New kid on the block

Wright State computer science grad student Aman Ali Pogaku was a featured speaker at national blockchain conference

Aman Ali Pogaku, a computer science graduate student at Wright State, is working on using blockchain to develop artificial intelligence and virtual reality assets management solutions. (Photo by Erin Pence)

A national conference on blockchain technology featured Wright State computer science graduate student Aman Ali Pogaku, the only speaker from a university among 30 speakers.

The Blockchain Event was held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1. It featured a keynote address by Pramod Achanta, blockchain service leader, North America, IBM; and speakers from McAfee, Salesforce, Uber and other corporations and organizations.

Conference organizers said organizations are looking to unleash the exponential business value of blockchain technologies and were eager to learn from the blockchain “trailblazers” at the conference.

“I had a presentation about solving real business problems with blockchain,” said Pogaku, who has written 16 different blog posts about blockchain technology.

The master’s degree student told the gathering what parameters should be considered when creating a blockchain solution and gave some examples. He also discussed the shortcomings of the technology and the challenges, such as achieving security, scalability and decentralization all at the same time.

A blockchain is a growing list of records called blocks that are linked using cryptography to secure transactions. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data designed to resist being modified. Blockchain can be used in any domain where users have to keep track of transactions or maintain a distributed ledger.

“The first impact blockchain would have is in the finance industry,” said Pogaku, adding that blockchain removes the middle man from conventional transactions.

For example, international money transfers through banks or by wire can take up to five days because they have to go through various organizations, he said. And there is a charge. Transactions through blockchain would be instantaneous. Creating a blockchain network would require more initial infrastructure investment.

“But the initial costs will be overcome by the different problems blockchain will help solve,” Pogaku said. “For example, blockchain systems are secure. Nobody can tamper with the data.”

Yong Pei, associate professor of computer science and engineering, said blockchain is basically a decentralized database.

“Cryptocurrency is the most visible application of blockchain, but it has the potential to be applied to many different fields,” said Pei, in everything from retailing to food safety.

Pogaku works with Pei at Wright State’s SMART Lab, which stands for Sustainable – Mobile – Autonomous – Real Time – Translational Lab. It is located in the Joshi Research Center. Pogaku and several other master’s degree students are working on using blockchain as a tool in the SMART Lab to help develop artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) assets management solutions.

“We see great potential for blockchain technology,” said Pei. “The challenge is to create an ecosystem in which various subject-matter experts can collaborate and contribute to the growth of the field. There’s a huge gap there.”

Pogaku’s research project is on BLOSSOM, an acronym for blockchain-based subject matter expertise ecosystem.

“I’m trying to have an ecosystem in which a programmer and a subject-matter expert can collaborate and verify the AI and VR assets in various professional domains, such as the medical domain,” he said. “Those assets can later on be used to train the future workforce.”

Pei said it is a pleasure to work with Pogaku.

“He’s very independent,” said Pei. “Something particularly special about Aman is he is really a good technical writer. He communicates extremely well about difficult problems. He is able to write in a very readable way.”

Pogaku grew up in Hyderabad, India, a major center for the technology industry. His father heads the Service and Driver Training at Ashok Leyland Limited, a major Indian automobile company, and is a retired Army colonel of the Indian Army.

Pogaku earned his bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications engineering from JNTUH College of Engineering at Hyderabad. He was attracted to the Wright State College of Engineering and Computer Science by the broad course offerings.

“I basically came here to have a proper exposure to all the different range of subjects,” he said.

In the fall semester of 2017, Pogaku took a course in advanced computer networks and discovered bitcoin, a crypto currency. That led to his interest in blockchain, which is the backbone of bitcoin.

Following his graduation, Pogaku would like to work as a blockchain consultant.

“During my research, I want to understand the technology properly because it has many different layers,” he said. “Once I have mastered the technology, I would like to work in an organization trying to analyze the different proof of concepts that exist and then architect a blockchain solution.”

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