Special Issue "Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications"

A special issue of Applied Sciences (ISSN 2076-3417). This special issue belongs to the section "Computing and Artificial Intelligence".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Roberto Tonelli
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Mathematics and Informatics, University of Cagliari, Italy
Interests: complex software systems; software engineering; blockchain and smart contracts
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Michele Marchesi
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Mathematics and Informatics, University of Cagliari, Italy
Interests: complex software systems; software engineering; blockchain and smart contracts; econophysics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The disrupting power of Blockchain technology is affecting and influencing our world, day by day. The number of researchers, software developers, and companies involved in this new technology is increasing exponentially, and this is also reflected by the number of projects that start every day, aimed at creating new blockchains, or new applications, built on existing blockchains. However, research papers devoted to the investigation of the various blockchains and the related programming languages used for coding in the Blockchain environment, though increasing, are still not enough. Therefore, we believe that initiatives aimed at inviting and putting together scientific works on this new technology should be encouraged. For this reason, we warmly welcome the proposal to edit a Special Issue of Applied Sciences on this subject.

The goal of the Special Issue is to gather together sound scientific papers on the theoretical and practical aspects related to blockchain technologies and smart contracts. The main focus is on the application to blockchain and smart contracts development of studies pertaining the relevant main areas of computer science. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Blockchain and Dapp architectures.
  • Blockchain scaling and interplay.
  • Decentralized artificial intelligence.
  • Decentralized databases.
  • Static and dynamic blockchain analysis; blockchain forensics.
  • Big data and the blockchain.
  • Human-computer interaction for blockchain applications.
  • Blockchain and the Internet of things.
  • Languages for smart contract development.
  • Blockchain-oriented software engineering.
  • Blockchain security and testing.
  • Decentralized applications in finance, banking, insurance, supply chain management, e-government, notarization, industry, energy, logistic, commerce, gaming, education.

Dr. Roberto Tonelli
Prof. Michele Marchesi
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Applied Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Blockchain
  • Smart Contracts
  • Dapps
  • Distributed Ledger Technology
  • DLT
  • Decentralized applications

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Evaluating Methods for the Identification of Off-Chain Transactions in the Lightning Network
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(12), 2519; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9122519 - 20 Jun 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Payment channels and off-chain transactions are used to address blockchain scalability. Those mechanisms rely on the blockchain proper, as the resolution mechanism. They allow for high transaction throughput due to the pure peer-to-peer nature of the transaction exchange that happens directly between the [...] Read more.
Payment channels and off-chain transactions are used to address blockchain scalability. Those mechanisms rely on the blockchain proper, as the resolution mechanism. They allow for high transaction throughput due to the pure peer-to-peer nature of the transaction exchange that happens directly between the peers, without the involvement of the blockchain transactions. The transactions are not mediated through the blockchain but happen off-chain. The transactions in such overlay networks are not included in the blockchain, they nevertheless leave some data traces in a public ledger. We have used the Bitcoin mainnet and testnet blockchains together with the Lightning network node to explore what can be inferred from the underlying blockchain in the context of Lightning transactions, channel setup, and channel teardown. The main purpose of this study is to identify what methods, transaction signatures, and data can be used to understand the non-visible publicly off-chain transactions. We have proposed heuristics for identifying the setup and teardown transactions, quantified and analyzed the effectiveness of our proposed methods. Using the data from the Bitcoin blockchain, as well as the data from the Lightning network to link related information we have found when parsing the blockchain, we generate network graph representations showing the relationships between the Lightning network channels identified on the blockchain. This study is significant from the personal data and privacy perspectives, as well as from forensics. We have established that at least 75% of all P2WSH transactions are Lightning transactions, and some of the channels can be deduced from the blockchain analysis. The synthesized results demonstrate that our methods are viable for identifying a subset of transactions and that only partial topology of the payment channels can be obtained from the data left in the blockchain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle
An Adaptive Biomedical Data Managing Scheme Based on the Blockchain Technique
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(12), 2494; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9122494 - 19 Jun 2019
Abstract
A crucial role is played by personal biomedical data when it comes to maintaining proficient access to health records by patients as well as health professionals. However, it is difficult to get a unified view pertaining to health data that have been scattered [...] Read more.
A crucial role is played by personal biomedical data when it comes to maintaining proficient access to health records by patients as well as health professionals. However, it is difficult to get a unified view pertaining to health data that have been scattered across various health centers/hospital sections. To be specific, health records are distributed across many places and cannot be integrated easily. In recent years, blockchain has arisen as a promising solution that helps to achieve the sharing of individual biomedical information in a secure way, whilst also having the benefit of privacy preservation because of its immutability. This research puts forward a blockchain-based managing scheme that helps to establish interpretation improvements pertaining to electronic biomedical systems. In this scheme, two blockchains were employed to construct the base, whereby the second blockchain algorithm was used to generate a secure sequence for the hash key that was generated in first blockchain algorithm. This adaptive feature enables the algorithm to use multiple data types and also combines various biomedical images and text records. All data, including keywords, digital records, and the identity of patients, are private key encrypted with a keyword searching function so as to maintain data privacy, access control, and a protected search function. The obtained results, which show a low latency (less than 750 ms) at 400 requests/second, indicate the possibility of its use within several health care units such as hospitals and clinics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle
Blockchain-Based Badge Award with Existence Proof
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(12), 2473; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9122473 - 17 Jun 2019
Abstract
In this paper, we present a badge awarding system for performance assessment in education using blockchain technology. Learners will be awarded badges, which are certified for a predetermined level of progress in terms of learning. All the badges are stored in a backpack, [...] Read more.
In this paper, we present a badge awarding system for performance assessment in education using blockchain technology. Learners will be awarded badges, which are certified for a predetermined level of progress in terms of learning. All the badges are stored in a backpack, which is an environment for storing and presenting the obtained badges. Badges are immutable and verifiable as well as rigid. The use of badges in the education system makes education more interesting, skill-based, and adaptable to changes. The key contribution of our work is in terms of compatibility with Openbadge specification and integrated cooperating platform between digital badge awarding and blockchaining. Our system implementation is compatible with Open Badges of IMS Global Learning Consortium, which is used to earn, issue, and award badges across various platforms. The badges are trusted by the IMS standard, the criteria to earn a badge is verified through the network, and the overall process is transparent compared to the traditional education system. Moreover, all badge awarding events in our system are recorded in a blockchain. Once stored, the contents cannot be tampered with. Thereafter, anyone can check the validity of the badge through the blockchain. Our platform will be useful for distance learning as well as time and location independent learning. The experimental results are as follows. On a Bitcoin-based digital badge publishing platform, the execution time required to award the badge is 24.53 s, while on the Ethereum-based digital badge publishing platform, the execution time to award the badge is only 3.86 s. It can also be used for career management and personal history. The learners can obtain the current knowledge required for a job. Lifelong learning will be also possible with this platform. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle
A Hierarchical and Abstraction-Based Blockchain Model
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(11), 2343; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9112343 - 07 Jun 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
In the nine years since its launch, amid intense research, scalability is always a serious concern in blockchain, especially in case of large-scale network generating huge number of transaction-records. In this paper, we propose a hierarchical blockchain model characterized by: (1) each level [...] Read more.
In the nine years since its launch, amid intense research, scalability is always a serious concern in blockchain, especially in case of large-scale network generating huge number of transaction-records. In this paper, we propose a hierarchical blockchain model characterized by: (1) each level maintains multiple local blockchain networks, (2) each local blockchain records local transactional activities, and (3) partial views (tunable w.r.t. precision) of different subsets of local blockchain-records are maintained in the blockchains at next level of the hierarchy. To meet this objective, we apply abstractions on a set of transaction-records in a regular time interval by following the Abstract Interpretation framework, which provides a tunable precision in various abstract domain and guarantees the soundness of the system. While this model suitably fits to the real-worlds organizational structures, the proposal is powerful enough to scale when large number of nodes participate in a network resulting into an enormous growth of the network-size and the number of transaction-records. We discuss experimental results on a small-scale network with three sub networks at lower-level and by abstracting the transaction-records in the abstract domain of intervals. The results are encouraging and clearly indicate the effectiveness of this approach to control exponential growth of blockchain size w.r.t. the total number of participants in the network. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing Blockchain Consensus and Security Mechanisms against the 51% Attack
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(9), 1788; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9091788 - 29 Apr 2019
Cited by 11
Abstract
The 51% attack is a technique which intends to fork a blockchain in order to conduct double-spending. Adversaries controlling more than half of the total hashing power of a network can perform this attack. In a similar way, n confirmation and selfish mining [...] Read more.
The 51% attack is a technique which intends to fork a blockchain in order to conduct double-spending. Adversaries controlling more than half of the total hashing power of a network can perform this attack. In a similar way, n confirmation and selfish mining are two attack techniques that comprise a similar strategy to the 51% attack. Due to the immense attacking cost to perform the 51% attack, it was considered very unlikely for a long period. However, in recent times, the attack has befallen at a frequent pace, costing millions of dollars to various cryptocurrencies. The 51% attack strategy varies based upon the adopted consensus mechanism by a particular cryptocurrency, and it enables attackers to double-spend the same crypto-coin, restrict transactions, cancel blocks, and even have full control over the price of a cryptocurrency. A crypto-coin with a low hashing power is always jeopardized by the 51% attack due to the easily attainable hashing. In this paper, we analyze the real impact of the 51% attack, revealing serious weaknesses in consensus protocols that made this attack possible. We discuss the five most advanced protection techniques to prevent this attack and their main limitations. We conclude that in most cases, security techniques fail to provide real protection against the 51% attack because the weaknesses are inherited from the consensus protocols. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle
At the Nexus of Blockchain Technology, the Circular Economy, and Product Deletion
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(8), 1712; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9081712 - 25 Apr 2019
Cited by 7
Abstract
The circular economy (CE) is an emergent concept to rethink and redesign how our economy works. The concept recognizes effective and efficient economic functioning at multiple scales—governments and individuals, globally and locally; for businesses, large and small. CE represents a systemic shift that [...] Read more.
The circular economy (CE) is an emergent concept to rethink and redesign how our economy works. The concept recognizes effective and efficient economic functioning at multiple scales—governments and individuals, globally and locally; for businesses, large and small. CE represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience at multiple levels (macro, meso and micro); generating new business and economic opportunities while providing environmental and societal benefits. Blockchain, an emergent and critical technology, is introduced to the circular economy environment as a potential enabler for many circular economic principles. Blockchain technology supported information systems can improve circular economy performance at multiple levels. Product deletion, a neglected but critical effort in product management and product portfolio management, is utilized as an illustrative business scenario as to blockchain’s application in a circular economy research context. Product deletion, unlike product proliferation, has received minimal attention from both academics and practitioners. Product deletion decisions need to be evaluated and analyzed in the circular economy context. CE helps address risk aversion issues in product deletions such as inventory, waste and information management. This paper is the first to conceptualize the relationships amongst blockchain technology, product deletion and the circular economy. Many nuances of relationships are introduced in this study. Future evaluation and critical reflections are also presented with a need for a rigorous and robust research agenda to evaluate the multiple and complex relationships and interplay amongst technology, policy, commerce and the natural environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle
Proof-of-Familiarity: A Privacy-Preserved Blockchain Scheme for Collaborative Medical Decision-Making
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(7), 1370; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9071370 - 01 Apr 2019
Cited by 9
Abstract
The current healthcare sector is facing difficulty in satisfying the growing issues, expenses, and heavy regulation of quality treatment. Surely, electronic medical records (EMRs) and protected health information (PHI) are highly sensitive, personally identifiable information (PII). However, the sharing of EMRs, enhances overall [...] Read more.
The current healthcare sector is facing difficulty in satisfying the growing issues, expenses, and heavy regulation of quality treatment. Surely, electronic medical records (EMRs) and protected health information (PHI) are highly sensitive, personally identifiable information (PII). However, the sharing of EMRs, enhances overall treatment quality. A distributed ledger (blockchain) technology, embedded with privacy and security by architecture, provides a transparent application developing platform. Privacy, security, and lack of confidence among stakeholders are the main downsides of extensive medical collaboration. This study, therefore, utilizes the transparency, security, and efficiency of blockchain technology to establish a collaborative medical decision-making scheme. This study considers the experience, skill, and collaborative success rate of four key stakeholders (patient, cured patient, doctor, and insurance company) in the healthcare domain to propose a local reference-based consortium blockchain scheme, and an associated consensus gathering algorithm, proof-of-familiarity (PoF). Stakeholders create a transparent and tenable medical decision to increase the interoperability among collaborators through PoF. A prototype of PoF is tested with multichain 2.0, a blockchain implementing framework. Moreover, the privacy of identities, EMRs, and decisions are preserved by two-layer storage, encryption, and a timestamp storing mechanism. Finally, superiority over existing schemes is identified to improve personal data (PII) privacy and patient-centric outcomes research (PCOR). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle
MedChain: Efficient Healthcare Data Sharing via Blockchain
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(6), 1207; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9061207 - 22 Mar 2019
Cited by 12
Abstract
Healthcare information exchange is an important research topic, which can benefit both healthcare providers and patients. In healthcare data sharing, many cloud-based solutions have been proposed, but the trustworthiness of a third-party cloud service is questionable. Recently, blockchain has been introduced in healthcare [...] Read more.
Healthcare information exchange is an important research topic, which can benefit both healthcare providers and patients. In healthcare data sharing, many cloud-based solutions have been proposed, but the trustworthiness of a third-party cloud service is questionable. Recently, blockchain has been introduced in healthcare record sharing, which does not rely on trusting a third party. However, existing approaches only focus on the records collected from medical examination. They are not efficient in sharing data streams continuously generated from sensors and other monitoring devices. Today, IoT devices have been widely deployed and sensors and mobile applications can monitor patients’ body conditions. The collected data are shared to laboratories and institutions for diagnosis and further study. Moreover, existing approaches are too rigid to efficiently support metadata change. In this paper, an efficient data-sharing scheme is proposed, called MedChain, which combines blockchain, digest chain, and structured P2P network techniques to overcome the above efficiency issues in the existing approaches for sharing both types of healthcare data. Based on MedChain, a session-based healthcare data-sharing scheme is devised, which brings flexibility in data sharing. The evaluation results show that MedChain can achieve higher efficiency and satisfy the security requirements in data sharing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle
Chained Anomaly Detection Models for Federated Learning: An Intrusion Detection Case Study
Appl. Sci. 2018, 8(12), 2663; https://doi.org/10.3390/app8122663 - 18 Dec 2018
Cited by 8
Abstract
The adoption of machine learning and deep learning is on the rise in the cybersecurity domain where these AI methods help strengthen traditional system monitoring and threat detection solutions. However, adversaries too are becoming more effective in concealing malicious behavior amongst large amounts [...] Read more.
The adoption of machine learning and deep learning is on the rise in the cybersecurity domain where these AI methods help strengthen traditional system monitoring and threat detection solutions. However, adversaries too are becoming more effective in concealing malicious behavior amongst large amounts of benign behavior data. To address the increasing time-to-detection of these stealthy attacks, interconnected and federated learning systems can improve the detection of malicious behavior by joining forces and pooling together monitoring data. The major challenge that we address in this work is that in a federated learning setup, an adversary has many more opportunities to poison one of the local machine learning models with malicious training samples, thereby influencing the outcome of the federated learning and evading detection. We present a solution where contributing parties in federated learning can be held accountable and have their model updates audited. We describe a permissioned blockchain-based federated learning method where incremental updates to an anomaly detection machine learning model are chained together on the distributed ledger. By integrating federated learning with blockchain technology, our solution supports the auditing of machine learning models without the necessity to centralize the training data. Experiments with a realistic intrusion detection use case and an autoencoder for anomaly detection illustrate that the increased complexity caused by blockchain technology has a limited performance impact on the federated learning, varying between 5 and 15%, while providing full transparency over the distributed training process of the neural network. Furthermore, our blockchain-based federated learning solution can be generalized and applied to more sophisticated neural network architectures and other use cases. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle
Blockchain: A Tale of Two Applications
Appl. Sci. 2018, 8(9), 1506; https://doi.org/10.3390/app8091506 - 01 Sep 2018
Cited by 4
Abstract
Bitcoin continues to get more and more attention from the media, mainly because of the volatility of its value and insignificantly associated with the technological innovation. This cryptocurrency is supported by an immutable database and is distributed throughout a network of thousands of [...] Read more.
Bitcoin continues to get more and more attention from the media, mainly because of the volatility of its value and insignificantly associated with the technological innovation. This cryptocurrency is supported by an immutable database and is distributed throughout a network of thousands of nodes, known as Blockchain. One way to ensure that all the concepts behind the Blockchain technology and infrastructure are seized is to conduct the development of one of the most popular context applications for it: a wallet for well-known cryptocurrencies. Yet Another Bitcoin Wallet (YABW) is a hybrid application available for both Android and iOS, which was developed with the Ionic and Angular frameworks. This application communicates with Bitcoin Blockchain to send, receive and store bitcoins; provides a set of features focused on security and user experience, and is available on the Play Store and Apple Store. A rather relevant issue that is becoming a major subject of current research is the application of the Blockchain infrastructure to other contexts that are neither directly connected to cryptocurrencies, nor are finance related. The implementation of a proof-of-concept application proposes the use of a blockchain for a specific case study: the exchange of meal vouchers of an institution amongst students. This is achieved using the decentralized platform Ethereum, which allows us to create a Smart Contract using the Solidity programming language to create a token that follows the Ethereum Request for Comment (ERC), the ERC-20 standard and represents the meal vouchers. This second application uses the architecture defined for YABW, reusing major components and custom developing specific modules to enhance the required features. There is still a lot of research to be done on the non-financial applicability of the Blockchain infrastructure and technology, but for the moment, we have left further evidence that it is possible and is a relative straight-forward process to accomplish from the technological perspective. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle
BAQALC: Blockchain Applied Lossless Efficient Transmission of DNA Sequencing Data for Next Generation Medical Informatics
Appl. Sci. 2018, 8(9), 1471; https://doi.org/10.3390/app8091471 - 27 Aug 2018
Cited by 4
Abstract
Due to the development of high-throughput DNA sequencing technology, genome-sequencing costs have been significantly reduced, which has led to a number of revolutionary advances in the genetics industry. However, the problem is that compared to the decrease in time and cost needed for [...] Read more.
Due to the development of high-throughput DNA sequencing technology, genome-sequencing costs have been significantly reduced, which has led to a number of revolutionary advances in the genetics industry. However, the problem is that compared to the decrease in time and cost needed for DNA sequencing, the management of such large volumes of data is still an issue. Therefore, this research proposes Blockchain Applied FASTQ and FASTA Lossless Compression (BAQALC), a lossless compression algorithm that allows for the efficient transmission and storage of the immense amounts of DNA sequence data that are being generated by Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). Also, security and reliability issues exist in public sequence databases. For methods, compression ratio comparisons were determined for genetic biomarkers corresponding to the five diseases with the highest mortality rates according to the World Health Organization. The results showed an average compression ratio of approximately 12 for all the genetic datasets used. BAQALC performed especially well for lung cancer genetic markers, with a compression ratio of 17.02. BAQALC performed not only comparatively higher than widely used compression algorithms, but also higher than algorithms described in previously published research. The proposed solution is envisioned to contribute to providing an efficient and secure transmission and storage platform for next-generation medical informatics based on smart devices for both researchers and healthcare users. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Blockchain-Based Applications in Education: A Systematic Review
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(12), 2400; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9122400 - 13 Jun 2019
Cited by 11
Abstract
Recently, blockchain technology has gained considerable attention from researchers and practitioners. This is mainly due to its unique features including decentralization, security, reliability, and data integrity. Despite this growing interest, little is known about the current state of knowledge and practice regarding the [...] Read more.
Recently, blockchain technology has gained considerable attention from researchers and practitioners. This is mainly due to its unique features including decentralization, security, reliability, and data integrity. Despite this growing interest, little is known about the current state of knowledge and practice regarding the use of blockchain technology in education. This article is a systematic review of research investigating blockchain-based educational applications. It focuses on three main themes: (1) educational applications that have been developed with blockchain technology, (2) benefits that blockchain technology could bring to education, and (3) challenges of adopting blockchain technology in education. A detailed results analysis of each theme was conducted as well as an intensive discussion based on the findings. This review also offers insight into other educational areas that could benefit from blockchain technology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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Open AccessReview
Blockchain Technology in Healthcare: A Comprehensive Review and Directions for Future Research
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(9), 1736; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9091736 - 26 Apr 2019
Cited by 20
Abstract
One of the most important discoveries and creative developments that is playing a vital role in the professional world today is blockchain technology. Blockchain technology moves in the direction of persistent revolution and change. It is a chain of blocks that covers information [...] Read more.
One of the most important discoveries and creative developments that is playing a vital role in the professional world today is blockchain technology. Blockchain technology moves in the direction of persistent revolution and change. It is a chain of blocks that covers information and maintains trust between individuals no matter how far they are. In the last couple of years, the upsurge in blockchain technology has obliged scholars and specialists to scrutinize new ways to apply blockchain technology with a wide range of domains. The dramatic increase in blockchain technology has provided many new application opportunities, including healthcare applications. This survey provides a comprehensive review of emerging blockchain-based healthcare technologies and related applications. In this inquiry, we call attention to the open research matters in this fast-growing field, explaining them in some details. We also show the potential of blockchain technology in revolutionizing healthcare industry. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications)
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