By Brittany Meiling

The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — Tech giants are funding the launch of a research lab at University of California, San Diego to unravel the mysteries around blockchain, a new way of writing software.

The new academic center is called BlockLAB, and includes about 20 individuals who will be digging into the technical, legal and business questions surrounding the fast-moving new technology. The laboratory is financially backed by IBM, Dell and Intel, among others.

Blockchain — in its simplest form — is a way to distribute data across servers in a fixed, unhackable format (so far). The concept is said to be a foundational way to exchange information without third parties.

For example, monetary transactions could be made through software without banks, where one transaction is recorded across hundreds of computers and verified by many servers — instead of a bank.

The implications of such an exchange are still not well understood, and the technology is still in its infancy. Startups and researchers around the globe are unveiling new ways to use the technology every day, from recording location data and transacting real estate purchases to establishing digital identity systems.

James Short, lead scientist and co-founder of the Center for Large Scale Data Systems at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, said the academic lab will be looking at how blockchain will impact data architecture, shared databases and legal contracts.

“The industry has a lot of questions,” Short said. “There’s significant motivation for all companies to not be late on something that could have big promise. Companies that were late on the internet, for example, spent a lot of money to catch up.”

Like most cities around the world, San Diego has an emerging blockchain community. Many local startups using the tech for their business include Edge, Altcoin, XYO Network, LunaDNA, and eSmart Tech.