Cisco Imagines Group Chats on a Blockchain in Patent Filing

Cisco is looking at blockchain technology as a way to make confidential group messaging easier and more secure, public filings show.

In a patent application released Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the company described how a blockchain could enable people to form groups spontaneously and share files and other information while keeping track of membership.

This would solve “common problems” faced by ad-hoc messaging teams, Cisco said, namely:

“how group membership is established, communicated, updated, and secured from unauthorized tampering … in the context of dynamic, decentralized, and self-organizing groups.”

The document, which was filed in December 2017, proposes using cryptographic keys shared among group participants to establish a peer-to-peer network – in other words, creating a decentralized group chat with only those members authorized to join it.

The first participant’s device would create the genesis block, and subsequent communications would generate their own blocks as each member of the conversation adds on.

The first block would “define the initial set of group members” in one possible version of this system, according to the filing.

In this version, the blockchain would specifically be used to record the group members. Subsequent blocks would chiefly record new members being added and old members being removed.

Other versions of the system could enable secure file sharing or instant messaging, according to the filing, which continued:

“In summary, presented herein is a method for achieving authorization in confidential group communications in terms of an ordered list of data blocks representing a tamper-resistant chronological account of group membership updates … There are many applications of these techniques. One such application is enabling end-to-end encryption of instant messaging, content sharing, and streamed media. This is useful in developing a protocol or application designed to enable confidential group communications.”

A previous patent application released by the USPTO showed Cisco has been looking at other use cases for blockchain technology.

In that filing, published last October, the company outlined using a blockchain network to track Internet of Things devices.

Cisco image via Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

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