Blockchain Project Review: XAIN: 7.8 A Flexible, Embedded & End-To-End Secure Access Control Platform

Original article by EVALUAPE

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A. Introduction

XAIN has developed a trusted access-control protocol for IoT devices. The protocol leverages blockchain to grant users access control over their machines and allows for seamless third-party service integrations into the network.


· Strong team background;

· Partnership with some of Germany’s leading enterprises;


· The community is poorly developed.

B. Industry

According to a report by Eco, the German Industrial IoT market is expected to grow at a rate of 19% p.a. in the next five years and double in size by 2020 with a volume of €16.8 billion. According to a report by GTAI, the automotive industry accounts for 20% of Germany’s total domestic industry revenue. Therefore, as a project for the IoT sector in automotive industry, XAIN will be able to achieve a considerably impressive ecosystem if it can occupy the whole automotive IoT market in Germany.

As the winner of Porsche Innovation Contest, XAIN is strongly backed by Porsche, which leaves an impression that its development in the automotive IoT sector can be restricted by the latter. But we can actually see that XAIN has already established partnership with Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen. At the moment it shows little exclusivity regarding cooperation with other car manufacturers.

Of all the blockchain projects for the IoT sector, the №1 rival of XAIN is IOTA that ranks Top 20 by market cap. IOTA utilizes DAG to realize an IoT-based financial ecosystem that provides zero-fee transactions with high settlement speed and high security. Despite the settlement function supported by IOTA, XAIN has developed the FROST language to guarantee users’ access control over the IoT device data as well as to further support the AI services. Unlike IOTA, FROST supports smart contracts and charges certain commission fee. At present, there is no realistic data about XAIN’s commission fee or TPS, but its TPS is supposed to be close to that of Algorand. Considering that sometimes business-to-machine interaction will be very frequent, users may be charged for a considerably large sum in certain scenarios. Although XAIN has learned a lot from Algorand’s technical design, the two projects actually focus on different sectors. XAIN is more like an “Algorand” shipped with an incentive mechanism. Currently, it seems that XAIN has achieved a great advantage in the implementation of its products.(8/10)

C. Mode

XAIN mainly wants to leverage blockchain technology as a solution to data sharing and focuses specifically on the data sharing between IoT devices. At present, there are certain problems in the sector of data sharing. Firstly, today’s big data is managed by centralized institutions like Google Cloud. This directly leads to the problem that the existing SaaS solutions are not able to guarantee the privacy of the data when it is shared. Neither can it track the data during its sharing process. Although there are also blockchain-based solutions, they are still far from satisfactory. For example, Ethereum’s smart contracts are not compatible with low-profile devices. Besides, the consensus mechanism of the extant blockchains can be extremely energy-consuming. XAIN has proposed its FROST network and self-developed consensus mechanism Proof of Kernel Work (PoKW) to solve the issues mentioned above. When conducting AI-based data analysis, it does not need to gather all data in a centralized database, instead, it allows to train a model directly in a distributed network. Given to the focus of XAIN, the PoKW consensus mechanism is more similar to consortium chains, which sacrifice part of the security to improve its performance.(7.5/10)

D. Technology

The technology of XAIN is mainly composed of three parts: the FROST language, the FROST network and the PoKW consensus.

FROST is a standard open-source language and allows the access-control between machines. So far, XAIN has published the yellow paper and documentation of the FROST language. The potential problem of FROST is a high threshold for developers. Like Solidity, it will be quite hard for XAIN to attract new developers without great breakthrough in its business development.

Currently, the FROST network offers a variety of services to IoT devices. The most basic service is the transaction of data and access rights. With the FROST network, users can trade all data in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Despite ordinary data transactions, XAIN also gives an example of access rights in its business plan. When the owner of a Porsche allows a third-party parcel delivery agent open the trunk lid of the car, he or she is actually selling an access right to the third party, giving this person a temporary access to the car. With the right to data trading, users can train the advanced AI models, or perform federated machine learning between IoT devices. In addition, users can also perform federated reinforcement learning between human-computer interactive devices or machine-to-machine interactive devices.

Based on the PoW mechanism, XAIN will use cryptographic sortition to build a verifiable random function on the chain. Then, a small part of nodes will be selected randomly for mining activities, in order to reduce the energy consumption.

PoKW is similar to PoW in general. The difference is that to start generating blocks, a committee of block producers will first be selected from all the nodes eligible for mining (the white list) using cryptographic sortition. Only nodes in the committee can take part in mining. Every node can verify the addresses of the nodes in the committee. A new committee will be selected for every new block. Given to the scalability of the FROST network, users can modify their PoKW in the genesis block via smart contracts. Firstly, they can choose which addresses to join the white list. Secondly, they can decide how much addresses will be assigned in the sortition, namely, the number of nodes in the committee of block producers. In this way, every node can verify the nodes on the white lists, and add or delete addresses on the list through transactions.

XAIN has not published its roadmap or GitHub yet, so the development progress remains unknown.(7/10)

E. Team

The team is based in Germany. According to LinkedIn, XAIN has 25 members, half of which are developers.

· Leif-Nissen Lundbæk:

o CEO & Co-Founder

o B.Sc. in Economics & Computer Science in Humboldt University of Berlin; M. Sc. in Applied Mathematics in Heidelberg University; M.Sc. in Software Engineering in the University of Oxford; Ph.D. in Computing in Imperial College London

o Previously worked as optimization engineer at IBM and cryptographic engineer in Daimler. Both companies are partners of XAIN now.

· Felix Hahmann:

o COO & Co-Founder

o B.Sc. in Computer Science in the University of Applied Science in Berlin

o Previously worked as IT project leader at Daimler. Felix is supposed to be a colleague of the CEO at Daimler.

· Simon Schwerin:

o Board Member & Co-Founder

o Previously responsible for the BD sector of a well-known German blockchain project BigChainDB

As for the technology development, XAIN has Michael Huth — professor in Computer Science from Imperial College London — as its CTO, and eight engineers, four with blockchain development experience. One of them worked as developer at BigChainDB for two years; one was an engineer in the blockchain lab of Porsche; the other two have rich experience in AI development.

According to LinkedIn, XAIN has one advisor, the founder of famous blockchain projects BigChainDB and Ocean Protocol. Clearly, the team has rich industrial experience, especially developers with background in the automotive IoT sector. Besides, the business development progress also shows the team’s outstanding strength in this aspect.(8.5/10)

F. Operation

Twitter: Account opened in April 2017, with 469 tweets and 2,659 followers; Facebook: 370 followers; no Telegram group so far.

Business Development: As the winner of Porsche Innovation Contest, XAIN is backed by Porsche. Most of its present user cases are based on the vehicles of Porsche. Other partners include famous German car manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, Daimler, Infineon, Nvidia as well as SAP and Oracle, the world’s leading SaaS companies.

Judging from the partnership, XAIN has done well in the business development in Germany’s automotive IoT sector as it has partnered with the head companies in the industry. It has not paid much attention to the community development, which is common for a business-level blockchain application. The major problem is that XAIN has expanded much content that needs community support. Therefore, how to boost its community and attract competent community developers will be the next problem for XAIN.(8/10)

G. Conclusion

XAIN has a strong team and has partnered with a number of leading German enterprises. As for the technology development, it has unveiled the self-developed FROST language and the FROST network with a PoKW consensus network, which enables it to create an ecosystem more complicated than that of IOTA. The Porsche user case shows that to turn a car to a node, they have to send the car back to the manufacturer first to remap the ECU. So, specific settings are required for IoT devices to join the network. For unused IoT devices, XAIN has to negotiate with the manufacturers so that new IoT devices will be operatable in the FROST network. A difficult point is how to enable users with old devices to join the network in a simple and clear manner, which is well evidenced by the Porsche user case.

Hype Score: Medium

Risk Score:Medium

Expectation:Medium High

Total Score:7.8

All information in this article is provided for reference only and does not constitute investment advice.

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