Thinking Outside the Blockchain Box: SMU Tackles Sustainability with High Tech Solutions

SMU's Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity is lowering the entry barrier to blockchain and finding high-tech solutions to poverty, environmental issues, homelessness, and roadblocks in healthcare—and it's just getting started.

Making the world a better place is no easy feat, but researchers, engineers, academics, social impact professionals, and students at SMU are teaming up to lower the entry barrier for blockchain and make the revolutionary technology available to communities that need it most.

The university’s Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity is studying pioneer uses of blockchain to bring 21st century problem solving to the North Texas region. Led by Eva Szalkai Csaky, the institute aims to find solutions—including sustainable development—for poverty and environmental issues using blockchain.

Among the institute’s areas of focus is bringing to Dallas a blockchain-based identification system that could be used to track and store the medical records and identification documents of refugees and the homeless, a technology that has already been used by the United Nations and is being tested in Austin.

The hub is also studying the work of Brooklyn Microgrid, a blockchain-based decentralized energy system reported to drive down costs, benefit the environment, and withstand natural disasters.

“We are trying to see how we could create a similar project here in Dallas and [bring it to] the potential communities in South Dallas that may be interested,” Csaky says.

The hub, and its student-run Blockchain Society, are interdisciplinary, meaning students and academics from all fields of study are welcome to team up to solve systemic problems with the help of blockchain.

Csaky says SMU shines when it comes to employing blockchain for good because the university system is positioned to unite professionals from all areas of study for a common goal.

“You need academia and practitioners and policymakers and government and nonprofits,” she says. “You need the lawyers, the economists, the business people, the sciences, the tech guys. [The Hunt Institute is] an ecosystem that is just positive and optimistic and entrepreneurial and willing to try new things.”

Csaky sees Dallas is an inspiring hotbed of innovation and multidisciplinary progress.

“I am constantly amazed what an entrepreneurial city this is, and that can-do attitude that Dallasites and Texans have is really unique. So I have to say that in our state that we really have to think outside the box and we have to pursue innovative solutions.”

A version of this article was first published in Dallas Innovates 2019—The Magazine.

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Dallas Innovates 2019—The Magazine explores the region as a rising tech hub that will shape the future of innovation. The theme of our second annual print publication, “A Breakout Moment,” explores why now is the time for the region to grab its place in the tech universe.

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