Engineering 101

How to Visualize Blockchain with the BlocKit

By Dawn Allcot

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Blockchain, the decentralized digital infrastructure used to calculate the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, can be incredibly complicated to the uninitiated.

Crucial to determining the value of Bitcoin, blockchain works behind the scenes to store all the critical information about blockchain transactions, including the time, date, and amount of exchange and connects the data together.

Blocks of data form a chain; at its heart, blockchain is as simple as that.

However, multiple variables – 11 key aspects, to be exact – affect the value of Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

A new kit created by a team of computer scientists from Lancaster University, the University of Edinburgh in the UK, and the Universiti Teknologi MARA, in Malaysia, recently created a physical kit that is the embodiment of blockchain. It was designed to help people understand how digital blockchains work and can also be used by innovators designing new systems and services around blockchain.

The kit, called BlocKit, is made from everyday objects representing the various elements of blockchain in the physical world. A transparent plastic box representing a Bitcoin wallet, clay discs signifying Bitcoins, padlocks for passwords, and candles representing miners’ computational power help people understand the processes and an overall system that make blockchain work. The kit can be used to explore key characteristics of blockchain, such as trust – an important challenge for Bitcoin users.

Because blockchain holds promise to revolutionize everything from finance to supply-chain economics and healthcare, it is important for everyone from managers, developers, and consumers to comprehend how blockchain works. The kit, which was evaluated as part of a study involving 15 Bitcoin users, shows promise in simplifying the concept.

“Despite growing interest in its potential, the blockchain is so novel, disruptive and complex, it is hard for most people to understand how these systems work,” said Professor Corina Sas of Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications. “We have created a prototype kit consisting of physical objects that fulfill the roles of different parts of the blockchain. The kit really helps people visualize the different component parts of blockchain, and how they all interact.”

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