The Department of Homeland Security has stepped up its research and investment into blockchain technologies, as it searches for ways to make the government more secure, accountable, and autonomous.

Public interest in the blockchain from the DHS started in December last year, when it called for small business proposals to research the advantages and disadvantages of the emerging technology. Six months later, it awarded the $200,000 grant to Factom.

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Factom is not the only startup working with the DHS on blockchain, Solarity Solutions, Respect Network and Digital Bazaar have also received funding, according to CoinDesk, to research the blockchain.

The DHS also has a Silicon Valley office looking into authentication advantages using the tech pioneered by Bitcoin. Most of the research seems preliminary: separate the fact from fiction, research the technology’s capabilities, report back.

But in the near future we may see the DHS move from inquiry into active adoption of the blockchain for all sorts of privacy and security interests.

DHS has no set path yet

The blockchain, for those unfamiliar, is a new type of database developed alongside the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. It has become even more popular among security experts and tech firms, because it has the ability to verify transactions autonomously, making it a “permissionless” and public system that doesn’t need to rely on secure logins or passcodes.

While it doesn’t require locks and passcodes, the DHS is more interested in closed systems than a Bitcoin style approach.

DHS data privacy program manager, Anil John, says that the department is looking into a variety of uses for the blockchain, but doesn’t have any concrete plans to build or invest into new systems or applications for the technology.

It is not the only emerging technology the DHS is actively researching, though it may have the largest impact. The department has also built wearables for canine units and plans to open source its travelling restrictions.