Apple is investigating the use of blockchain technology. The company has filed a patent application for a blockchain-based timestamp verification system.

At the point that a new technology is mature enough to make it into the news, you can be sure that Apple has already been looking at it for a while.

The tech giant makes a tremendous effort to keep research & development projects secret, but there have been hints that the world’s most valuable company is playing around with blockchain technology.

Apple files patent for blockchain-based timestamp verification

In August 2017, Apple had filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a blockchain-based timestamp verification system.

A digital timestamp is a sequence of encoded information identifying when a certain event occurred. Without proper timestamping, data backups would not be possible. Electronic trading systems can’t function without timestamps either and network administrators rely on timestamps to locate and fix problems.

Long story short, timestamps are a central feature of many computerized systems. If a hacker would alter timestamp data, this could have drastic consequences for the entire infrastructure.

The filed patent shows that Apple is aiming at improving system security by using blockchain technology to verify the authenticity of timestamps. This could help to protect critical data on SIM cards or SD cards.

If timestamps are stored on a blockchain, the network will recognize when an intruder tries to alter a timestamp. This action would create unauthorized blocks that would not be validated by the network. Instead, the network would reauthenticate the proper timestamp.

Apple’s patent application explains this as follows:

The new time becomes part of a blockchain when a miner solves the hash puzzle related to the new block holding the transaction indicating the new time. Because of distributed consensus, attempted alteration of the blockchain by a malicious node in terms of the time value will be detected by honest nodes. In the third scenario, a maliciously-altered block in the blockchain will not be recognized by the device and will not be recognized by the SE [Secure Element] and thus a bogus time value will not corrupt the state of the SE.

Apple’s success is built on centralization

Compared to other tech giants, Apple is probably the least threatened by blockchain technology. 80% of the company’s revenue comes from hardware sales.

In general, Apple’s IOS ecosystem is pretty much the opposite to decentralization. The company loves control and is not very friendly to outsiders.

Apple benefits big time from having tight control over their ecosystem. They can even slow down your iPhone once they launched a new version. But of course, that’s just to protect you from aging batteries, it has absolutely nothing to do with Apple trying to “persuade” you to buy a new iPhone.

Even though most sales come from hardware, Apple’s app store is still incredibly valuable. It generates more than US$ 8bn in annual sales. The idea of freely distributed decentralized apps built on a blockchain is therefore not very appealing. It’s hard to imagine that Apple would like to contribute to a decentralized and transparent blockchain world.

That said, they won’t have any choice. Grow or go. Apple knows that, that’s why they are looking into possible blockchain solutions. It makes sense for Apple to start with security applications. They have always been superior to their Android counterparts on that field. The timestamp patent will just be the start. I’m sure there is more in the making.

What does Samsung have to do with the Blockchain? Learn more in our article. >Samsung and Blockchain<

Image: ©Shutterstock