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Blockchain and smart contracts: technology, applications et legislation


14th and 15th November 2018

  • Dr Valerio Schiavoni (Université de Neuchâtel)
  • Prof Pascal Felber (Université de Neuchâtel)
  • Prof Pierre Leone (Université de Genève)








Initially popularised by cryptocurrencies, blockchains and smart contracts are now being used widely (sometimes inappropriately) for all sorts of decentralized applications that require some form of reliability and security. Beyond the "buzz" of blockchains, there are important aspects to consider at the level of the underlying technology (e.g., "how secure, tamper-proof and resilient is it really?"), its applications (e.g., "what are the real use cases beyond cryptocurrencies and what are its effect on our society?"), and the legal implications (e.g., "can we trade virtual money, and are smart contracts legally binding?"). This 2-days workshop will address all 3 aspects from the perspective of 8 invited speakers covering the different facets of blockchains and smart contracts.


Wednesday 14.11, Salle B-103 (UNIMAIL, Building B, first floor)

10:00-10:15 Intro/welcome.

10:15-11:00 Prof Maurice Herlihy (Brown Univ.): "Blockchains from a Distributed Computing Perspective".

11:00-11:15 Pause (15min)

11:15-12:00 Prof Maurice Herlihy (Brown Univ.): "Atomic Cross-Chain Swaps"

12:00-14:00 Lunch (2h)

14:00-14:45 Dr Marko Vukolić (IBM Research @ Zurich): "Blockchains: A Systems Perspective (part 1)"

14:45-15:00 Pause (15min)

15:00-15:45 Dr Marko Vukolić (IBM Research @ Zurich): "Blockchains: A Systems Perspective (part 2)"

15:45-16:15 Pause (30min)

16:15-17:15 Dr Hervé Sanglard (WebExperts by UDITIS): "Blockchain for EU Customs - eATA Use Case


Thursday 15.11, Auditoire GPA (UNIMAIL, Building G, underground floor)

9:30-09:45 Opening

9:45-10:45 Bruno Rodrigues (UZH): "An Overview of Blockchain Applications and their Applicability"

10:45-11:00 Pause (15min)

11:00-12:00 Me Vincent Mignon (LEAX Avocats): "Blockchain's tokens under Swiss law. Selected Questions."

12:00-13:30 Lunch (1h30min)

13:30-14:30 Prof Daniel Kraus (UniNE): "Why blockchain developers should care about intellectual property"

14:30-14:45 Pause (15min)

14:45-15:45 Stephane Ballmer & Dr Davide Merulla (Ambrosus): "3.0 web and 4.0 industrialization."

15:45-16:00 Discussion and Wrap-up


Abstracts of the talks:

Prof Maurice Herlihy (Brown Univ.). Title: Blockchains from a Distributed Computing Perspective

There has been a recent explosion of interest in blockchain-based distributed ledger systems such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many others. Much of this work originated outside the distributed computing community, but the questions raised, such as consensus, replication, fault-tolerance, privacy, and security, and so on, are all issues familiar to our community.This talk surveys the theory and practice of blockchain-based distributed systems from the point of view of classical distributed computing, along with reckless speculation about promising future research directions for our community.


Prof Maurice Herlihy (Brown Univ.). Title: Atomic Cross-Chain Swaps

An atomic cross-chain swap is a distributed coordination task where multiple parties exchange assets across multiple blockchains, for example, trading bitcoin for ether. An atomic swap protocol guarantees (1) if all parties conform to the protocol, then all swaps take place, (2) if some coalition deviates from the protocol, then no conforming party ends up worse off, and (3) no coalition has an incentive to deviate from the protocol. A cross-chain swap is modeled as a directed graph D, whose vertexes are parties and whose arcs are proposed asset transfers. For any pair (D,L), where D=(V,A) is a strongly-connected directed graph and L⊂V a feedback vertex set for D, we give an atomic cross-chain swap protocol for D, using a form of hashed timelock contracts, where the vertexes in L generate the hashlocked secrets. We show that no such protocol is possible if D is not strongly connected, or if D is strongly connected but L is not a feedback vertex set.


Dr Marko Vukolić (IBM Research @ Zurich). Title: Blockchains: A Systems Perspective

In this talk we focus on systems aspects of bulding blockchains and the related challenges, with particular focus on blockchain scalability. Scalability is probably the most important and the most challenging technical problem standing in front of wide adoption of the blockchain and distributed ledger technologies. Scalability challenges for blokchain come in at least two flavors, scalability of the distributed consensus/block ordering mechanisms, and the scalability of application and smart-contract execution. In this talk, we will briefly overview these challenges in the context of permissionless and permissioned blockchains and overview recent proposal to overcoming these challenges, and in particular the architecture of Hyperledger Fabric. We will also point out some promising research and development directions.


Dr Hervé Sanglard (WebExperts by UDITIS). Title: Blockchain for EU Customs - eATA Use Case

The paper ATA Carnet, a Customs formality for temporary admission of goods, is to be replaced by an electronic Carnet (eATA) which is accessible at any moment (24/7, worldwide) and for which the trader only needs a unique transaction code displayed on a smartphone (a kind of boarding pass) to obtain Customs clearance. Based upon this transaction code, the Customs office shall first receive the Carnet data from Mercury, the electronic platform powering the eATA Carnet provided by ICC, the International Chamber of Commerce, and then register a transaction. The proposed eATA PoC is to build an additional security layer on Mercury to establish mutual technical trust between ICC and Customs Authorities by anchoring eATA Carnet and Transactions data into a blockchain.


Bruno Rodrigues (UZH). Title: An Overview of Blockchain Applications and their Applicability

As the Blockchain technology rapidly evolves beyond the financial market, several promising applications areas and use cases are emerging. The capacity to provide a trustworthy, decentralized and publicly available data storage makes Blockchain an interesting opportunity for organizations to increase business agility and reduce costs by removing intermediaries in distributed applications (i.e., by involving multiple und initially non-trusted stakeholders). However, it is still not straightforward to decide in which application areas and use cases Blockchain provide an advantage beyond the traditional distributed databases and decentralized systems. This talk overviews Blockchain applications by presenting industry and research use cases performed at the CSG, but also the factors that must be considered in the Blockchain applicability.


Me Vincent Mignon (LEAX Avocats). Title: Blockchain's tokens under Swiss law. Selected Questions.

Blockchain is probably the most disruptive and revolutionary technology since the advent of the World Wide Web in the 1990s.From the first questions focusing on Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency, an evolution has been felt since the beginning of 2017 with the possibility of financing projects by creating tokens based on a blockchain. This creation of blockchain's tokens, mainly known as Initial Coin Offering (ICO) or Token Generating Event (TGE) asks several legal questions notably from the perspective of financial market regulations. The conference will focus on why Switzerland is a preferred location to launch an ICO/TGE, the legal historical background from the first Postulate in 2013 from National Council Jean-Christophe Schwaab to the last fact sheet of FINMA issued on August 30, 2018, the regulatory framework for blockchain's tokens in Switzerland and the forms of token's transfer under current Swiss law.


Prof Daniel Kraus (UniNE). Title: Why blockchain developers should care about intellectual property

Blockchains are at the source of numerous innovations, many of which are very promising. Most of the time, blockchain-related innovations are developed in an open-source or free software framework. In parallel, more and more patents are filed on blockchain applications. Hence, how are the philosophies driving blockchain communities and intellectual property compatible? Do patents and other IP rights represent a risk on the developments of blockchain-based technologies? Or will blockhains revolutionalize the intellectual property system itself?


Stephane Ballmer & Dr Davide Merulla (Ambrosus). Title: 3.0 web and 4.0 industrialization.

Ambrosus provides a turn-key solution to combine distributed ledger and IoT technologies to support the upcoming industrial revolution. During this talk, we will explain why and how the AMB-NET is a blockchain specifically developed to be IoT compatible. We will discuss its structure and the role of the different nodes composing it, list the available software tools, introduce the InnoLab as the Ambrosus R&D-IoT facility, and present some of the on-going POC's and partnerships.


Université de Neuchâtel


All lectures in English. The seminars will take place in the UniMail building, Faculty of Science, University of Neuchatel. 


14th of November: room B-103  UNIMAIL, Building B, first floor.

15th of November: Auditoire GPA, UNIMAIL, Building G, underground floor.


Université de Neuchâtel
Rue Emile-Argand 11



Deadline for registration 14.11.2018

[email protected]


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