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Below are two featured research projects that the Blockchain Research Group (BRG) has partnered with industry on:

Ensure Supply Chain Integrity of Sustainably Sourced Coffee

Every day, customers of Restaurantes Toks 208 locations across Mexico enjoy steaming cups of Café Americano, espresso, cappuccino, and traditional coffee crafted from the company’s own sustainably sourced, expertly roasted and ground coffee beans. For many, welcoming the day with Toks coffee is a daily ritual to be savored.

In November 2019, Center for Research Computing and Simba Chain visited the Beneficio Humedo coffee farm in Tacana, within the Chiapas region of Mexico, which currently produces 15,000 Kilos of coffee per year. A good picker averages approximately 100 to 200 pounds of coffee cherries a day, which will produce 20 to 40 pounds of coffee beans. They would go through coffee bushes every 8-10 days to harvest new coffee cherries. A coffee bean is a seed and has to be cleaned, dried, deshelled, roasted and ground before it can be made into a cup of coffee. Depending on the variety, it will take approximately 3 to 4 years for a newly planted coffee tree to bear fruit. The fruit, called the coffee cherry, turns a bright, deep red when it is ripe and ready to be harvested. 

Meeting customers’ expectations for quality and sustainability is not simply a source of pride for the popular restaurant chain owned by Grupo Gigante, S.A.B. DE C.V., but integral to the Toks business model. Toks has partnered with Notre Dame and SIMBA Chain, to develop a distributed application (Dapp) prototype to register and track coffee beans purchased, processed, packaged, and sold by Toks, ensuring the integrity of its coffee supply chain and enabling it to better differentiate coffee products.

Toks is a leader in sustainability practices. The company works directly with cooperatives of small farmers, whose coffee beans go into every cup of coffee served. The supply chain is complex; the coffee beans are grown, harvested, graded, deshelled, roasted, and shipped to each restaurant. Toks turned to SIMBA Chain and the University to gain greater visibility and traceability in its supply chain. SIMBA Chain worked with Notre Dame to define the pilot during a visit to Toks and the farming communities in late 2019. Among the goals is to validate and ensure quality along each supply chain step and help broaden coffee product lines to enable new, innovative business models for more ethical and sustainable production for the farming communities. The BRG is currently building out the prototype for tracking two grades of coffee from 20 different farms in Tacana.


The Blockchain Research Group is currently working with Nimbis in collaboration with the University of Southern California Information Science Institute.

The CRAFT Vault is a pre-configured chamber that enables groups of application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) collaborators to share design tools and data engineering capabilities, regardless of geographical location, within a secure trusted environment. The Craft Vault vastly simplifies ASIC collaborations because it removes the burden of the installation of tools and IP, system setup, and administration. The Craft Vault also provides desktop tools to aid in the ASIC design process. These include a graphical design flow editor and viewer, and a design flow executor, which provides command line tools to execute the various stages of the ASIC design flow process and track it. Further, each of these tools is integrated into a blockchain network, which provides a non-repudiable audit trail to record events across the design process. The blockchain records updates to design flows, design tool and data/PDK use, and it even logs access in and out the environment, for a complete audit trail covering the entire ASIC design lifecycle.

Currently, the Craft Vault is hosted in AWS GovCloud (US) using an Ericom remote desktop interface and authentication system and secured within a VPN using a secure channel via a gateway, in a CUI ready infrastructure at Notre Dame. The core goal of this SOW is to provide the same secure design flow tracking and blockchain provenance capabilities within the Trusted Silicon Stratus (TSS) Distributed Transition Environment (DTE) as part of a microelectronic component chain of custody that ensures confidence in the microelectronics supply chain integrity and data authenticity. This project has three main areas:

  1. Porting the existing Craft Vault infrastructure to the TSS as a beta product in support of discovery and experimentation by TSS-DTE community users.
  2. Collaborative services architecture design and integration of Craft secure design flow tracking and provenance capabilities with other TSS community developers in the context of a full life-cycle microelectronic component chain of custody.
  3. Support of technology demonstration pilot activities, metrics measurement, and performance analyses related to microelectronics supply chain integrity, data authenticity, risk, and sustainability.
Need more information?

For more information on the Blockchain Research Group, please contact Ian Taylor.