UA Blockchain Hackathon: COSMOS Researchers Leading the Way

COSMOS team members Karen Watts and Michael DiCicco have made winning hackathons a hobby of sorts. On September 29th, 2018, Karen and Michael along with Brenda Nyangweso formed a team named sudoIntellectual that went up against 21other teams at the UA Blockchain Hackathon and emerged as winners of the J.B. Hunt Use Case challenge.

Blockchain technology is the biggest buzzword in the recent times. It rose to prominence in 2009 as the technology that underpins bitcoin. Blockchain is a public ledger for every transaction that might take place between two or more parties. Today, there is a growing interest in making use of this distributed, secure, public-accessible database technology.  A number of tech companies are investing in blockchain platforms, such as Hyperledger, to provide blockchain capabilities to organizations that would like to develop blockchain applications for their enterprise.

For the hackathon, sudoIntellectual built an electronic bill of lading system that used a shared ledger between the shipper, carrier, and receivers. They emulated the current paper bill of lading as close as possible in order to facilitate rapid adoption by end users. The team used IBM Hyperledger to deploy the blockchain, as well as the Django application for the interface.

J.B. Hunt use cases were a bill of lading system, payment escrow, and reverse logistics. Their project “Truck Hunt”, though it was targeted at the bill of lading system, provides an ecosystem in which all three use cases can be satisfied.

The system developed was designed to solve or prevent disputes quickly, pay drivers in real-time, and provide accountability that is not available with paper forms currently.

How does Truck Hunt work? When a carrier arrives at the shipper, as pallets are loaded into the truck, radio-frequency identification (RFID) or smart pallets can track what is loaded in the truck. Then the carrier gives a tablet to the shipper that then uses facial recognition to cryptographically sign the bill of lading. As the carrier goes from point A to point B,  sensors in the truck collect the temperature, location, and acceleration data. Once the carrier arrives at the receiver, the truck is unloaded and the receiver verifies that the shipment arrived in good order and they both cryptographically sign the bill of lading. At the point the report in PDF format is finalized and the hash is stored on the blockchain. If there is a dispute then the data from the sensors is also stored on the blockchain.

Karen and Michael utilized the skills they learned while working as student researchers at COSMOS to help build Truck Hunt. The team is also grateful for the support they received from the Information Science department chair Dr. Elizabeth Pierce to attend the hackathon. This was the second year of the UA BlockChain Hackathon and the first year for UA Little Rock students to compete.

Dr. Nitin Agarwal, Director of COSMOS and Maulden-Entergy Chair and Distinguished Professor, said, “blockchain is the technology of future and Karen and Michael’s work is in the vanguard of technical development in this area. We are extremely proud of their accomplishments.”

We warmly congratulate Karen and Michael on their win and wish them a successful journey for all the future hackathons.  



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