In recent years, the rapid development of cryptocurrenciesand their underlying blockchain technology has revivedSzabo’s original idea of smart contracts, i.e., computer protocolsthat are designed to automatically facilitate, verify, and enforcethe negotiation and implementation of digital contracts withoutcentral authorities. Smart contracts can find a wide spectrumof potential application scenarios in the digital economy andintelligent industries, including financial services, management,healthcare, and Internet of Things, among others, and also havebeen integrated into the mainstream blockchain-based developmentplatforms, such as Ethereum and Hyperledger. However,smart contracts are still far from mature, and major technicalchallenges such as security and privacy issues are still awaitingfurther research efforts. For instance, the most notorious casemight be The DAO Attack in June 2016, which led to morethan $50 million Ether transferred into an adversary’s account.In this paper, we strive to present a systematic and comprehensiveoverview of blockchain-enabled smart contracts, aimingat stimulating further research toward this emerging researcharea. We first introduced the operating mechanism and mainstreamplatforms of blockchain-enabled smart contracts, andproposed a research framework for smart contracts based ona novel six-layer architecture. Second, both the technical andlegal challenges, as well as the recent research progresses, arelisted. Third, we presented several typical application scenarios.Toward the end, we discussed the future development trendsof smart contracts. This paper is aimed at providing helpfulguidance and reference for future research efforts.
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