Two new patent applications published by Microsoft suggest that the software giant is considering the use of trusted execution environments, or TEEs, within its blockchain offerings.
But what exactly is a TEE? According to information gathered from two documents published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, a TEE is specified to store "a predetermined type of blockchain or other security code" in a "validation node".
With this type of data, a "TEE certificate" is able to verify the participants in the system that possess the corresponding information held within the node. In the blockchain, a node is simply a connection point that can receive, store and send data to the network.
And how this could prove useful is explained in two ways.
Firstly, a TEE can help in the creation of a "network of consortium blocks". By setting the first node of the blockchain to store "a predetermined list of members" among other information, a TEE certificate can be used for security members of the "consortium network".
Second, a TEE can also help verify blockchain transactions on a similar network in which multiple pre-authorized entities must interact. For example, once again using this process of attestation through programmed TEEs, certain encrypted transactions on the network could be processed and confirmed "directly" to the official state of the blockchain without any need to decipher.
The patent reads:  "In some examples, the entire network accepts transactions, including chaincode transactions, and blockchain states are updated directly. In some examples, a copy of the transaction is not required for confirm a block. "
from these two use cases, both applications also mention the TEE attestation process in the context of a "Confidential Consortium (COCO) Blockchain framework" that would potentially allow more complex verification systems requiring the consent of a multiplicity of validation nodes.  While these documents were presented by the company's licensing arm back in June of last year, Microsoft began offering the blockchain ons application through its Azure platform. This month, it was announced that Microsoft has updated additional features to the product specifically for customers working on public blockchains such as ethereum.
Tee image via Shutterstock