Blockchain Smart Contracts

A smart contract can perform calculations, store information, and automatically send funds to other accounts.


A smart contract is a collection of code and data (sometimes referred to as functions and state) that is deployed to a blockchain (e.g. Ethereum). Future transactions sent to the blockchain can then send data to public methods offered by the smart contract.

The contract executes the appropriate method with the user provided data to perform a service. The code, being on the blockchain, is irreversible, unchallengeable & absolute and therefore can be used (among other purposes) as a trusted third party for financial transactions that are more complex than simply sending funds between accounts.

A smart contract can perform calculations, store information, and automatically send funds to other accounts. It doesn’t necessarily even have to perform a financial function.

In practice, all mining nodes execute the smart contract code simultaneously when mining new blocks. Thus, smart contract execution may be more expensive than the simple fund transfers in other blockchain based cryptocurrencies. Often, the user issuing a transaction to a smart contract will have to pay for the cost of the code execution in addition to the normal transaction fees.

There is a limit on how much execution time can be consumed by a call to a smart contract. If this limit is exceeded, execution stops and the transaction is discarded. This mechanism not only rewards the miners for executing the smart contract code, but also prevents malicious users from deploying and then accessing smart contracts that will perform a denial of service on the mining nodes by consuming all resources (e.g., using infinite loops).

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce (Jan 2018)


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