MIT Experiments with Bitcoin Lightning Network and Smart Contracts

The Bitcoin lightning network has been deemed a possible solution to the massive scalability problem, a technological concern which many think keeps the currency from truly widespread adoption. While independent corporations have been quick to toy with private applications of the second-layer of operation known as the lightning network, mainstream adoption by academia could be the path to innovation and creative application.

Recent experiments conducted by MIT in the United States may represent such a transition, one from the private to the educational sector, for the exploration of the lightning network for Bitcoin. A Coindesk article outlines that the prestigious United States university has been “quietly demoing” a new application for the lightning network.

This latest application promises to combine the concept with smart contracts, transaction-mediating infrastructures that work to satisfy the needs of two parties engaged in some sort of financial interaction. Experts postulate that this use of the technology, especially when combined with smart contracts, could handle more transactions than the traditional model, but with even more complexity.

The effort marks yet another innovation to come out of MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative, a 2015 department established to contribute to the growing research body in academia concerning Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain technologies.

In any case, this application could help to make the dream of an effective and helpful lightning effort a reality. Overcoming key obstacles regarding the expediting of transaction seems to be the focus of this use of the lightning network and smart contract technology.

External Transaction Triggers

The most interesting aspect of its reliance on external triggers to time the satisfaction of smart contract specifications. Put simply, this means that real-life changes, such as changes in currency prices or the type of weather in any given location, can trigger the transaction automatically. In addition to expediting the process, this adds a new layer of assurance that transactions will be conducted automatically, and without interference.

It is unclear at this point what entity will determine which events will be associated with any given transaction, but development of the technology should make more information available.

Smart Contract Integration

Smart contracts are one way that the scalability of the lightning network may be improved upon. The application of this externally-executed smart contract system could mean a variety of things. As an example, this system could allow consumers to make bets on events happening in the world, such as price changes or political happenings. Once the event betted on either does or does not happen, the smart contract would immediately execute the commands and conditions associated with the initial bet.

Smart contracts have been long associated with the Ethereum platform, which uses the smart contracts to conduct a wide variety of automatic transactions between consumers. However, researchers argue that a few minor adjustments could make the principle equally workable on the Bitcoin blockchain as well.

Last Questions And Considerations

Despite the progress being made in MIT laboratories, there still exist questions that have yet to be resolved regarding the brand-new technology. In particular, researchers question what will happen once the university releases the technology to the capitalist market. Applications could be wide and varied, and many could be nefarious in nature.

But in the end, MIT researcher Dragos remarks that it is “up to the community” to gauge and determine the long-term applications of the technology that his team has created.

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