As volunteers for the annual UofTHacks, Abdul Wasay Mehar and Vaishvik Maisuria, two second-year computer science students at UTM, didn’t imagine they’d be given a chance to participate in the competition. Responsible for registration, Mehar and Maisuria noticed a lull in the amount of participants and decided to ask the event organizer if they could fill the empty spots. Their risk paid off. The duo developed a project titled “Single Truth” that used blockchain technology to enhance efficiency in the insurance industry and took home the title for “Best Use of Blockchain.”

Held at the end of January on the St. George campus, this three-day competition allows students to develop new technology and interact with companies such as Google and Microsoft. Each company supplies competitors with their application programming interface (API) and challenges the students to create an application with that software. For example, if students signed up for Google’s competition, the company required them to use the Google Home API to create an app for Google Home. The team with the best app won a Google Pixel 2.

With prior research knowledge in blockchain, Mehar and Maisuria focused their project on creating a real-world application that combined blockchain and the insurance industry. To simplify the concept of blockchain, Mehar uses an analogy of a group of farmers who want to purchase land. Traditionally, farmers must negotiate property transactions through contracts, ownership papers, and insurance brokers. If disaster strikes, farmers may lose the physical evidence of their acquisition. Blockchain offers a solution to this problem. With this technology, Mehar explains that the farmers could take those contracts, create digital copies, and upload them to a digital chain to prevent loss. All the farmers in the area are connected to the chain which generates a decentralized environment where each farmer has access to the transactions. This prevents fraud and forgery.

“Since it’s decentralized, if someone wants to attack the system, it’s harder because there are multiple people who are linked and have access to the document,” Maisuria says. “If one aspect changes, then other people will realize and they’ll start checking their own stuff. It’s a more secure way to save all information.”

The pair created “Single Truth,” a technology that harnesses the power of blockchain to compress the insurance process into a more efficient system. As Maisuria explains, when purchasing a house, the process of validating insurance can be timely. Their project created an online form that they stored in a blockchain and uploaded to a server for the customer and insurance company.

This would provide the customer and the insurance company access to the document. This transparency reduced the likelihood of potential criminal activity and damage, while increasing efficiency.

According to Mehar and Maisuria, the name “Single Truth” combines two important aspects of blockchain. “Single” indicates that the customer and the insurer possess a single copy of the insurance document that is uploaded onto the blockchain. The term “truth” highlights the transparency of the process and the elimination of fraud inside the blockchain. Alongside the title of “Best Use of Blockchain,” the two computer science students won one Ethereum, a type of cryptocurrency worth approximately $900.

Friends from high school, both Mehar and Maisuria shared an early interest in computers, cryptocurrency, and technology development. In grade seven, a friend sparked Mehar’s interest by introducing him to mining digital currency. Last year, Mehar and his brother began researching blockchain and its relationship with cryptocurrency. Reflecting on his childhood, Mehar reveals that he always possessed an interest and curiosity for computers.

“I’ve wanted to become a computer scientist way before [my interest in cryptocurrency],” Mehar says. “My dad owned a computer shop and I used to always open up stuff and I always wondered and thought that it was really cool to tell a computer what to do.” For Maisuria as well, he knew he wanted to pursue computer science.

In the future, Mehar hopes to learn more about cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence. His friend Maisuria aspires to work for Google to gain skills in android development and artificial intelligence.