We hear a lot about blockchain these days, but despite all the buzz, the technology still faces some challenges.

One of those is the issue of scalability. While great for cryptocurrencies, blockchain technologies have scalability issues due to the full replication of activity across networked nodes. To solve this, many application developers look to private networks with a limited number of nodes and a centralized integration service.

Unfortunately, private networks have their own issues, including those around security.

Applied Blockchain has today announced its FERN protocol, which facilitates the provision and growth of private blockchain networks. The protocol allows participants to mutually contribute to the security and integrity of any blockchain network.

The scalability issue has been on the minds of many blockchain experts for some time now, and Applied Blockchain believes it is the first to crack the problem in a useable way.

“There are many marketing claims, but we have yet to see a proven, secure, trustless, scalable public blockchain solution,” Applied Blockchain CEO Adi Ben-Ari told me. “Private blockchains can scale, but they’re not trustless, so we’ve developed a protocol to increase trust and security in those networks.”

So how, specifically, does the FERN protocol improve security?

“Blockchain delegates security to a group,” Ben-Ari said. “The larger the group, and the more independent the parties, the more secure the ledger. FERN encourages blockchain networks to introduce more independent parties for nodes and for oracle services, thereby increasing trust and security.”

Applied Blockchain is offering the FERN protocol as an addition to existing blockchain applications, which makes implementation relatively painless.

“It’s as simple as deploying a set of smart contracts alongside your existing blockchain application,” Ben-Ari said.

Because of that, Applied Blockchain isn’t just providing a protocol. It is building a marketplace.

Private networks are able to access the independent nodes and oracle services they need to decentralize control and increase trust and security. Private networks deployed on the most popular platforms, including Ethereum and Hyperledger, will then be able to select proven, trusted, reliable, independent providers from the FERN marketplace and connect and transact using the FERN smart contract protocol.

“We’re developing an ecosystem and marketplace for FERN, and we’re also integrating blockchain interoperability protocols to enable solutions built on different technology platforms to work together,” Ben-Ari said.

In order to align incentives for private chains, Applied Blockchain is utilizing inter-ledger technology, which enables token and data transfers between private networks, distributed services providers, and the public network.

This won’t be the last blockchain issue that needs to be solved before the technology can become truly ubiquitous, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.