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Blockchain Timestamp and Document Verification

15/March/2019
The encrypted and decentralized ledger technology has surpassed all the early industry challenges like- centralization, the intervention of intermediaries, fraud and misleads, high-cost transactions, proof of authenticity and more. Today blockchain technology keeps the potential to streamline every business operation, no matter which industry they belong to.

Blockchain keeps its extensiveness in all functions like successful storing of data, verifying of data, upholding the privacy and accountability of all data and transactions carried within blockchain, reducing the security threats and fraudulent activities and moreover keeping the network decentralized, thus giving real-time access to authorized. Today document verification in blockchain is one of the widely discussed and crucially analyzed subjects.

Document verification has always been a tedious task to business, no matter whether they were small or large in size. Every business and individual had to undergo multiple rounds of the document verification process in the traditional setup. Be it the university records like academic certificates, job certificates or any other earned credits, passports, visa, land titles, notarized certificates, every paper were bound to undergo multilayer of screening before reaching the hands of prospects. 

This caused high expenditure as there came the role of intermediaries and middlemen. In every stage there came the intervention of middlemen, which caused a great challenge to accomplish the task. The whole set of the process was time-consuming and highly expensive. And in the end, there came a lesser proof of ownership and authenticity of the document as many fraudulent activities happen in parallel.  

Blockchain document verification proved its potentiality in the field and completely erased these woes via offering a decentralized platform to the associates. A quick, easy and cheap transaction was assured. The document verification is seamlessly carried under the blockchain technology. 

Today if you monitor in close, you would find that document verification in blockchain is widely adopted among the universities, schools, colleges for their certificate verification. 

It is not constrained to the educational institutions, even the government offices indulge in document verification in blockchain for conducting visa verification, passport verification, and other identity management materials. The role of blockchain in notarization is widely acclaimed today for its immense functioning. 

Coming to our topic, Timestamps.

Another breakthrough in blockchain standards is the usage of a timestamp as the proof of integrity. Timestamps define as the standard of certain documents or files that exists for a certain time period without relying on any third party authentication and also avoiding long term maintenance cost or needs.

Anyhow, what is timestamp?

It can simply be quoted as “a proof that some data existed prior to a certain point in time”.In blockchain, it would say as a crypto notarization. A timestamp can be referred to as “Proof of existence”.Timestamping system creates a great breakthrough in blockchain notarization and its fellow work(digital signatures, authentication and many more). Any digital data can be timestamped. If anyone has possession of original content that has the stamp on it (digital timestamp) can authenticate it without any proof authenticity or any third party notary.

Use of blockchain in Digital Signatures.

Ownership transfer of funds in blockchain (Bitcoin blockchain) especially, in the beginning, urged owners to digitally sign the transaction and later send it across the public network to authenticate its proof of work. It needed to be digitally validated and adding them into the block certainly took time and a small phrase or metadata. This largely caused a high amount of transaction cost as well. By spending an amount, one can only record small metadata to immutable digital data.

New protocol timestamp system created a new digital platform to sign the transaction and verify them easily and quickly. For example, consider a linear form document, it uses a simple form of timestamp which is very easy to verify, but in multiple sources,  it uses different or more complex timestamps. Even though the verification and other process remain the same. Use of timestamp will definitely create a uniqueness of transaction that has been executed in a certain time. 

How timestamp infrastructure can bring change in the existing document verification process?

1. By building a front end trust.

By integrating timestamp in digital data, it can bring a multiple, cross-check, notarization method. It builds a digital form of trust by introducing it into a publicly verifiable format.

2. Reducing the cost of the transaction. 

It's scaling- can be much bigger than existing proof of work, proof of stake. The transaction can be done with any size of data by adding timestamps into it.

3. Convenience

Anyone having their original verifiable data within them and can be shared publicly without any fear of malpractice in their document. 

Times stamps and Proof of Existence 

Timestamp in blockchain can be used as a proof exists and it keeps proof for notarization. The process will prove that a certain document exists,  since a time period. Any unauthenticated modification can be detected easily under this and from when the document is being in existence.

This process involves two steps:

1. Hashing the documents.
2. Recording data into the blockchain. 

1. Hashing the documents:

A single document can be hashed and stored in blockchain very easily. It's not practically possible with large sized digital files to get stored and kept in blockchain. So each data has to be hashed and stored into blockchain. The main reason behind data hashing is that blockchain offers limited space and its very costly to have large space and transaction cost, another reason is document privacy and data security. 

Hashing will help documents to be cryptographically stored into blockchain with a timestamp. Large data can be stored by building a Merkle tree. On hashing, the data one time will promise the same output. Hash value always has a fixed length no matter how big the data is. Any change in hash value will automatically result in tampered result.

2. Recording data into the blockchain

Recording data into blockchain after hashing will specially create a particular space for the hashed document and stored into blockchain with a timestamp. Once the transaction is done it can return a transaction ID. And ID may contain transaction hash, block number and a timestamp which will help later verification process of a particular action. Since a small size hashed value is stored into blockchain it won't take much space and time in retrieval, the verification process can be done easily with minimal steps. 

Legal Risk.

The major legal risk involved is that- calendar and time are not legally considered as proof authentication. Taking only the time as legal judgment does not prove its authority. Since only taking the timestamp doesn't mean its valid. If the document is only able to prove its authenticity and issuer can be considered as a legal document. It can also produce false proof.

Trusting  Timestamps:

Regardless of the above point integrating an Open Timestamp standard can be implemented with the use of the hashing algorithm and world widely accepted trust in blockchain event log will result in trusted imputable data. Once the event happened in blockchain, it is immutable and can be verified from anywhere. Moreover, being too linear list operations, timestamps are actually trees of operations with root as being the message, the edges- the commitment of operations, and the leaves -the attestations.

Hope the article was useful. 

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