Note: I would like to announce that I am excited to join the Rhizome P-Rep team. The other Rhizome team members have been generating enlightening ICON content for far longer than I have, and I am excited to be a part of their team. Please take a moment to view our P-Rep proposal and website, and please follow us on Twitter; most importantly, don’t forget to vote for us when ICONSENSUS begins!
In this chapter, I will spotlight a number of partnerships and projects that are potentially going to help grown the ICON network.
If you have not already done so, please take a moment to read the preceding chapters of this series:
- What is ICON?
- ICON’s Genesis
- The People & Teams of ICON
- The Technology of ICON
- ICON Tokenomics & Economy
- Public vs. Private Chains & the Network Effect
Note: I am not including every single announced partnership in this analysis. However, for the sake of comprehensiveness, I have included an index of all the announced partnerships I could find at the end of this article.
In addition, for those unfamiliar with the scale of ICON’s network, here is a visual representation of the various partnerships ICON has built — and it’s not even updated into 2019 yet:
My primary goal for this chapter is to build upon what knowledge we already have in order to show how some of these partnerships may be evolving since they were initially announced, and how they might fit into the broader ICON vision.
A few things to consider when it comes to partnerships:
- Not every initial agreement or MOU will turn into a partnership that generates a working product. That’s OK. Fortunately, ICON and ICONLOOP have established such a high quantity of partnerships, they they only need a few to become successful to create value for the network.
- “No news” does not equate to “bad news.” In many cases, the companies that ICON has partnered with are serious businesses that do not want any information about their practices to leak to competitors. Accordingly, it’s likely that they will be very hesitant to release details about what they are building until it’s absolutely necessary. This has created much frustration in the ICON community as we feel as though the ICON community is keeping us in the dark, but they have to respect the confidentiality of their partners. ICON almost certainly wants to announce when they have good news or breakthroughs are reached; they just aren’t allowed to.
- For similar reasons, I believe there are a number of business arrangements that may exist that have not been announced at all, but may be just as interesting — or even moreso — than those that have been announced. This is speculation on my part, but I would not be surprised if it were the case.
With all that being said, let’s get into it!
South Korean Government
One of the leading possible use cases and partnerships for ICON involves the City of Seoul, the capital and largest city in South Korea.
First, a bit of context. Historically, South Korea has viewed itself and operated as a leading innovator in technology. Their government has made it a priority to invest in emergent technologies for decades, so it’s no surprise that they have targeted blockchain in a similar manner.
(Note: As many of you know, South Korea infamously banned initial coin offerings (ICOs) in September of 2017, concerned that many of their citizens were being scammed. Many interpreted this to mean that South Korea was anti-blockchain. This is not a correct interpretation. While you can argue the merits of banning ICO’s outright, it’s entirely possible to have a belief in the underlying technology while being wary of the financing mechanisms behind it.)
In October of 2018, the Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, introduced a five-year plan for development of the blockchain industry in the city:
By 2022, the city plans to set up a public-private fund of 100 billion won ($88.2 million) in order to invest in blockchain startups in Seoul. The fund will acquire 13.6 billion won ($11.9 million) from the city government.
Moreover, city authorities are planning to spend 60.3 billion won ($53.1) on creating two business centers to house 200 blockchain firms by 2021. The two upcoming complexes, which will be located in the western and southeastern parts of the city, will operate two educational centers, aiming to train 730 industry experts in the next five years.
According to ZD Net Korea, Park also revealed plans to apply blockchain technology in the city’s administration. Starting this year, authorities are planning to launch 14 blockchain-powered systems, including a voting system, charity management, and vehicle history reports. (Source)
One of the initial public indicators we had that ICON would truly be a participating partner with the Seoul government was the announcement that “ICONLOOP has been selected as an operator of Seoul’s standard blockchain platform for ‘Seoul Blockchain Demonstration Project’ (directed by Uracle), which is commissioned by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.”
Shortly thereafter, it was announced that “ICONLOOP has been exclusively selected as the sole operator of the ‘Seoul blockchain-based ISP Project’, which is commissioned by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.” According to ICON:
this blockchain-based project aims to use automation to increase the convenience of the online qualification process, which is necessary to select recipients for public service and welfare. Also, it hopes to improve the working environment for part-time workers through immutable labor contracts, streamlined insurance, and better oversight of potential mistreatment.
As part of this dedicated blockchain effort, Seoul launched their “Blockchain Governance Team” to explore how blockchain could be used in administrative services:
Seoul city government announced Thursday that it has launched a Seoul Block Chain Governance Team to evaluate the administrative services of the block chain.
The governance team consisted of 100 employees from 21 to 77 years old, including students, developers, pre-founders, association executives, and corporate representatives.
The city will share the block-chain administrative service development process with the governance team, such as mileage integrated management, documentless online qualification verification, and automatic sub-contract payment. (Source)
While this announcement did not specifically mention ICON, ICON itself has stated that “ICONLOOP has been applying loopchain, ICONLOOP’s proprietary blockchain engine, to the Seoul Blockchain Standard Platform, used car trading system, and mobile-voting system. Additionally, ICONLOOP has provided other individual verification services such as the citizen card, mileage points integration, subcontract payment, and others.”
Remember: While ICONLOOP develops individual private chains (which is what the above are), ICON is the vehicle that allows them to interact with each other. It is very difficult to foresee the South Korean government pursuing private chains among various administrative departments without the end goal of hyperconnectivity, which would truly streamline government operations through smart contract implementation.
As additional evidence of ICON’s direct participation in this initiative, when members of the team were appointed, the appointment letters were issued over the ICON public chain:
“The use of blockchain to issue the letters was a deliberate move to eliminate the chance of forgery. J.H. Kim, council member of the ICON Foundation and CEO of ICONLOOP, said this specific instance of blockchain usage was just a stepping stone for the metropolitan administration, and ICON expects the city to aggressively adopt the technology for operational efficiency. According to Kim, ICON will provide all the required support to the city government for the implementation of transparent and efficient blockchain-based administrative services.” (Source; emphasis mine)
Then, in May, Min Kim of the ICON Foundation tweeted the following, indicating that the Seoul Metropolitan Government has a mandate to use loopchain:
In August of 2019, we officially learned:
“The Seoul Metropolitan Government will establish its first blockchain-based administrative services in November, according to a report in the Korean-language blockinpress.
At a conference held last month and attended by city officials and representatives of the private sector, specifics of the roll out were discussed, with timelines and goals established.
The city’s blockchain points system will be introduced and residents of Seoul will receive S-coins for the use of public services. They will be able to redeem those points for rewards. Services that generate the coins include paying taxes and participating in public opinion polls.
Seoul’s point system will integrated with ZeroPay, a city-government sponsored QR-code-enabled network established last December. It allows customers to pay for goods and services using their phones and does not charge merchants commissions.
In addition to the S-coin, a blockchain service for submitting qualifications without paper documents is also on the list for completion by November, as is the enhancing of the Seoul Citizens Card with blockchain to enable digital authentication for the use of public services.”
To summarize, we have:
- A commitment from the Seoul government to take an aggressive approach to implementing blockchain within administrative services.
- ICONLOOP was selected as operator of Seoul’s standard blockchain platform for ‘Seoul Blockchain Demonstration Project’
- ICONLOOP demonstrated several projects that could possibly be used by the Seoul government
- Min Kim comments that there is a mandate for the Seoul government to utilize loopchain, with some of these implementations incorporating ICX
- The Seoul government subsequently announced that they were implementing a number of blockchain services that are either identical, or very similar to, the very applications that ICONLOOP has been building and testing.
But Seoul isn’t where ICON’s activity ends. Additionally, in 2018, ICONLOOP “was selected by IMCLOUD as the blockchain technology consultant for ‘Building the Next Generation Election System based on Intelligence Information Technology’, commenced by Korea National Information Society Agency (NIA) and supervised by Korea National Election Commission (NEC).”
According to ICON, “through close cooperation with the NEC and the NIA, ICONLOOP is exploring the application of blockchain technology throughout various election systems, including candidate registration, voting, and ballot counting. Additionally, ICONLOOP is presenting its blueprints to improve voters’ convenience, transparency, fairness, and privacy by utilizing blockchain in current remote election system for Korean nationals and voters residing abroad.”
Beyond that, ICON has also announced that ICONLOOP will be applied to the the ‘Blockchain based Customs Clearance Platform,’ which is being implemented by the Korean Customs Service. From ICON:
“On May 28th, the Korea Customs Service hosted an MOU ceremony with eight other organizations including Nomad Connection, Matrix2b, CJ Korea Express, and Lotte Global Logistics. The ‘Blockchain based Customs Clearance Platform’ will be utilizing loopchain, the underlying blockchain technology used by ICON and several other companies and consortiums in South Korea.
Korea Customs Service (KCS) has applied blockchain technology in hopes to grow the direct purchasing of foreign goods. It takes too much time and money to report a small volume of e-commerce sales. As a result, KCS has taken the first step in establishing blockchain based e-commerce clearing services with the goal of providing prompt and accurate data validation. When the blockchain based e-commerce platform is established, it will not only lower logistics costs, but also mitigate the threat of illegal activities such as smuggling and false reporting.”
- The government of South Korea, and Seoul specifically, have demonstrated a clear desire to prioritize investment and utilization of blockchain through not only words but actions & investment.
- ICON was selected as the operator of the standard blockchain platform for Seoul as well as the Seoul blockchain-based ISP Project
- Seoul has ambitions to use these platforms for activities such as used car sales, mobile voting, mileage point tracking, sub-contractor payments, and others.
- ICONLOOP is also developing blockchain platforms for the Korean Customs service and National Elections Service
In conclusion, ICON has laid a firm foundation not only in Seoul — where they’ve announced they’ll be using the blockchain services built by ICON — but the national South Korean government as well.
According to the ICON white paper, one of the initial consortiums to utilize loop chain technology was the largest health care consortium in Korea:
“Precision Medical Hospital Information System (P-HIS) is the largest Healthcare blockchain consortium in Korea, joined by major domestic hospitals, and loopchain will provide the underlying blockchain technology. This project aims to build the network to share precision medical data in a secure manner, and plans broaden the scope of medical data distribution globally through global networks, including OHDSI (Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics). This consortium is building a safe and transparent distribution system of medical information based on blockchain and promoting the introduction of cryptocurrencies to the ecosystem.”
For some context, the “Precision Medical Hospital Information System” is a consortium that was launched in Fall of 2017 as part of the “4th Industrial Revolution.” It’s goal is to develop personalized disease prevention, treatment, health promotion and advanced medical devices. With a five-year implementation timeline (concluding in 2022), the goal is to provide personalized health care service based on integrated health information.
This will integrate with another key initiative pursued by the Korean government:
“The South Korean government plans to invest 35.7 billion won ($33.4 million) over the next three years to build a homegrown medical artificial intelligence system that analyzes patients’ medical data to offer personalized diagnostics and treatment plans.
The Ministry of Science and ICT held a ceremony in Seoul on Monday to formally mark the beginning of efforts to develop the Korean medical AI system dubbed “Dr. Answer,” which uses medical big data to guide doctors in their diagnosis and treatment planning, similar to IBM’s Watson.
Moreover, Dr. Answer will be combined with Korea’s cloud-based Precision Medical Hospital Information System, to provide working Korean-style precision medical services by 2019, it added.”
Ultimately, this initiative is a mechanism for Korea to overhaul its medical infrastructure in a manner that is safe, secure, and efficient. Furthermore, an important element of any medical industry is the ability to confidentially share data between entites. Here is the white paper:
“Blockchain ensures the interoperability between different hospital systems and can manage the access rights to data and records reliably. We believe a secure distribution of medical information through blockchain and a fair reward system for those who share their data through the network will invigorate the medical ecosystem.”
Based on this information, it’s understandable why ICON would be a good choice for this type of system. Beyond this information, there isn’t a whole lot out there about P-HIS or what exactly ICONLOOP is building for the consortium. However, there is one initiative that gives us a bit of a clue:
Lifelong Healthy Life
An initiative that is consistent with the goals of the P-HIS described above is the ‘Lifelong Healthy Life’ initiative. Here is what ICONLOOP announced in November of 2018:
“ICONLOOP is pleased to announce the launch of the ‘Lifelong Healthy Life’ service in beta version. ‘Lifelong Healthy Life’ is a disease prediction service running on top of the blockchain developed in collaboration with Kyobo Life Insurance Co., Korea’s largest life insurance company as well as LifeSimantics Co., a renowned digital health company.
Unlike the existing insurance coverage analysis system, which measures future health risks based on the current insurance subscription data, ‘Lifelong Healthy Life’ service offers insurance products based on forecasts of future risks to provide reasonable and more affordable health care options for customers.
In addition, by sharing the results of personal information certification on the blockchain, insurance holders can access and manage their health data and insurance information on their own, in alignment with the Personal Information Protection Regulations (GDPR). Once the customer’s health examination records are passed to the blockchain-based authentication system, the data provided is made immutable being stored on the blockchain.”
While the system itself is being implemented by ICONLOOP, there were hints of how it might integrate into the ICON public chain:
“J.H. Kim, CEO of ICONLOOP said, “We plan to expand our blockchain authentication system so that the InsureTech businesses based on disease prediction data infrastructure could be operated with security and derived services can be released at the same time.” Hence “We aim to hyperconnect with the heterogeneous blockchains through the ICON smart contract base while keep operating system tests and verification processes to expand the scope to first-class medical data management.””
Based on this description, it appears that insurance holders would be able to integrate their own health data into one of the DID applications that ICONLOOP and ICON have built. Remember our example throughout this series of the women who allows access to her medical records? The ‘Lifelong Healthy Life’ service could be an example of that type of activity.
Korea Financial Investment Association (KOFIA)
To fully understand the Korea Financial Investment Association (KOFIA) partnership, we need to go back all the way to 2016. In November that year, the following news broke:
“South Korea said Thursday it will launch a government-civilian consortium on “blockchain” within this year for joint research and pilot projects.
The Financial Services Commission (FSC) presented a roadmap for the project in a meeting of the blockchain council, joined by representatives from the financial industry.
South Korea’s 16 major banks are scheduled to set up a joint task force next Wednesday, followed by the participation of more than 20 brokerage firms here on Dec. 7, according to the FSC.”
The following month, more information came out:
“On December 7, 21 financial institutions and five blockchain companies signed a memorandum of understanding to develop collaborative projects and share all the expertise available with blockchain technology in the framework of the creation of South Korea’s first distributed ledger consortium.
The consortium led by the Korea Financial Investment Association (KOFIA) is part of an initiative of the South Korea Financial Services Commission (FSC), a state agency that is committed to block innovation through the creation of a laboratory of ideas where members can investigate the use cases of the blockchain directed by the information technology committee of KOFIA. KOFIA is a non-profit organization that since 2009 has been dedicated to self-regulation, market management and the improvement of the investment culture.”
At this point, we have the Financial Services Commission — a government run agency — encouraging the development of blockchain technology, with the Korea Financial Investment Association — a non-profit whose members span nearly the entire Korean financial industry.
The following year, KOFIA announced that:
“Korea Financial Investment Association, KOFIA, introduced the world’s first blockchain- based joint authentication service for the financial industry dubbed “Chain ID” on October 31, 2017.
The consortium is hoping to widen the adoption of the Chain ID across the entire financial investment industry within this year, and introduce it to other financial industries such as banking, insurance and credit card next year.”
Several months later, ICON announced the following:
“Answering to the needs of a new method of personal authentication, theloop has joined the Korea Financial Investment Blockchain Consortium as a technical partner to develop CHAIN ID.”
If you’re unaware of just what ChainID does — or just as a reminder — here is a quote from the ICON announcement:
“While the issues of trust and universality can be solved via blockchain technology, the issue of data integrity still exists. Simply applying blockchain technology can’t ensure that the data in the system is secure, complete, consistent, and without human error.
To solve the problem of data integrity, smart contracts based on theloop’s proprietary blockchain engine, loopchain, were used to create CHAIN ID. Smart contracts are self-executing contracts with the terms of an agreement written directly into lines of code. Smart contracts ensure the implementation of the network rules, making the data secure and complete, while also lowering the risk of fraud or malicious alterations.
CHAIN ID issues a joint certificate through the consensus of the nodes (participants) in the network. The joint certificate is already authenticated through the consensus of the nodes and can be used freely throughout the network without any additional authentication. The smart contracts will guarantee the integrity of the data, ensuring that the certificate is trustworthy and without the risk of being altered.
The information and status of the certificate is shared among the nodes in real-time so that all the participants will have the same information. By all the nodes having the same data, CHAIN ID can prevent single points of failure, such as hacking attempts that may happen in centralized network environments.”
At this point, I would say that Chain ID has become the signature product produced by ICONLOOP. This is not only due to it’s name brand, but to the fact that it’s already in use by multiple entities in the financial sector.
Furthermore, a different iteration of ChainID, my-ID, has received regulatory approval from the Korean government:
ICONLOOP has introduced its digital ID service that can be utilized for untact (non-face-to-face verification) openings of banking accounts. The Financial Services Commission (FSC), South Korean government’s top financial regulator, has announced the inclusion of ICONLOOP’s ‘my-ID’ service into the ‘Innovative Financial Services and Regulations Sandbox’ created under the Financial Innovation Support Special Law.
As 18 different companies, including manufacturers, banks, stock/securities firms, insurance companies, and e-commerce companies, have expressed their participation in the Innovative Financial Service project, the sandbox inclusion is expected to act as a stimulus towards mass adoption.
Ultimately, the implementation of ICON’s various DID applications into the Korean financial sector is arguably the project’s most successful and significant accomplishments to date.
One of the earlier-announced partnerships was between Raonsecure, a biometrics technology services company, and ICONLOOP (formerly theloop at the time of the agreement).
According to ICON, the two companies “signed an MOU to co-develop a FIDO system using blockchain technology.”
The announcement states:
“FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) is the global standard for biometrics using fingerprint, iris, facial recognition, etc. It is considered to be one of the rising next generation authentication technology.
Recently, the demand for integrated IDs on blockchains and FIDO authentication has been growing rapidly. The two companies have agreed to collaborate their efforts at developing an innovative FIDO authentication system model using blockchain technology.”
One of Raonsecure’s key services is ToucEn OnePass, a “biometric authentication solution for a variety of authentication use cases that require security and convenience: it is perfect for payments, mobile banking, shopping, game networks, and fintech services.”
Interestingly enough, Raonsecure is part of the FIDO Alliance, alongside companies such as Amazon, Alibaba, American Express, Google, and many others.
In an older promotional brochure (2nd page), Raonsecure pointed out they were “Developing blockchain bio-auth service” and cited their MOU with The Loop “for development of blockchain bio-auth system.”
As you likely know by now, the ICON ecosystem has created both ChainID and DPass, both of which are forms of decentralized identification (DID) in the mold of FIDO.
While direct evidence has not been released, I think it’s plausible that Raonsecure played a role in the development of ICON’s DID platforms by providing conceptual and technical advice. This also creates the possibility that Raonsecure may be willing to adopt the technology for their own biometric services as well.
SBI Savings Bank
The original breadcrumbs for this partnership trace back all the way to September 2017, when it was announced that Dayli Intelligence had partnered with SBI Group to build financial service solutions using blockchain technology.
Fast forward a few months later, to March 31, 2019, when ICONLOOP announced that they had successfully built and deployed its blockchain technology to SBI Savings Bank’s personal authentication service. According to ICON:
“‘SBI Simple Authentication,’ the first blockchain-based authentication service launched in the Korean savings bank industry is now open to public.
Blockchain-based ‘SBI Simple Authentication’ is implemented by storing PIN or fingerprint authentication information, with consensus among the nodes of the SBI blockchain server (instead of getting proof from certification authorities), and verifying the data integrity through ‘SCORE’, a smart contract environment developed by ICONLOOP, at the time of issuing a certificate. ‘SBI Simple Authentication’ establishes a safe user authentication process by applying private and public key structure, while being compatible with the existing certificate standards by adopting their specifications. It also follows the FIDO standards to support biometric authentication.”
SBI Savings Bank is no small entity, meaning that their adoption of ICONLOOP’s technology is quite a feat:
“SBI Savings Bank ranks №1 in Korea in terms of assets, reaching 6 trillion dollars (USD) in September 2018, and has been developing diverse services that incorporate IT and FinTech, including AI and blockchain, to prepare a new growth strategy in response to a rapidly changing financial environment since 2016.”
Ultimately, this is another example of the implementation into a working product of the ICONLOOP blockchain technology.
In early 2017, South Korea’s Ministry of Science & ICT, “led an initiative to support blockchain development as a part of the fourth industrial revolution,” according to CryptoSlate.
ICONLOOP became one of the beneficiaries of this initiative — here is the white paper:
“Top tier insurers and hospitals in South Korea have launched a pilot to incorporate theloop’s blockchain technology into their claims and payments processes. This project aims to automate the entire insurance claiming process, from patient authentication to sending medical records to insurance providers, through blockchain technologies without any intermediaries. The pilot project has been implemented through SCORE and started since December first initially for select insurance products.”
While it was not revealed at the time, ICON would eventually announce that one of the companies involved was Kyobo Life, one of South Korea’s leading insurance companies:
“In April 2017 theloop launched Smart Insurance Claims service using theloop’s blockchain engine, loopchain, with Kyobo Life. The Smart Insurance Claims Service received a positive response from Kyobo Life clients as it mitigated the hassle of submitting a receipt for medical expenses, obtaining a copy of medical records, and submitting an insurance claim to the insurer via fax, internet, office visit, etc.”
The success of this initial project led to an additional MOU with Kyobo itself, announced in June of 2018:
“theloop has been recognized for bringing a practical use-case for blockchain technology in the insurance industry through the Smart Insurance Claims service. theloop will accelerate its efforts to build a next-generation insurance platform with Kyobo Life. This MOU will lead to collaboration on more projects to increase efficiences in the insurance industry, a mutual effort to expand this technology to ASEAN, and blockchain advisory and support initiatives.”
According to CryptoSlate, the biggest obstacle to blockchain adoption by the insurance industry may not be the technology, but the legality:
“Legal hurdles, not necessarily technical issues, have prevented blockchain-based services from being commercialized in the insurance sector, and for the blockchain to be widely adopted in the industry, both companies and regulators will have to put in additional effort to understand and embrace the technology.”
Jonghyup Kim added an additional explanation:
“For instance, in a typical insurance transaction process, a printed copy of the insurance policy must be handed in by the insured him/herself. We are trying to automate this process by either delivering the data from the hospital to the insurer through a separate channel and then recording it on the blockchain, or applying smart contract to new products that do not fall under the regulatory compliance yet. We believe our experiments, by showcasing the true potential of blockchain, can educate corporates, regulators and the public and make a positive impact on regulatory framework in the end.”
The initial agreement in 2017 with Kyobo was promising on it’s own, and the additional MOU indicates that ICON is making great strides within the insurance industry to generate a true use-case for blockchain within the industry.
Digital Plaza for Small Business
In August of 2018, ICON announced that:
“ICONLOOP (formerly ‘theloop’)’s core blockchain engine, loopchain, is being applied to ‘Digital Plaza for Small Business’ program. Korea Financial Investment Association (KOFIA), in which ICONLOOP is the blockchain technology partner, signed a three-party business agreement on August 13th with Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise (KFME) and Smart Fintech Research Center of Sogang University.”
This partnership is an extension of the partnership that ICONLOOP had established with KOFIA and offers an opportunity for ICONLOOP to begin implementing their technology among smaller businesses, which represents “7 million people in Korea and 40% of the country’s employment.”
More specifically, “‘Digital Plaza for Small Business’ is a program that facilitates trading, smart contracts, financial services, and policy support to enhance the competitiveness for micro enterprise owners.”
Based on the announcement, it seems likely that the most clear use case will be to further expand utilization of ChainID by on-boarding the DID technology onto smaller companies.
LINE & Unchain
In May of 2018, ICON announced that ICON and LINE PLUS had established a joint venture, called “Unchain:”
“ICON and LINE PLUS, a global social platform with over 200 million monthly average users(MAU) worldwide, has co-founded ‘Unchain’ to build LINE’s blockchain network. Unchain aims to develop various DApp services while building synergies with ICON to expand the blockchain ecosystem.
Unchain will create a blockchain ecosystem fueled by a token economy, where the users are rewarded for their contributions to the network. DApp services discovered through ICON and Unblock, a subsidiary of LINE dedicated to blockchain research and to accelerate DApp projects, will be integrated with Unchain. This joint venture takes blockchain and decentralization another step closer to being a part of our everyday lives.
This joint venture with LINE is expected to connect significantly more users and DApps to the ICON network, bringing us that much closer to a “Hyperconnected World”.”
This was a bit more of a unique arrangement then we’d been used to, as it went beyond a simple “MOU” or “agreement” that other partnerships began as. In addition, this was an agreement with the ICON Foundation itself, rather than ICONLOOP, implying a more direct potential use of the public chain.
To get an understanding of just what LINE is, and why they are significant, be sure to take a look at this breakdown by Brian Li, Rhizome (P-Rep candidate) team lead.
Later that year, in August, LINE announced they were launching their own cryptocurrency, called ‘LINK.’ This surprised the ICON community, as it appeared they had gone off on their own.
However, as explained by Hyun, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Deblock, an ICON VC firm, “LINE’s LINK Chain is made by Unchain, which is a joint venture with ICON and LINE. CEO of Unchain is HK Lee who is from ICON Foundation”.
Furthermore, as JH Kim, CEO of ICONLOOP and ICON Foundation Council Member, expanded during the last of ICON’s three key announcements, “The collaboration with LINE is to support the token economy of LINE with ICON technology. LINE will offer a service that works on token economy very soon”.
In July of 2019, a Korean media outlet reported that Line was also planning to develop DApps through Unchain:
“Line also plans to develop real-life D-App species through blockchain developer ‘Unblock’ and ‘Unchain’. The specific types and number of DApps were not disclosed, but like Kakao, it is reported that Dapps in a wide range of fields such as shopping and payments will be released in addition to content areas such as videos and games. In particular, LINE is concentrating on integrating messenger services so that existing line users can use the blockchain.”
So what we now know is: a) Unchain helped build the underling blockchain service that the LINK coin utilizes, that b) Unchain will be helping to build DApps for use on the Line ecosystem, and c) Unchain is a joint venture between the ICON public chain, and LINE.
However, in August of 2019, some additional concern spread through the ICON community when a news story stated that :
“Line is set to upgrade its blockchain platform ‘Link’. The company plans to apply new technology instead of the icon platform used to build the existing link network.
According to the related industry on the 2nd, Line will upgrade technology of its own blockchain platform link within the year. It is aimed at increasing the usability of the platform, such as the distribution of DApps in the link. Line said it will release its own wallet, D-App and developer tools this year.”
Many immediately assumed this meant they had abandoned ICON, but this does not appear to be the case.
The underlying blockchain technology LINE was built upon was based around loopchain:
“LINK Network is not a single technology nor platform. We started our project by signing a partnership with ICON LOOP, launched Alder Chain, and then released two dApps.”
More specifically, the LINK Chain consensus mechanism is the same mechanism that was designed into loopchain:
“LINK Chain supports prompt consensus based on the LFT (Loop Fault Tolerance) algorithm supporting BFT (Byzantine Fault Tolerance). In addition, it can achieve consensus a little faster by binding a number of nodes in a trusted relationship into one group based on LFT.”
LINK was likely initially built upon loopchain in order to establish the foundation of their blockchain, but is now altering that foundation to design a system more in tune with their specific needs. LINK said as much in a recent blog post:
“LINK Network is not a single technology nor platform. We started our project by signing a partnership with ICON LOOP, launched Alder Chain, and then released two dApps. The initial stage of Network has been sharing the common technical base with ICON, however, we are preparing for a brand-new technical basis ideal for the next project’s technical conditions. And we will choose the most optimized techniques for our new services.”
In addition, Unchain still operates the Link Chain nodes:
“The nodes of LINK Chain are managed by UNCHAIN CORPORATION, the technical operator of LINK Chain. UNCHAIN CORPORATION plays the role of developing and managing blockchain infrastructure technology by maintaining its neutrality within the LINK ecosystem and prioritizing safe management of the LINK Chain nodes.”
It’s completely understandable that a company the size of LINE would want to adjust the original blockchain to suit their own ecosystem. The important thing to consider, from the standpoint of ICON, is that Unchain is still operating, and — as pointed out above — is working on building DApps.
Indeed, Ricky Dodds of ICON confirmed just as much after the news broke:
“To clear the air, there has been no change to our relationship with LINE through the Unchain JV. And the goal of interoperability is still intact 👍 . The timing is obviously a more difficult question, which I can’t answer right now.
Currently, LINK chain (based on loopchain 1.x) is being updated to reference our new and improved loopchain release for their Japanese business.”
Ultimately, I believe it’s likely that while LINE has somewhat deviated away from ICONLOOP’s core technology, the partnership for interchain operability is still alive and well.
Even prior to its inception as a public blockchain project, the ICON ecosystem has been establishing partnerships throughout the Korean economy and government. The above analysis was only of a portion of the projects that we know ICON is involved in — and who knows how many we don’t know about.
While not every partnership has provided evidence of a working product, as a whole ICON is making important and productive strides across all these industries and has been generating a plethora of good news.
In the next chapter, I will offer a deeper examination of the ICON governance system.
Index of Partnerships (Partial List)
- Bank-issued Cryptocurrency… Our First Step (Woori Bank) — August 18, 2017
- ICON — Korea’s Online Banking Security Gets First Upgrade in Almost 20 Years (KOFIA) — Nov. 2, 2017
- ICON: theloop and ChainToB Partnership — December 20, 2017
- ICON Partners With KyberNetwork — January 19, 2018
- MOU between theloop & Smilegate Stove — February 9, 2018
- theloop-Raonsecure MOU — February 12, 2018
- MOU between theloop & Cyberdigm — February 13, 2018
- MOU between theloop & Nonghyup Bank — March 22, 2018
- MOU between theloop & AD4th — April 17, 2018
- theloop-E4net MOU — May 7, 2018
- CHAIN ID, developed using loopchain to be used in “Samsung Pass” service — May 11, 2018
- Joint Venture between ICON and LINE: ‘Unchain’ — May 14, 2018
- loopchain technology to be applied to Import Customs Clearance Procedure for the Korea Customs Service — June 5, 2018
- theloop-Kyobo Life Insurance MOU — June 24, 2018
- ICONLOOP’s Technology to be applied to ‘Digital Plaza for Small Business’ Program — August 13, 2018
- ICONLOOP-NEC Selected for the Project: ‘Building the Next Generation Election System’ — August 20, 2018
- ICON-W Foundation MOU — August 29, 2018
- ICONLOOP selected to demonstrate Seoul blockchain platform — September 13, 2019
- ICONLOOP-SK Holdings C&C MOU — September 18, 2018
- ICON-SK Planet, signed a MOU for cooperation in blockchain business — September 19, 2018
- ICONLOOP to participate in Seoul Blockchain Based ISP (Information Strategy Planning) Project — November 29, 2018
- ICONLOOP Partners with SBI Savings Bank to Release Blockchain-based Personal Authentication Services — March 31, 2019
- ICON signs a strategic partnership with MixMarvel, a blockchain-based global game publisher — May 12, 2019
For a full and complete breakdown of even more partnerships, be sure to visit the Speculative Rationality page on ICON.