A Breathless Tour of Blockchain

An introduction to the concepts, technologies, challenges and opportunities of blockchain technology

75 minute tutorial


Blockchain finally appears to be shedding its image as an enabling technology for drug dealing to being the new technical solution looking for problems in every possible domain from diamond tracking, to securities clearing, to property registers to KYC customer checking. Everywhere you look new possible applications are being thought up, even if few have moved into serious use yet.

In this tutorial we will briefly review the fundamental ideas underpinning blockchain technologies and consider what problems its defining architectural characteristics make it suitable for. We will get an idea of what it is like to work with blockchain technology by browsing a live blockchain and understanding how to develop and test "smart contracts" that provide blockchain with its secure computation abilities.

Audience background

No background assumed beyond general software engineering knowledge. In particular no knowledge of blockchain or distributed ledgers assumed.

Benefits of participating

- Understanding of what a blockchain is and is not
- Understanding of the architectural characteristics of blockchain technology
- Ideas for possible uses of blockchain
- Understanding how a basic blockchain application is developed

Materials provided

- Presentation materials
- Exercises and solutions


The session is deliberately short, so is a tutorial presentation, short interactive exercises.

Detailed timetable

00:00 - 00:20 - What is Blockchain?
00:20 - 00:25 - Exercise: Browsing a Blockchain
00:25 - 00:40 - Blockchain as an Architectural Element
00:40 - 00:50 - Exercise: Applying Blockchain
00:50 - 01:10 - Smart Contract Development & Demonstration
01:10 - 01:15 - Quick Summary of Key Ideas


The slides and practical materials can be found here: https://github.com/eoinwoods/spacoin


This is a new session developed for SPA and other conferences in 2017


  1. Eoin Woods
  2. Nick Rozanski
    ICBC Standard Bank