Report: Dutch Blockchain Hackathon 2017

To get straight to the point: a hackathon like this is something the industry needs. There is a lot of talk and writing about Blockchain, but what exactly can it do? Which use cases actually have potential and are realistic? What added value does the technology have in practice?

With these questions in mind, we went with a team of 5 from Bitonic to the north of the Netherlands. Besides the fact that we think it is very positive that these kinds of initiatives are being taken, we were also curious and naturally had the ambition to win prizes.

As mentioned, a lot is expected from Blockchain. The positive thing about this hype is that it really activates companies and people to take action. It is useful and interesting to experiment with use cases. Therefore a big compliment to the organization of the Dutch Blockchain Hackathon with Rutger van Zuidam in particular. The drive, vision and actual activation of people is the merit of this organization. You don’t just organize the largest Blockchain Hackathon in the world. As said: something this very young and undiscovered market needs. The Netherlands has been put on the map again!

Everything was there; food, drinks, electricity, internet and fantastic atmosphere. Programming and brainstorming took place until deep into the night, and there was a bar that was open 24 hours a day. An impression of this weekend in the video below:

Our vision on the developments of Blockchain

Experiments are necessary and useful. For many companies, it is quite a step outside the comfort zone: investing in something that you are not sure will actually fit into a revenue model, is realistic or will have an impact in the short term.

We as Bitonic are a real Bitcoin company. In addition to our core business, the low-threshold facilitation of the purchase and sale of bitcoins, we are also very active in the technical development of Bitcoin. In addition, we also continuously research other “Blockchain” techniques that offer perspective. It was also important for us to provide a balance to a Blockchain Hackathon by representing Bitcoin. Hence the choice of the name of our team: it’s team for plan B:

Blockchain has become a collective word for all kinds of different visions and interpretations. The real Blockchain that started it all and has been running for more than 8 years is Bitcoin. A Blockchain is characterized by decentralization, security and lack of trust (making intermediaries superfluous). People often talk about permissioned (central) and permissionless (decentralized) blockchains. Now collecting transactions in a block for the purpose of propagating this block over a network of nodes is not really useful for a Blockchain that is centrally managed and configured. You could then perhaps speak more of a chain of transactions (instead of a chain of blocks) where influence can be exerted on the consensus mechanism, the validity of transactions and nodes. In short, permissioned blockchains have inherent security weaknesses: you have to trust the authority that manages the Blockchain. And this is in contrast to the purpose for which a chain of blocks is useful.

That is why the introduction of a second expression that is often used: Blockchain Technology. This may cover the load a little better. Although we are critical of this terminology, we will call everything Blockchain for the sake of convenience in this article.

A distinction can therefore be made between a permissioned blockchain (such as Hyperledger, Eris,, etc) and a permissionless blockchain (such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Monero, Ethereum, Zcash, etc). Different infrastructures with different technical focus points. The advantage of permissioned blockchains is in many cases speed and efficiency. The big advantage of permissionless blockchains are security and decentralization. In the case of Bitcoin, security is guaranteed to a certain extent by an enormous amount of computing power (proof-of-work) and decentralization due to the number of nodes and their distribution over the network.

In addition, the Bitcoin Blockchain is characterized by privacy and censorship resistance. Two properties that can be of enormous value to people and institutions. Consider, for example, countries where freedoms are not self-evident, such as Russia, Iran, Venezuela, India and China. Power is exercised through control and financial freedom is its greatest counterpart. But financial freedoms can also be restricted in the Netherlands by institutions that have an interest in this.

The trust anchor in a sea of blockchains

Our vision is that the Bitcoin Blockchain will function as an anchor of trust for many Blockchains, both permissioned and permissionless . This means that the Bitcoin Blockchain will be an extremely powerful underlying infrastructure for all kinds of different applications. Technically there are plenty of developments in this area, such as Sidechains (2-way pegged chains), Lightning Network (trustless off-chain transactions), merged mining (theory), Rootstock (smart contracting) and also Timestamping .

We would like to refer to this article from Coindesk in which the concept of anchoring to the Bitcoin Blockchain is explained well: The following quote from the article fits perfectly with the tool we developed:

Bitcoin is the strongest permissionless blockchain in terms of computational security because it has the most resources being expended in order to secure it via a process known as proof of work (PoW.). While PoW critics will point to the extreme “inefficiency” of the algorithm, the inefficiency is the entire point. PoW makes it extremely expensive to attack the bitcoin protocol’s consensus mechanism, which makes its history highly trustworthy, and effectively immutable.

Van de technische ontwikkeling Timestamping hebben wij gebruik gemaakt op de Hackathon: Proof-of-existence via OpenTimestamps

Settlement van hashes op de Bitcoin Blockchain

We at Bitonic have developed a service at the Hackathon that connects the benefits of a permissioned (central) and permissionless (Bitcoin) blockchain. So the speed and efficiency of central blockchains and databases with the security and immutability of the Bitcoin Blockchain. All kinds of blockchains can be anchored to the Bitcoin Blockchain and therefore use the enormous computing power (proof-of-work) of Bitcoin. You “plug” it into Bitcoin and you get security and an immutable marker in time in return.

In short, a timestamp comes down to a cryptographic puzzle (payment script) where proof can be provided by means of the Merkle root that at a certain point in time hashes of all kinds of applications (e.g. transactions, certificates, server logs, documents, photos, etc.) are recorded. By taking advantage of the security (computing power) and decentrality of the Bitcoin network, it is virtually impossible to falsify this evidence.

Anchoring through OpenTimestamps

Peter Todd, Core developer of Bitcoin, developed an alpha version of Opentimestamps at the end of 2016. At the Dutch Blockchain Hackathon we have further developed this technique from Todd. A schematic overview of a Merke tree:

In short the benefits that OpenTimestamps offers:

  • Trust – OpenTimestamps leverages the decentrality and public auditability of the Bitcoin Blockchain. This eliminates the need for trusted authorities. Think, for example, of civil-law notaries, accountants, government bodies and all kinds of other authorities.
  • Cost – OpenTimestamps (thanks to the use of Merkle trees) scales infinitely. This allows an infinite amount of timestamps to be added in one Bitcoin transaction.
  • Simplicity – Using OpenTimestamps, verifiable timestamps can be created in about a second and there is no need to wait for confirmations in the Bitcoin network.

We were in the Hackathon track Reinventing Government. Our primary goal was that other teams could use our tool to build trust (safety) in their concept. So trust is something that every central (permissioned) blockchain lacks by definition. This factor may not always be necessary, but it is the greatest added value of a Blockchain in general.

Examples that can be recorded in the Bitcoin Blockchain:

  • Certificates (marriage, diplomas, etc)
  • patents
  • Server logs
  • Hashes of transactions from central “blockchains”
  • (Legal documents
  • Vote
  • Ownership
  • Art
  • And so on

Our tool is shown in the screenshot below.

The problem we solve for the government? Bureaucratic processes: by using timestamping, for example, everywhere where control takes place by people, control by means of this technique can be applied. This saves a lot of checking work.

It is important that this added value is also recognized and that it is given legal status. As a result, it can actually be used as evidence in a court case, for example.


The first Dutch Blockchain Hackathon was a great success. We are proud of our five! won frisbees (total 1250), good for a (shared) 2nd place. And proud of the 10/10 reward for our programming work. There were some interesting concepts in between. For example, the winner of the Reinventing Pensions track: this team had built a Pension wallet on Factom (running on the Bitcoin Blockchain). The idea was that credits in this Pension wallet can be transferred to different Blockchains.

It was a very nice weekend in the beautiful city of Groningen. We look forward to the next edition! And we plan to make our Timestamping service (free of charge) available to everyone soon 🙂

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