Building A Better Blockchain

| April 9, 2019

A company headed by a USC Viterbi alumnus has partnered with the school to advance this cutting-edge technology.

(Photo/iStock)

An international company headed by a USC Viterbi alumnus has made a gift to and partnered with two distinguished research centers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to support the study of blockchain technologies.

Blockchains allow multiple stakeholders to transact money or data virtually over linked peer-to-peer computer networks; they’re the backbone of digital cash, including Bitcoin.

As part of the agreement, SovereignWallet Network Pte. Ltd. (SWN) of Singapore and the Center for Cyber-Physical Systems and the Internet of Things (CCI) and the Integrated Media System Center (IMSC) have decided to collaborate on research related to meta-blockchain.

“We are truly grateful to receive the support from SWN,” said Professor Bhaskar Krishnamachari of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the CCI director. “We intend to work closely with our colleagues in IMSC to collaborate with SWN researchers and practitioners to understand real-world challenges faced by the emerging industry, with our end goal being to publish rigorous academic papers that advance knowledge in the field.”

Blockchain technologies, he added, have the potential to reduce the cost of business interactions in supply chains and financial systems by enabling “data and value to flow more easily.”

Seokgu Yun, M.S. CS ‘94, SWN’s chief executive officer, said he considers USC Viterbi one of the world’s top three universities in blockchain research. He looks forward to partnering with his alma mater.

The gift reflects USC Viterbi’s growing presence in the blockchain space, said Raghu Raghavendra, USC Viterbi’s vice dean for global academic initiatives and a professor of electrical engineering and computer science. “This shows that Viterbi is strong in this emerging blockchain technology,” he said.

Indeed, it is.

Seokgu Yun , CEO of SWN and a USC Viterbi alumnus (Photo/Courtesy of Seokgu Yun)

In fall 2017, the Center for Cyber-Physical Systems designated blockchain as one of the center’s major focus areas, Krishnamachari said.  Since then, CCI has helped to offer one of the nation’s first graduate courses on blockchain technology and its applications; hosted the first USC Blockchain Hackathon in February, in cooperation with two student organizations, the Trojan Blockchain Society and Trojan Crypto Club; and will hold, in April, the second international research symposium on the foundations and applications of blockchain at the USC campus.

Krishnamachari, CCI colleagues, his students and others have also published several papers about blockchain research in the past year. Topics include a streaming data payment protocol that would allow Internet of Things sensors to “earn” money for the data they produce; a proposal that would use radio signals from wireless devices as a building block for IoT blockchain protocols; and a concept that would allow connected vehicles in the future to seamlessly pay for exchanged data and services via blockchain-based middleware.

Yun, the SWN CEO, said he acquired a strong background in “digital cash technology” from his USC faculty adviser, Clifford Neuman, director of the Center for Computer Systems Security at USC Viterbi’s Information Sciences Institute and a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science.

Neuman said he is proud of his former student.

“I think that the work that SWN is doing is addressing some of the hard problems around digital and electronic payments,” said Neuman, who will participate in some of the joint SWN-USC Viterbi blockchain research. “I have been working in that area since the early 1990’s and I am glad that the interest and perspective on these problems that I imparted to students during those years is having an impact.”

Founded by Yun in 2015, SWN has developed a highly secure and easy-to-use smart cryptocurrency wallet for the mass adoption of blockchain. Going forward, SWN hopes to pioneer next-generation blockchain services, such as mobile decentralized exchange and meta-blockchain.

“If we succeed on this third-generation blockchain development through co-research and co-development, then USC will become No. 1 in blockchain research,” said Yun, adding that the USC alumni account for the majority of SWN’s investors.

Seon Ho Kim, the associate director of USC Viterbi’s Integrated Media Systems Center, helped connect SWN executives with prominent USC Viterbi blockchain researchers. He said he appreciated the company’s support.

“When they needed to work with American universities, they didn’t think twice in choosing USC,” Kim said. “They really want to see Viterbi’s success in new future blockchain technology.”

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