Fujitsu is the leading Japanese information and communication technology (ICT) company, offering a full range of technology products, solutions, and services. Approximately 132,000 Fujitsu people support customers in more than 100 countries.
Fujitsu R&D Center is a China-based Fujitsu group company founded in 1998. They develop technologies including optical communication, high-speed wireless communication, language processing, knowledge processing, multimedia processing, cloud computing and blockchain solutions Recently, they announced their ability to detect 13 types of potential risks within enterprise blockchain solutions, and previously they researched security risks in Ethereum.
We sat down with Jun Sun, Director of Information Technology Laboratory at Fujitsu R&D Center, Ence Zhou, Researcher at Fujitsu R&D Center, and Kiyoshi Anzai, in charge of Business Development for Fujitsu’s Accelerator Program and Global Marketing, to ask them about Fujitsu’s participation in blockchain and their perspective on the industry.
Can you introduce yourself and explain how Fujitsu R&D Center got involved with blockchain?
Sun: Hi, my name is Sun Jun and I’m Director of Information Technology Laboratory at Fujitsu R&D Center. The goal of Fujitsu R&D Center is to develop cutting edge technology for Fujitsu. Thus, we often investigate promising new technologies and try to find some killer applications for them.
Three years ago we started researching Ethereum risk detection and we published a paper on it. Later, because Hyperledger is more Fujitsu’s focus, we switched our focus from Ethereum to Hyperledger. With Hyperledger, we’ve done research on security, but also beyond that, looking at data analysis capabilities and more.
As you know, China is very active in blockchain-related activities. As a China-based R&D center, we have a lot of local partners with whom we hope to find good uses for our technology in the Chinese market. Actually, recently we have made cooperation with Suzhou Tongji Blockchain Research Institute to provide technology of ledger data analysis to end customers. We announced a press release about this collaboration in November 6th.
Can you tell us more about Fujitsu’s Blockchain Research so far?
Zhou: Hi, I’m Zhou Ence and I’m responsible for researching the security assurance of smart contracts. About three years ago, we started researching security of Ethereum smart contracts. We found six categories of vulnerabilities, which are outlined in our news release.
A year ago, we also did some work on security for Hyperledger Fabric smart contracts, known as Chain Code. We researched nondeterministic errors for smart contracts and found 13 potential risks for enterprise blockchain systems using Hyperledger Fabric.
Now I’m working on data analysis for Hyperledger Fabric. We’re also collaborating with some local companies on Hyperledger.
Are Chinese startups working with blockchain, or are they mostly larger companies looking at blockchain implementations?
Sun: Both. In China, both startups and a lot of big players like BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent) are all delving into blockchain. However, blockchain is different from other technologies. The customers and users are often many parties. These parties often want to work with established, reliable and large-scale entities. On our own, it is not so easy to support these kinds of big projects, so we like to collaborate with large local companies on these.
How has your work in blockchain evolved over the past three years, such as moving from Ethereum to Hyperledger? And where do you think this is going to lead to next with what you are doing?
Sun: Before we entered blockchain, we were doing software quality assurance. Since blockchain is also a kind of software, so doing quality assurance for blockchain was a very natural migration from our previous work.
I think security is very important, and it is a valuable research topic but it’s also crucial to find useful applications for blockchain. So it’s important to go in both directions, which is what we are doing now.
What do you think is the biggest challenge right now in blockchain security.
Sun: There are many Chinese local companies doing security research, but these companies can’t just do research. They have to also do other projects for survival. Currently, blockchain security is mainly interesting for developers, not the public. So I think one target of SCSA is to let more people know about the importance of security and get more people involved and interested.
There are many players in the blockchain security space. Sometimes our work can be overlapped or similar, but there is less collaboration than you would think. If we can have more communication, it could lead to more collaboration and we will have a better result.
Do you have any interesting customer case studies or success stories that you would like to talk about?
Recently we collaborated with a local partner, Suzhou Tongji Blockchain Research Institute, on their blockchain platform. Suzhou Tongji Blockchain Research Institute is a cooperative organization established by the Tongji University and Suzhou government to provide comprehensive blockchain development services.
In March 2018, the blockchain platform, Wutong Chain, was released. Blockchain data is tamper-resistant; however, the raw data stored on the blockchain is not very useful if it cannot support context based business analysis.
Fujitsu R&D Center has provided blockchain transaction analysis and retrieval technology, customized to specific customer requirements, which adds indexes of inner relationships to the blockchain data being retrieved, supporting easy retrieval, analysis and visualization of the blockchain data for business purposes.
This blockchain platform has been applied by Chinese enterprises in logistics tracking, supply chain finance, judicial certificate storage, and other fields. You can find more information about our cooperation in our news release, and you can find more information about the Wutong Chain and its partners, which include Shanghai Bank, Cosco and UnionPay, on the Wutong Chain website.
What is Fujitsu R&D Center planning in terms of blockchain?
Sun: We’ve kicked things off and we’ve already have found some good partners with good customers. Most importantly we discovered actual blockchain use cases for them.
Right now in China some big customers are interested in blockchain, and they want to try it. But they actually don’t know what blockchain can do and how their business can utilize the power of blockchain. There are starting to be some real projects deployed, and we’re collecting their feedbacks so that we can improve the technology further and expand it for further deployment.
Are there any other Chinese projects that you are very interested in? For example, where you find the technology very interesting or you expect the project becoming very big over time.
Sun: Right now the central bank of China is discussing digital currency. This is one direction which seems quite interesting.
There are also a lot of banks interested in adopting blockchain, because they want to share customer information. Currently the customer information has to be gathered and stored by each individual bank. Having a shared system for that information could save the banks a lot of money and be very useful.
The financial industry is policy guided, however. Legislation forms the rules of how interbank systems like this can be achieved. So it’s not actually a technical issue. A few other domains are like this as well. If you want to move these complex, multi-party projects forward, you have to solve these policy issues.
Will that involve Fujitsu R&D Center helping to develop and build these systems as well?
Sun: I don't think we will build all the systems. Even just in China, there are already lots of systems built using Ethereum or Hyperledger based on regional Chinese standards. Instead of developing those entire systems, we are making some individual functions which can satisfy them, and for the rest, we collaborate with our partners.
How do you see the future of the blockchain ecosystem? There are many different technical stacks: Ethereum, Hyperledger, and more blockchains every day. Do you see these platforms converging over time or do you think that they will always be separate verticals?
Sun: The purposes of Ethereum and Hyperledger are quite different. In China, Hyperledger based platforms are more popular for projects with stakeholders from different domains. Supply chain is an example of this, where there are many players across different domains involved.
There are already some supply chain use cases using the Hyperledger based system. Another even more popular application is digital receipts. The big three Chinese companies Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent have all announced blockchain frameworks for this, but they are all cloud-based, not decentralized systems.
So there is still a great variation in blockchain use cases and implementation methods. We can’t predict at this point if there will be a convergence. Different players have their own strategies.
Jun Sun, is the Director of Information Technology Laboratory at Fujitsu R&D Center. Kiyoshi Anzai, is in charge of Business Development for Fujitsu’s Accelerator Program and Global Marketing. Ence Zhou, is a Researcher at the China-based Fujitsu R&D Center, a Fujitsu group company founded in 1998.
Learn more about Fujitsu at https://www.fujitsu.com/global/