What Are Some Things the Media Lab is Doing With Bitcoin and Blockchain?

05/27/2016 01:45 pm ET Updated May 28, 2017

What are some things the Media Lab is doing with Bitcoin and Blockchain? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Brian Forde, Founding Director of Digital Currency Initiative at MIT Media Lab, on Quora.

While the Digital Currency Initiative is housed at the MIT Media Lab, it's composed of students, staff and professors from the Media Lab, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, and the Sloan School of Management.

In total, there are roughly 40 graduate students working on about 15 different research projects in a number of areas, including cutting-edge cryptography, finance, open data and personal data platforms.

Before I arrived, MIT students Jeremy Rubin and Dan Elitzer raised $500,000 to give $100 in bitcoin to every undergraduate student at MIT. That helped raise awareness of cryptocurrencies on campus, and since then, with the support of the Digital Currency Initiative, the MIT Bitcoin Club and professors, student interest and research has grown.

A few examples of projects MIT students are working on across campus include the following projects:

MedRec - Built on a private Ethereum network, MedRec is a decentralized content- management system for patients' health-care data, empowering patients to have access to their records across health-care providers.

Remittances - Family members sending money back to their home country is often cited as an example application for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. A team of MIT students is conducting research on novel ways remittances may change as a result of cryptocurrencies.

State-Backed Digital Currencies - Central banks (e.g., the Bank of England) are actively looking into the possibility of a state-backed digital currency. A team of MIT students is researching how a state-backed digital currency might work and analyzing the potential ramifications of its implementation.

Enigma - Through the use of secure, multi-party computation, students at MIT are building a peer-to-peer network, enabling different parties to jointly store and run computations on data while keeping the data completely private. This will enable developers to build "privacy by design," end-to-end decentralized applications, without a trusted third party.

Digital Certificates - Verifying certificates (e.g., university degrees) can be a slow, complicated and unreliable process. A group in the MIT Media Lab is creating a digital infrastructure for certifications in order to improve this burdensome analog process.

Zerocash - Zerocash extends bitcoin's protocol by adding new types of transactions that provide a separate privacy-preserving currency, in which transactions do not reveal the payment's origin, destination or amount.

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