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With the rise of Bitcoin, one of the underlying supportive technologies that makes it possible has gained more awareness -- blockchain. The technology of blockchain has many applications to secure transactions and activities outside of the financial sector, including in healthcare and other industries. The U.S. federal government has interest in the application of blockchain for various purposes. What Is Blockchain? Blockchain is a distributed "chain" of validated transactions secured through cryptographic hashing. Each block added is stored with timestamp and transaction data along with a cryptographic hash pointer to the previous block. Various open-source and commercial options for blockchain technology exist. The best-known example of the use of blockchain is for securing and recording of Bitcoin transactions. For another example, an organization can use blockchain to analyze whether a mobile device is valid for use inside its corporate systems using various internal identifiers for the device. Another way to think of blockchain is as a trusted ledger of transactions. Adoption Of Blockchain By The U.S. Federal Government While the U.S. government was late to embrace cloud computing due to challenges with deciphering the model, lack of suitable procurement options and slow adoption, it appears to be engaging actively with the potential use of blockchain technology. The appeal of blockchain may center on the decentralized nature of the technology along with interoperability and reduced cost outcomes. In one of the first contract awards for blockchain technology implementation for the U.S. government, the Department of Homeland Security awarded a blockchain contract to “Prove Integrity of Captured Data From Border Devices.” The Food & Drug Administration issued a "sources sought" notice late in 2017 for an application of blockchain. According to the notice, this was for real-time application for portable interactive devices (RAPID) "to enable [the] exchange of patient-level data within the United States Critical Illness and Injury Trails Group network." The FDA requirements noted that “Implementation of the blockchain connection between FDA RAPID and USCIITG/Discovery network is being created in order to exchange influenza patient data at clinical sites administered by USCIITG.” The U.S. Department of Defense Transportation Command also showed a recent interest in blockchain centered on an innovative use of distributed ledger capabilities. Its interest also included extensibility, monitoring and scalability of the technology across extended domains. An example potential application included security and surety of logistics and transportation transactions. U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), in coordination with the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC), published a notice that it will be issuing a request for proposal that will include an application of blockchain, among other goals. The MTEC mission is to assist USAMRMC to partner “with industry and academia to augment the supply chain and next generation inventory management capabilities that are utilized to protect, treat, and optimize Warfighters’ health and performance across the full spectrum of military operations.” Barriers To Adoption Questions that bring up the most pushback on adoption of blockchain revolve around security, some open source aversion, possible performance issues and reporting/analytics. There are potential security vulnerabilities when it comes to blockchain. For example, if a device is used as part of the security to validate a transaction and that device is later vulnerable, the transactions may become vulnerable, too. In several cases involving Bitcoin and Ethereum, two major uses of blockchain, hackers pinpointed a vulnerability of the digital wallet technology to steal large sums of virtual funds. Failover and continuity are concerns for implementation planning as well as the performance of the database. Industry Offerings For Federal Government Blockchain Various industry services firms and vendors have expanded certain of their services on the use of blockchain by the federal government. SAP is providing access to blockchain augmented SAP products through its innovation program known as Leonardo. The SAP Leonardo innovation system provides early-stage blockchain capabilities. SAP also announced a blockchain co-innovation program “which aims to provide an opportunity for participants to explore the applications of blockchain technologies.” Multiple members of the program are large U.S. government contractor firms. The NoSQL database platform provides the right database back end for blockchain to achieve scalability, performance and low latency for distributed applications. MongoDB has already found extensive adoption in the U.S. federal government, and its platform provides the assistance layer for blockchain technologies. The MongoDB platform is supporting various commercial blockchain implementations now. IBM has mustered full support for blockchain, including potential client interest in permissioned blockchain. The IBM Watson Health unit is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on research for use of blockchain in data processing applications. Watch for increased and publicly noticeable implementations of blockchain by the U.S. federal government in 2018.