March 29, 2019
Tepper Undergraduate Students Build Room Reservation Blockchain App
Tasked with developing a potential use for an Ethereum-based blockchain application, Tepper School of Business undergraduate business students Sarocha Leelamanthep, Austin Saunders, and Izabela Litwin created a room reservation system for Carnegie Mellon University spaces.
The students participated in an undergraduate FinTech class taught by Ph.D. student Nikhil Malik. As a part of the class, the students were given a project working with Ethereum, a platform that runs smart contracts — applications built within a decentralized blockchain infrastructure. Leelamanthep, Saunders, and Litwin opted to create a DApp, or decentralized application which runs from a peer-to-peer network of computers rather than a single server, that could benefit the CMU community.
“We reflected on our own experiences to see what pain points we shared,” said Leelamanthep, a senior concentrating in finance and business technology, with a minor in human computer interaction. “One area we had struggled with was room reservations for meetings.” The students wanted to address issues they identified with the design of the web-based reservation application that students, faculty, and staff use to reserve meeting rooms, as well as the administrative approval process.
Saunders, a junior concentrating in business technology and data analytics, with a minor in Chinese studies, noted the importance of making the room reservation process faster. He said, “What if we could take the system and build it on blockchain, and give users the capability to schedule a room in seconds?”
The students built an application called Chóros — based on an ancient Greek word meaning “space.” Chóros allows its users to look for rooms based on location, availability, and/or amenities such as a projector or white board. If the room is available, the user receives an instant confirmation. They can then send it to their CMU Google calendar.
Litwin, a senior majoring in statistics and business administration, with concentrations in business technology and finance and a minor in Russian studies, took the lead in coding the team’s prototype. With frameworks from the Truffle Suite, a set of development tools for building smart contracts using Ethereum, Litwin and her teammates created an application that uses Ethereum’s transaction system to process reservation requests.
Saunders noted that the value of building a reservation system on blockchain is speed and efficiency. “You can book a room in the span of a couple seconds as long as you know what you’re looking for,” he said. In the current process, university administrators manually process room requests. Chóros provides automated approvals via cryptographically secured transactions, allowing near-instant reservations.
While the current prototype does not include reservation fees, Litwin said they intend for the application to charge users via CMU Coin, a cryptocurrency testbed that the university is developing. The fee for reserving a room would vary depending on demand for each space and building, which the students indicate can help to distribute the use of rooms across campus as users seek to minimize cost.