Standards are an important key to success for any developing technology, and blockchain is no exception. The right standards, set at the right time in a technology’s development, can ensure interoperability, generate trust in and help ensure ease of use of the technology. In this way, they support its development and create a pathway to mass adoption.
The EU takes an active role in the blockchain standards community, engaging and working closely with all relevant bodies around the world.
The blockchain standards landscape
The technology standards landscape is complex, covering a large number of supra-national, national and industrial organisations. Some of the more important organisations in the European blockchain standards landscape include:
- StandICT: Provides an ICT Standardisation Observatory (EUCOS) and a Facility to support participation of European experts on international standardisation (StandICT.eu).
- European Standardisation Organisations: Important European standards organisations relevant to blockchain include the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI, in particular the ISG PDL), the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), in particular through their Joint Technical Committee 19 (JTC19).
- Supra-national and industry organisations: Important global organisations relevant to blockchain standards include ISO (in particular ISO TC307), ISO/IEC JTC1 and ITU-T.
- National standards bodies: Most national IT standards bodies also are or are expected to be working on blockchain topics.
- Open Standards bodies: include IEEE, The Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
- INATBA: Through various of its working groups, the International Association of Trusted Blockchain Applications also contributes to the standards discussion on a European and global level.
There are many other national and industrial organisations involved in blockchain-relevant standards work on topics such as digital assets, token specifications, blockchain governance, security token standards, and more.
The wide range of bodies working on blockchain standards ensures that a great deal of skill and expertise around the world is dedicated to this work. But, there is a danger of fragmentation in the standards landscape.
Technology standards can cover a wide range of topics, some of which are not directly related to the technology itself. In blockchain, the following topics are particularly relevant:
- interoperability: Ensuring the different blockchain and DLT protocols and platforms can exchange data and seamlessly communicate with each other;
- governance: Best practice and standards in governing blockchain projects as well as blockchain consortia working on decentralised platforms;
- identity: Promoting a common identity framework and/or interoperable identity among different blockchain protocols and platforms;
- security: Ensuring a secure operation of the different nodes, networks and services;
- smart contracts: Supporting best practice and standards to ensure smart contract technology is safe and secure.
The EU wants to be a leader in blockchain technology, becoming an innovator in blockchain and a home to significant platforms, applications and companies.
The EU provides funding for blockchain research and innovation through grants and prizes and by supporting investment.
The European public sector is building its own blockchain services infrastructure, which should soon be interoperable with private sector platforms.
The European Commission recognises the importance of legal certainty and a clear regulatory regime in areas pertaining to blockchain-based applications.
The European Commission aims to use innovations in blockchain technologies to help fight climate change.
The European Blockchain Partnership (EBP) is an initiative to develop an EU strategy on blockchain and build a blockchain infrastructure for public services.
The EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum facilitates dialogue between decision makers, thought leaders, and the blockchain community.