The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a new 59-page draft report – NIST Interagency Report (NISTIR) 8202: Blockchain Technology Overview – that attempts to move beyond the recent hype surrounding Bitcoin and other digital currencies (or cryptocurrencies) to help businesses and others understand what the blockchain is and decide whether it would be an asset to their products.
Blockchains are immutable digital ledger systems implemented in a distributed fashion (i.e., without a central repository) and usually without a central authority. At its most basic level, they enable a community of users to record transactions in a ledger public to that community such that no transaction can be changed once published. This document provides a high-level technical overview of blockchain technology. It discusses its application to electronic currency in depth, but also shows its broader applications. The purpose is to help readers understand how blockchains work, so that they can be appropriately and usefully applied to technology problems. Additionally, this document explores some specific blockchain applications and some examples of when a blockchain system should be considered for use.