keeping systems, and how these risks impact upon transparency, financial stability, public accountability and human rights. Between 2014-2016, Dr. Lemieux worked with the World Bank on transparency and information management to support economic and social development, leading to various big data analytics projects and winning the Bank’s Big Data Innovation Award in 2015. In 2016, Dr. Lemieux founded, Blockchain@UBC, a multidisciplinary blockchain research cluster and in 2019 NSERC awarded her a CREATE grant to establish a multidisciplinary blockchain graduate program at UBC. Dr. Lemieux has won several awards for her research and professional contributions to the field of archives and records management.

There is a news story almost every day about how individuals’ personal data are being harvested, shared with and used by third parties without their consent and in ways that have real potential to cause harm. The result is an erosion of user trust and a reluctance to use services that gather sensitive information. This remains true for a significant percentage of individuals even if they could greatly benefit from receiving a personalized health service that they can use to understand their health risks and maintain or improve their overall health. Individuals’ reluctance may stem from uncertainty about how health data services will store and use their data over time. Recent revelations about how Facebook, 23&Me, and other platforms use individuals’ sensitive personal data validates concerns that consumers’ data may be shared with third parties without their informed consent. This presentation discusses how the' Personal Health Wallet Project, a collaboration between Molecular You, the University of British Columbia, StonePaper, and the Digital Technology Supercluster is addressing these concerns by enabling self-sovereign health records management. Information on the project is available.
 

Blockchain@UBC Monthly Research Talk- June 30th- Dr. Mohammad Jalalzai
Mohammad M. Jalalzai is a postdoctoral researcher in Blockchain@UBC Cluster, under supervision of Dr. Chen Feng. He received his master’s degree in computer science from Technical University of Berlin in 2010 and his PhD from Louisiana State University (LSU) in 2019. His research is mainly focused on Distributed Systems, more specifically on designing, implementing and testing secure, efficient and scalable Byzantine Fault Tolerant (BFT) consensus algorithms for blockchain networks. He is also interested in the intersection of machine learning and cyber security.

The performance of partially synchronous BFT-based consensus protocols is highly dependent on the primary node. All participant nodes in the network are blocked until they receive a proposal from the primary node to begin the consensus process. Therefore, an honest but slack node (with limited bandwidth) can adversely affect the performance when selected as primary. Hermes decreases protocol dependency on the primary node and minimizes transmission delay induced by the slack primary while keeping low message complexity and latency. Hermes achieves these performance improvements by relaxing strong BFT agreement (safety) guarantees only for a specific type of Byzantine faults (also called equivocated faults). Interestingly, we show that in Hermes equivocating by a Byzantine primary is unlikely, expensive and ineffective. Therefore, the safety of Hermes is comparable to the general BFT consensus. We deployed and tested Hermes on 190 Amazon EC2 instances. Our results show that in the presence of slack nodes Hermes outperformed the state-of-the-art BFT protocol by more than 4× in terms of throughput as well as 15× in terms of latency.

Blockchain@UBC Monthly Research Talk- May 26th- Dr. Drummond Reed
Drummond has spent over two decades in Internet identity, security, privacy, and trust frameworks. He joined Evernym as Chief Trust Officer after Evernym acquired Respect Network, where he was CEO, co-founder, and co-author of the Respect Trust Framework, which was honored with the Privacy Award at the 2011 European Identity Conference. Drummond is a Trustee and Secretary of the Sovrin Foundation, where he serves as chair of the Sovrin Governance Framework Working Group. He is co-editor of the DID (Decentralized Identifiers) specification in the W3C DID (Decentralized Identifier) Working Group. He has served as co-chair of the OASIS XDI Technical Committee since 2004, the semantic data interchange protocol that implements Privacy by Design. Prior to starting Respect Network, Drummond was Executive Director of two industry foundations: the Information Card Foundation and the Open Identity Exchange. He has also served as a founding board member of the OpenID Foundation, ISTPA, XDI.org, and Identity Commons. In 2002 he received the Digital Identity Pioneer Award from Digital ID World, and in 2013 he was cited as an OASIS Distinguished Contributor.

Regardless of the specific application, the common theme of all blockchain technology is establishing trust across multiple independent parties. That is also the mission of digital identity technology, and over the past three years digital identity and blockchain technology have come together into a new decentralized identity model known as self-sovereign identity (SSI). As SSI has matured, it has spawned a four-layer interoperability stack very much like the TCP/IP stack that enabled that enabled the Internet. This talk will trace the origins of the Trust over IP (ToIP) stack, describe the purpose of all four layers (blockchain is only the first layer), explain why it is a “dual stack” of both technology and governance, and finally it will examine the business, legal, and social impacts of enabling a trust layer for the Internet.

Blockchain@UBC Monthly Research Talk- November 10th- Dr. Shin'ichiro Matsuo
Shin'ichiro Matsuo
Dr. Shin'ichiro Matsuo is a research scientist in cryptography and information security. He is working on maturing Blockchain technology from academia and presents research results on Blockchain security. He is acting co-chair of Blockchain Governance Initiative Network (BGIN), which is a multi-stakeholder discussion body for blockchain technology and operations. At Georgetown University, he directs blockchain research at CyberSMART research center and leads multi-disciplinary research among technology, economy, law, and regulation. He also leads international research collaboration on Blockchain as a co-founder of the BSafe.network, a global and neutral research test network to promote applied academic research in Blockchain technologies. He founded BASE (Blockchain Academic Synergized Environment) alliance with the University of Tokyo and Keio University. He is a part of many program committees on Blockchain technology and information security at IEEE S&B, ACM, W3C, CBT (Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Technology), SSR (Security standardization Research) and others, and was a program co-chair of Scaling Bitcoin 2018 Tokyo. He serves as the leader of a standardization project (ISO TR 23576) on Blockchain security at ISO TC307.

After 11+ years from the invention of Bitcoin, blockchain's ecosystem is rapidly growing from payment without a trusted party to decentralized finance. Blockchain technology is a foundation of new digital trust in the new normal era. The new momentum after Bitcoin to the finance industry is that programming codes are becoming a part of our society's order. Though the direction facilitates innovations, it may create infringements against the order of our society. If we want to apply blockchain technology to enrich our everyday lives, good harmonization among relevant stakeholders is essential. It includes having common understandings and establish collaborations among all stakeholders. The Internet's success source is maintaining global-scale multi-stakeholder discussion places like ISOC, IETF, ICANN, and IGF. In 2019, G20 countries agreed to introduce the idea of multi-stakeholder dialogue to enhance a healthy ecosystem of decentralized finance based on a report by the Financial Stability Board (FSB). The agreement was described in the communique. After having this agreement, a group of Blockchain experts from all stakeholders, including engineers, regulators, business entities, civil society, and academia, agreed to establish a new multi-stakeholder discussion body, Blockchain Governance Initiative Network (BGIN), on March 10, 2020. This talk provides background and context of multi-stakeholder discussion for blockchain technology and operations, what BGIN is, how it is operated, and how to join the BGIN activities.

Blockchain@UBC Monthly Research Talk- October 6th- Student Research Roundup
Artemij Voskobojnikov
Anisha Dhillon
Chelsea Palmer
Jianyu Niu
Four of our graduate students will present their research they were involved in during their Summer internship.

Title: Incentives in Blockchains
By Jianyu Niu- Ph.D. student at School of Engineering, University of British Columbia (Okanagan Campus)

Abstract:

Selfish mining in Bitcoin has been well studied with various mining strategies proposed and numerous defenses mechanisms suggested. In sharp contrast, selfish mining in Ethereum has not received much attention. Ethereum differs from Bitcoin in that it provides the so-called uncle and nephew rewards in addition to the (standard) block rewards used in Bitcoin. This complicates the analysis. In this talk, we will cover the selfish mining attack in Ethereum to understand its potential threat. Specifically, we will develop some new methods to compute the long-term average mining rewards of the selfish miner. We find that the threshold of making selfish mining profitable in Ethereum is lower than that in Bitcoin. In other words, selfish mining poses a more serious threat to Ethereum due to the presence of uncle and nephew rewards.

Title: Applying technological innovations to respond to COVID-19 Challenges: Orienting Perspectives on public health and privacy for enabling policy decisions
By Anisha Dhillon- Dual Master of Archival Studies and Master of Library and Information Studies student at the UBC School of Information

Abstract:

The COVID-19 Witness Webinar project addresses the focal question: "Can governments respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic with technological innovations, including blockchain, and respect citizen privacy?" The paper and project outcomes represent results of a "Witness Webinar” held on May 5, 2020 that brought together a diverse range of global experts to discuss the focal question and includes an environment scan presenting supplemental research on technologies and approaches being adopted in different countries around the world (including Canada) to address the challenges associated with COVID-19.

Title: Bits Under the Mattress: Understanding Different Risk Perceptions and Security Behaviors of Crypto-Asset Users
By Artemij Voskobojnikov- Ph.D. student at the Department of Computer Science. University of British Columbia

Abstract:

Crypto-assets are unique in tying financial wealth to the secrecy of private keys. Prior empirical work has attempted to study end-user security, from both technical and organizational perspectives. However, the link between individual's risk perceptions and security behavior was often obscured by the heterogeneity of the subjects in small samples. This paper contributes quantitative results from a survey of 395 crypto-asset users recruited by a novel combination of deep and broad sampling. The analysis accounts for heterogeneity with a new typology that partitions the sample in three robust clusters - cypherpunks, hodlers, and rookies, - using five psychometric constructs. The constructs are found in established behavioral theories with items purposefully adapted to the domain. We demonstrate the utility of the suggested typology in better understanding users' characteristics and security behaviors. These insights inform the design of crypto-asset solutions, guide risk communication, and suggest recommendations for future central bank digital currencies.

Title: Blockchain for Climate Foundation: Multidisciplinary Design for an Ethereum Prototype
By Chelsea Palmer- Masters student in Library Science at the UBC School of Information

Abstract:

This presentation will give an overview of a product design collaboration between the presenter (Chelsea Palmer) and Vancouver's Blockchain for Climate Foundation, in which the Foundation's dedicated research and development for "Putting the Paris Agreement on a public blockchain" was crystallized into the scope and specifications for a platform prototype. Chelsea will discuss the diverse toolkit utilized in this collaboration, adapting a "user story"-centred Agile methodology to the multidisciplinary needs of a use case within international climate change coordination. We'll then cover a few higher level points: why the Foundation finds it crucial to position this prototype on the Ethereum blockchain, the importance of privacy-by-design in the decentralized development space, and the deep value our small team found in employing Lemieux & Feng's (2020) "Question-Led System Design Framework" to drive our generative design conversations forward.

Blockchain@UBC Monthly Research Talk- September 22nd - Jonathan Dotan and Daniel C. Park
Daniel Park
Jonathan Dotan​ is a Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Blockchain Research and the Stanford Compression Forum. He researches and lectures on the applied strategy and policy for a decentralized Internet and co-founded the Starling Initiative. He has over 20 years of experience navigating the intersections of media, tech and policy. Jonathan recently wrapped six seasons writing and producing HBO’s Emmy Award-winning series, SILICON VALLEY. Previously, he worked in 30 countries on digital media adoption at the Motion Picture Association and began his career with a post at the United Nations Office of the High Representative for Bosnia and Hercegovina. He received an MPhil in International Relations from Oxford University, St. Antony’s College. Daniel C. Park​ is a graduate student at the University of British Columbia researching blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology applications in health data management and forensic image authentication. He has experience conducting field research across Europe and Asia for the MasterCard Foundation and the G20 Research Group; providing regulatory consultancy for Virtual Asset Service Providers in the UK; and contributing to policy and blockchain projects at University College London, Hala Systems Inc., and NATO Association of Canada. He received his bachelor’s in International Relations at the University of Toronto, Trinity College, and currently serves as a naval reservist officer with the Royal Canadian Navy.

The Starling Framework for Data Integrity is a comprehensive set of tools and principles that empowers organizations to securely capture, store and verify human history.

Jointly developed by USC Shoah Foundation and Stanford University’s Department of Electrical Engineering, Starling is innovating with the latest cryptographic methods and decentralized web protocols to meet the technical and ethical challenges of establishing trust in our most sensitive digital records, such as the documentation of human rights violations, war crimes and testimony of genocide.

Starling represents a ground-breaking methodology that brings together immutable ledger and distributed storage technology, and human verification in the fight against the spread of misinformation and deep fakes. The suite comprises three modules: Capture, Store, and Verify; to provide an end-to-end chain of custody for photos, video, audio, and text, that can reduce information uncertainty in digital media.

While there is a lot of interest in the area of evidence-based decentralized attribution, surprisingly there are few working examples. That changed this summer. Over the last 90 days, UBC masters student Daniel Park worked with our collaborators at Hala Systems to build and deploy prototypes designed within the Starling framework to help their analysts document attacks against civilian infrastructure.

In this talk we’ll cover the lessons Daniel learned working alongside Hala Systems as we developed users to stories to user interfaces. We’ll then reflect on the path ahead for authenticated imagery, it’s evolving technical and ethical dimensions, and the various applications Starling could be applied to across humanitarian relief and accountability efforts.

Blockchain@UBC- Monthly Research Talk - March 24, 2020- Dr. Chang Lu
Chang Lu
Dr. Chang Lu is a postdoc research fellow at Blockchain@UBC. Trained in organization theory, Dr. Lu is interested in institutional change, organizational change, field theory and cross-level mechanisms. Empirically, he is researching the adoption of Blockchain technology in healthcare at both institutional and organizational levels. He has published several articles on leading management journals, and taught senior undergraduate and MBA students Organizational Strategy and Organizational Behavior. He serves as the supervisor of master and MBA students for their research projects, is currently creating education materials for executives about Blockchain in healthcare. He earned his Ph.D. in Strategic Management and Organization, School of Business from the University of Alberta. Prior to his academic career, he worked as an HR professional in China and Europe.

While the literature on organizational fields has paid much attention to the emergence of new fields, very little is understood about the emergence of field intersections. By field intersection, I refer it to as overlapping space between fields where actors frequently and fatefully interact with multiple fields. Research has demonstrated that field intersections are important sites where transformative change originates, due to the weaker pressure for institutional conformity and less accessible means of scrutiny (Furnari, 2014; Zietsma et al., 2017; Evan & Kays, 2008). In this study, I address the emergence of field intersections by case-studying the emergence of the intersection between the field of Blockchain innovation and healthcare. Through an inductive analysis of 43 interviews with key actors in the Blockchain innovation and healthcare field, as well as numerous documents and lengthy field observation notes, I found that field intersections may emerge through the following processes: (1) invoking cross-institutional unifiers; (2) coalescing around advantageously conditioned institutional entrepreneurs; (3) forging inter-field collaborations partaken by within-field competitors; (4) jockeying for authority in the intersection. These findings contribute to our understandings of field intersection, as well as the organizational literature on fields broadly.