Blockchain-Enabled Smart Contracts: Architecture, Applications, and Future Trends
In recent years, the rapid development of cryptocurrencies and their underlying blockchain technology has revived Szabo‚??s original idea of smart contracts, i.e., computer protocols that are designed to automatically facilitate, verify, and enforce the negotiation and implementation of digital contracts without central authorities. Smart contracts can find a wide spectrum of potential application scenarios in the digital economy and intelligent industries, including financial services, management, healthcare, and Internet of Things, among others, and also have been integrated into the mainstream blockchain-based development platforms, such as Ethereum and Hyperledger. However, smart contracts are still far from mature, and major technical challenges such as security and privacy issues are still awaiting further research efforts. For instance, the most notorious case might be ‚??The DAO Attack‚?? in June 2016, which led to more than $50 million Ether transferred into an adversary‚??s account. In this paper, we strive to present a systematic and comprehensive overview of blockchain-enabled smart contracts, aiming at stimulating further research toward this emerging research area. We first introduced the operating mechanism and mainstream platforms of blockchain-enabled smart contracts, and proposed a research framework for smart contracts based on a novel six-layer architecture. Second, both the technical and legal challenges, as well as the recent research progresses, are listed. Third, we presented several typical application scenarios. Toward the end, we discussed the future development trends of smart contracts. This paper is aimed at providing helpful guidance and reference for future research efforts.
Blockchain parallel blockchain six-layer architecture smart contracts