BLOCKCHAIN AND DISTRIBUTED LEDGER TECHNOLOGIES

(A.) Policy and legislation

(A.1) Policy objectives

Blockchain has great potential in providing an infrastructure for trusted, decentralised and disintermediated services beyond the financial sector.

While the FinTech industry has been an early adopter because of its earlyuse case of Bitcoin, blockchain is benefiting and has the potential to transformmany other industries. It is considered a foundational technology that some compare to the rise of the Internet in the early 90s. More than a technology, it could lead to a major institutional innovation by redefining the way we operate transactions, store and access information and share data (e.g. empowering patients to securely share e-health records and decide who to grant access to their data).

Many possible applications are being envisaged to deliver efficiency, immutability and transparency to the financial services industry, Fintech/Suptech actors, trust funds (e.g., for development or humanitarian programmes), eHealth, education, eGovernment, public registries, security certification of Internet of Things, Trusted Artificial Intelligence, food safety, managing intellectual property rights, extending eIDAS framework for eID management, etc.

It has also great potential for the private sector, in trading, contracting, supply chain management,traceability along industrial supply chains (e.g. on social & environmental conditions of work, on material composition or on the maintenance history of the item)and much more. It may also transform the governance of private organisations and of companies (concept of Decentralised Autonomous Organisation - DAO). Furthermore, from a regulatory and supervisory point of view, it could provide regulators with the same view into the data as the companies they are regulating, thereby reducing fraud and compliance costs and facilitating auditing.

Provisions must be taken at all stages to comply with the GDPR, AML regulations and other legal requirements.

However, this process is hindered by a lack of coherent harmonisation and interoperability that constitute obstacles to cross border and cross sector transactions. The responsibility for public policy-makers would be to support innovation within a safe and future-proof technological and regulatory environment, ensuring appropriate interoperability, transparency, accessibility, monitoring and governance.

In the context of the European Digital Single Market where the amount of online transactions and data is exploding, setting the right conditions for the advent of an open, trustworthy, transparent, compliant and authenticated transaction system is a real challenge for the EU. Existing decentralised environments lack trust, accountability, interoperability, regulatory certainty and mature governance models to interact among themselves and also with centralised systems.

Since 2018 the European Commission has been developing a proposal for the Regulation of Markets in Crypto-assets (MiCA) regulatory framework, which currently has achieved a status of an official document (COM/2020/593 final) and is being discussed with the European Parliament and the Council. The MiCA Regulation is a part of The European Commission’s “Digital Finance package” adopted on24September2020 which comprises updated strategy for digital finance and retail.

On June 3rd 2021 the Commission has published a proposal for a Regulation “amending Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 as regards establishing a framework for a European Digital Identity” (eIDAS2) that introduces, a new trust service for electronic ledgers, and the European Digital Identity Walled, an identification means for European physical and legal persons, based on Self Sovereign Identity principles.

(A.2) EC perspectiveand progress report

In order to engage in and contribute to the development of the needed standards, starting from September 2017, the Commission is organising workshops on blockchain standardisation and follows up the standardisation activities related to Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies carried out by the different SDOs, such asISO,ITU-T, ETSI or CEN-CENELEC.

These workshops bring together standards development organisations, fora and consortia active in international BC/DLT standardisation, as well as key stakeholders, and representatives of PPPs like INATBA and deployment initiatives like the EBP.

On 17 June 2020 the European Commission organised “Joining Forces for Blockchain Standardisation” webinar to encourage collaboration and cohesion of ongoing standardisation activities and prevent emergence of conflicting standards. This webinar has been well received by blockchain standardisation community, it brought together more than 400 global blockchain standardisation experts together to discuss advances in standardisation of Identity, Interoperability, Governance, Smart Contracts. During this webinar the European Commision has run a survey to identify the most critical areas of blockchain standardisation where more cohesion is needed. Results were that “interoperability” would benefit the most, followed by “identity”, “smart contracts”, “governance” and “security”.

To bring together Horizon 2020 and blockchain standardisation communities the European Commission has set up a set of roundtable discussions “ICT Verticals and Horizontals for Blockchain Standardisation”. These roundtables took placeDuring the second half of 2020 and the start of 2021 within the following theme groups:

  • Fintech, Digital Assets and Smart Grids
  • Digital Society, Identity and Privacy
  • Digital Economy, SME’s, Industry and Supply chains
  • Cybersecurity
  • IoT
  • eHealth
  • Future Internet, Media and Big data
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Smart-Contracts
  • Artificial Intelligence

More than 70 Horizon 2020 projects have participated as well as standardisation experts of ISO, CEN/CENELEC, ETSI, ITU-T, IEEE, W3C and IETF.

The European Commission launched the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum in February 2018, involving private stakeholders and public authorities in technical and regulatory discussions about the future development and applications of blockchain technology. Among its important tasks, it is gathering the best European experts in thematic workshops on important subjects such as Blockchain and GDPR, or blockchain innovation, and producing reports which will help European stakeholders to deploy blockchain based services in Europe.

On the 10th of April 2018, the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP) was launched, with 28 European countries agreeing, through a joint declaration to cooperate in the establishment of a European blockchain services infrastructure (EBSI) that will support the delivery of cross-border public services, through interoperability and open interfaces and with the highest standards of security. Today the EBP includes all EU Member States, Norway and Liechtenstain.

On 3rd April 2019 the Commission supported the launch of the International Association of Trusted Blockchain Applications – INATBA -, which brings together representatives of the stakeholders across the value chain. INATBA offers developers and users of DLT a global forum to interact with regulators and policy makers and bring blockchain technology to the next stage. It will support the development and adoption of interoperability guidelines, specifications and global standards, to enhance trusted, traceable, user-centric digital services, via a working group on standardisation to interact with standardisation organisations. On 11-13 November 2019 INATBA together with EU Blockchain Observatory and forum, Alastria and the European Commission co-organised the Global blockchain congress CONVERGENCE. INATBA has a dedicated Blockchain Standardisation working group.

The European Commission has already invested more than € 80 million in projects supporting the use of blockchain in technical and societal areas. Up to € 300 million should be further invested until the end of the EU funding programme Horizon 2020. Furthermore, the European Commission is launching the AI/Blockchain fund, which finances a portfolio of innovative AI/blockchain companies and contributes towards development of a dynamic investor community. Expected investment is up to € 300 million. In addition, more funding will be available through Horizon Europe R&I and the Digital Europe (DEP) Programmes.

(A.3) References

(B.) Requested actions

Action 1 The standardisation community should continue analysing possible standardisation gaps and reflect on best way to fill them. Activities may focus on governance and interoperability, organisational frameworks and methodologies, processes and products evaluation schemes, Blockchain and distributed ledger guidelines, smart technologies, objects, distributed computing devices and data services.

Action 2 Regularly update thewhite paper on the EU perspective on blockchain/DLT standardisation.

Action 3 Continue identifying use cases which are relevant for EU (including EU regulatory requirements like from GDPR, ePrivacy, eIDAS, TOOP, etc..) and submit them to relevant standardisation bodies, including CEN-CENELEC and ETSI, and also ISO, ITU

Action 4 Continue identification of actual blockchain/DLT implementations inthe EUand assess the need for standardisation, harmonisation and workforce training or adaptation.

Action 5 Standardisation of the operation and reference implementation of permissioned distributed ledgers and distributed applications, with the purpose of creating an open ecosystem of industrial interoperable solutions.

Action 6 Standards Development Organisations active in blockchain/DLT standardisation to liaise and coordinate to take advantage of synergies and maximise resources, including with relevant public and private partnerships

Action 7 A general framework for Governance of the European networks based on DLT should be developed to allow the flow of smart contracts between different networks.

Action 8 ESOs to develop the standards needed for the introduction of a programmable Euro (CBDC) and token economy (upcoming MiCA Regulation), in particular to ensure interoperability with smart-contracts, legacy systems, etc.

Action 9 SDOs to develop standards to support the eIDAS2 proposal requirements related to DLT

(C.) Activities and additional information

(C.1) Related standardisation activities
ISO

ISO/TC 307: Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies has wide global outreach and involves majority of the EU Member States. The technical commity and works with reference architecture, taxonomy and ontology, cybersecurity, identity, use-cases, interoperability and other aspects of blockchain standardisation.

Four standardisation technical reports have been already published:

  • ISO 22739:2020 Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies — Vocabulary (under revision), text accessible online free of cost:https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso:22739:ed-1:v1:en
  • ISO/TR 23244:2020 Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies — Privacy and personally identifiable information protection considerations
  • ISO/TR 23455:2019 Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies — Overview of and interactions between smart contracts in blockchain and distributed ledger technology systems
  • ISO/TR 23576:2020 Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies — Security management of digital asset custodians

For more information please see: https://www.iso.org/committee/6266604/x/catalogue/

IEEE

The IEEE Computer Society Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers (BDL) Standards Committee focuses on developing standards for blockchain-based digital asset management, digital asset classification, a digital asset exchange model, blockchain identity key management and on a digital identity system framework. In addition, the “Blockchain” Working Group develops a family of horizontal and vertical blockchain standards,address interoperability of blockchains, naming, cross-chain transaction consistency as well as data authentication and communication.IEEE also runs a pre-standardisation project on digital inclusion and agency, which leverages blockchain technology.

The IEEE Consumer Technology Society Blockchain Standards Committee (CTS/BSC) is focused on “Standardizing the decentralized world” from a consumer perspective. The scope of the Standards Committee is to develop and maintain standards, recommended practices and guides for blockchain technologies and applications, especially from the consumers’ perspective, using an open and accredited process, and to advocate them on a global basis.

For more information please visit https://blockchain.ieee.org/standards and https://ieeesa.io/rp-blockchain

ITU-T

The ITU-T Focus Group on Application of Distributed Ledger Technology (FG-DLT) was established in May 2017

  • to identify and analyse DLT-based applications and services;
  • to draw up best practices and guidance which support the implementation of those applications and services on a global scale; and
  • to propose a way forward for related standardisation work in ITU-T Study Groups.

The FG-DLT concluded its work on 1 August 2019 and produced a number of deliverables, which were transferred to ITU-T Study Groups 16 (Multimedia) and 17 (Security). More info at:

https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/focusgroups/dlt/Pages/default.aspx

ITU-T SG20 developed Recommendation ITU-T Y.4476 “OID-based resolution framework for transaction of distributed ledger assigned to IoT resources”, Recommendation ITU-T Y.4464 “Framework of blockchain of things as decentralized service platform”, Recommendation ITU-T Y.4560 “Blockchain-based data exchange and sharing for supporting Internet of things and smart cities and communities”, Recommendation ITU-T Y.4561 “Blockchain-based Data Management for supporting Internet of things and smart cities and communities” and Recommendation ITU-T Y.4907 “Reference architecture of blockchain-based unified KPI data management for smart sustainable cities”.

ITU-T SG20 is also working on “Framework of decentralized service by using DLT and edge computing technologies for IoT devices” (Y.IoT-DES-fr), “Reference architecture of service exposure for decentralized services for IoT applications” (Y.IoT-DSE-arc) and etc.

More info: https://itu.int/go/tsg20

ITU-T SG11 is developing signalling requirements and protocol for providing network-oriented Data Integrity Verification Service based on Blockchain in IMT-2020 network (Q.DIVS-IMT2020). Also, SG11 is developing interoperability testing requirements of blockchain as a service (Q.BaaS-iop-reqts).

More details are available at: www.itu.int/go/tsg11.

ITU-T SG13 works on requirements of network-oriented data integrity verification service based on blockchain in future network (Y.frd), functional architecture, scenarios and requirementsof network resource sharing based on distributed ledger technology (Y.NRS-DLT-arch,Y.NRS-DLT-reqts), Requirements and converged framework of self-controlled identity based on blockchain (Y.SCid-fr), requirements and functional framework of Information Centric Networking for supporting Distributed Ledger Technology in IMT-2020 and beyond (Y.ICN-DLT), requirements and framework of mobile network sharing based on distributed ledger technology for IMT-2020 and beyond (Y.MNS-DLT-fr) and distributed ledger technology for fixed, mobile and satellite convergence in IMT-2020 networks and beyond (Y.FMSC-DLT).

ITU-T SG17 works on security of DLT and its applications. It has approved Recommendations ITU-T X.1400 “Terms and definitions for distributed ledger technology”, ITU-T X.1401 “Security threats of distributed ledger technology”, ITU-T X.1402 “Security framework for distributed ledger technology”, ITU-T X.1403 “Security guidelines for using DLT for decentralized identity management”, ITU-T X.1404 “Security assurance for distributed ledger technology”, ITU-T X.1405 “Security threats and requirements for digital payment services based on distributed ledger technology”, ITU-T X.1406 “Security threats to online voting system using distributed ledger technology”, ITU-T X.1407 “Security requirements for digital integrity proofing service based on distributed ledger technology” and is developing many more standards in this domain: (X.das-mgt,X.sa-dsm,X.sc-dlt, X.srscm-dlt, X.ss-dlt, etc).

More info :http://itu.int/ITU-T/go/tsg17

W3C

W3C has formed a Blockchain Community Group, which is studying and evaluating technologies related to blockchain and use-cases such as interbank communications. Its work is complemented by a group on Blockchain and Decentralized Apps and one on Digital Assets.

W3C created the Decentralized Identifier Working Group (DID WG) https://www.w3.org/2019/did-wg/ URL-based identifiers (URIs) in use on the Web today (2019) require that the identifier be leased from an authority such as a Domain Name Registrar. A Decentralized Identifier (DID) is an identifier that does not need to be leased; its creation and use is possible without a central authority to manage it.

In addition to the “Blockchain Community Group” W3C has also a “Credential Community Group” (https://www.w3.org/community/credentials/) which has developed key standards for SSI (Self-Sovereign Identity) including Decentralized Identifiers (DID) Data model and Syntax and Verifiable Claims Use Cases and Data Model.

IETF IRTF

The Decentralized Internet Infrastructure Research Group (DINRG) will investigate open research issues in decentralizing infrastructure services such as trust management, identity management, name resolution, resource/asset ownership management, and resource discovery. The focus of DINRG is on infrastructure services that can benefit from decentralization or that are difficult to realize in local, potentially connectivity-constrained networks. Other topics of interest are the investigation of economic drivers and incentives and the development and operation of experimental platforms. DINRG will operate in a technology- and solution-neutral manner, i.e., while the RG has an interest in distributed ledger technologies, it is not limited to specific technologies or implementation aspects.

More details of the DIN RG areavailable.

https://trac.ietf.org/trac/iab/wiki/Multi-Stake-Holder-Platform#Ledger

CEN/CENELEC

CEN and CENELEC established a Focus Group on Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies to identify specific European standardisation needs (for example in the context of EU regulations such as GDPR and eIDAS), to map these standardisation needs with the current work items in ISO/TC 307 and to encourage further European participation in ISO/TC 307. https://www.cencenelec.eu/news/articles/Pages/AR-2018-04.aspx

Following the conclusions of the Focus Group, CEN CENELEC set up the Joint Technical Committee JTC19 on Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies CLC/JTC 19, working on the identification and adoption of international standards already available or under development and to pay attention towardsspecific European legislative and policy requirements supporting the development of the EU Digital Single Market. JTC 19 has established the first Working Group dedicated to Decentralised Identity Management. The JTC works in close contact with ISO/TC 307 Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies.

Website:https://standards.cen.eu/dyn/www/f?p=204:7:0::::FSP_ORG_ID:2702172&cs=1465AF26367A9ECE85D149F31EF39162E

ETSI

Permissioned distributed ledgers are the kind of DLT best qualified to address most of the use cases of interest to the industry and governmental institutions.

The ETSI ISG PDL is committed to analyse and provide the foundations for the operation of permissioned distributed ledgers, with the ultimate purpose of creating an open ecosystem of industrial solutions to be deployed by different sectors, fostering the application of these technologies, and therefore contributing to consolidate the trust and dependability on information technologies supported by global, open telecommunications networks. The ISG PDL incorporates research and new development results in the field as they become available. The group is actively working to facilitate the coordination and cooperation between relevant standardisation bodies and open source projects.

OASIS

TheEEA Community Projects, formerly known as the Ethereum OASIS Open Project, is the hub for open source-based standards development in the Ethereum industry. It aims to facilitate Ethereum’s longevity, interoperability, and ease of integration and intends to develop documentation and shared test suites that facilitate new features and enhancements to the Ethereum protocol. The projects seek to address interoperability of implementations. EEA projects include Ethereum projects like theBaseline Protocoland JSON-RPC API documentation under its stewardship.

TheBaseline Protocol OASIS Open Projectcombines advances in cryptography, messaging, and blockchain to deliver secure and private business processes at low cost via the public Ethereum Mainnet.

UNECE

The United Nations Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) has developed two White Papers on Blockchain and a Sectoral Use Case paper. The first White Paper provides an overview of the base principles of Distributed Ledger Technology; the second explores the needs for standardisation in this area and concludes a strong needs for semantic data standards in order to ensure clear understanding between the issuer of information on a Blockchain and all users of that data. The UN/CEFACT Core Component Library can cover the data needs in trade transactions. The final UN/CEFACT Blockchain paper explores the specific needs of each sector (Maritime Transport, Suppy Chain, Agriculture, etc.) and provides a number of use cases.

See: White Paper 1 (available also in French and Russian): https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/cefact/GuidanceMaterials/WhitePaperBlockchain.pdf

White Paper 2 (available also in French and Russian): https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/cefact/GuidanceMaterials/WhitePaperBlockchain_TechApplication.pdf

Use Case paper: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/cefact/cf_plenary/2019_plenary/CEFACT_2019_INF03.pdf

UN/CEFACT CCL: https://www.unece.org/cefact/codesfortrade/unccl/ccl_index.html

UN/CEFACT continues work on interoperability of ledgers. See: https://uncefact.unece.org/display/uncefactpublic/Cross+border+Inter-ledger+exchange+for+Preferential+CoO+using+Blockchain

INATBA

INATBA, the International Association of Trusted Blockchain Applications, brings together industry, startups and SMEs, policy makers, international organisations, regulators, civil society and standard setting bodies to support blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) to be mainstreamed and scaled-up across multiple sectors. INATBA has a Working Group on standardisation to liaise with standards development organisations and to develop contributions to standardisation, such as use cases and requirements. Relevant for standardisation are also the interoperability and governance working groups https://inatba.org/

(C.2) additional information

One direction of blockchains technology innovation in recent years was towards highly promising area of secure persistent public data, eliminating the need for initial trust among involved stakeholders.

The clarification and mutual definition of several aspects of blockchain technology (such as blockchain interoperability, governance, trust, security of blockchain and of the underlying cryptographic mechanisms, blockchain compliance to legislation, impact of blockchain on different sectors, etc) are crucial prerequisites to introducing the technology to society.

Global blockchain congress CONVERGENCE: https://blockchainconvergence.com/