As IoTeX is approaching the Mainnet Alpha launch, our Head of Business Development, Larry Pang, sat down with BlockchainBrad to talk all things IoTeX & provide insightful information on the things we are working on, our vision, approach and plans for the current year. We suggest you to check out the livestream and for your convenience, the timestamps are provided, as well as, here is a short summary report of the main points discussed in this interview.
IoTeX in a nutshell
IoTeX is a privacy-centric platform, designed and optimized for the IoT. Right now we have a team of around 25 globally, most of the team is in Silicon Valley, but we also have a hardware office in Shenzhen and a small Business Development office in Singapore. Our goal is to really create a smart-contract platform, that is robust, scalable, but also have the features that people need to create a brand new privacy and IoT-focused applications. We are trying to make is easy for people to utilize blockchain and IoT and show the synergy of these two technologies but we are also focused on privacy, which is the hot topic of 2019.
Why does privacy matter?
Right now, there’s around 10–15 billion connected IoT devices, and some project, that in 5 years that number will hit 100 billion, so not only the number of devices increases, but also the types of data these devices are capturing and it’s going to be very important to secure that data and allow people to share it privately and store it privately. There’s a common saying that data is the new gold and if that’s the convention going forward, privacy is going to play a huge role. Our long-term focus is creating a platform that comes natively with a lot of privacy features. Once thing we are launching in Q2, April or May, is the privacy-preserving subchain, that will let people send private transactions and execute private smart-contracts. What a private smart-contract does is that it allows you to compute something without ever leaking any of the underlying information/inputs. One specific use-case we are working on is the private credit score. In America, there was a huge hack with Equifax, over half of the country lost their social security number, so its all out there. One thing that a private smart-contract can do is to calculate your credit score without ever needing to exposure your personal information.
Privacy vs. pseudo-anonymity
The way that pseudo-anonymity has played out in the blockchain world, let’s look at the example of bitcoin. Everyone's identity is classified as this unique identifier, your public key, but if your real world identity is ever linked to the public key, everything you have ever done in the network is basically exposed. So it’s really important that we first re-encrypt that, add that second layer of privacy, so if i want to send something, it’s not address 1 sending to address 2, you are able to completely mask the sender, the receiver and the value. And one thing that we are really focused on is how do we bring privacy to the blockchain, without sacrificing too much scalability and at the protocol level, it really requires a lot of domain expertise and this is where the experience of the team comes from. Two of our co-founders, Raullen Chai and Xinxin Fan are PhD’s in cryptography, specifically focused on lightweight cryptography. How do we make these cryptographic schemes apply to blockchain but also not detriment any other things that we are trying to optimize.
Privacy for enterprises
When you compare the consumer with enterprises, the truth is not many consumers care about privacy today, it’s just starting to be a topic of discussion, that people are starting to really care about privacy. But in the enterprise world, that’s something that they deeply care about and it’s very important for them to maintain that competitive advantage. Here’s an example of what we are working on for a very large device manufacturer, it’s a supply chain finance and supply chain track & trace platform. This specific company has supply chain that is 13 levels deep, suppliers of suppliers of suppliers, all the way up to this organization and think about all the different permutations and groups that need to see data. You don’t really want to publicly broadcast the data, but you want to selectively share it with selective parties and that’s what privacy allows you to do. Privacy is not just the mechanism to send money privately, it’s way more than that. It’s how do you protect the assets of the company and individuals, while also letting them use this data in the real world.
IoTeX is a non-profit foundation, we are a smart-contract platform and everything is fully open-source, so we are not a revenue generating company but there’s a consumer side to our project. But the enterprise sector is very important to us and we believe that our technology and vision fits well with them, which is to create a decentralized trust fabric that lets anyone to collaborate with each other.
We think of this in two different forms, first, is the consensus mechanism and the second is our choice of architecture. There’s a lot of consensus mechanisms out there that are code differentiators of the networks and we are starting to see 3 big families emerging: PoW, PoS and DPoS. PoW is used in bitcoin, they way they reach consensus is they issue a very hard puzzle to every miner and whoever is able to solve it has the right to put the next block. It’s very energy intensive but fully decentralized. It’s really important to think about the trade offs across these different families of consensus mechanisms. The second one is PoS, which is going to be used by Ethereum in the near future, as they are a hybrid right now, in which, anyone that stakes a certain amount of tokens, gets a reward proportional to their investment in the network. Say you have 2% of the tokens = you will be chosen 2% of the time to mine the block. This approach is starting to mix consensus with incentives. And when we transition to the Delegated Proof of Stake, this is when token holders will elect Delegates or Block Producers to run consensus on behalf of the network. By reaching consensus within a small group of people we are able to reach consensus faster which is needed to power the future of global IoT, while trying to minimize the impacts of this trade-offs. Once thing, that we have done is we have taken the DPoS, popularized by EOS, Lisk, Tron and other networks and modified it to be randomized and this randomization adds decentralization to our consensus.
Blockchain-in-blockchain Architecture of IoTeX
IoTeX is a network, where there are a few different types of blockchains. One is the root chain, it’s kind of the Orchestration Layer, that connects all the subchains, allows them to talk to each other, and basically maintain the consensus on behalf of the entire network. The second layer, that we are building is called the Gravity Chain, which is the Governance layer, staking and voting will run on it. Finally, we have the Execution Layer, which is all the subchains, where each subchain can be tailored specifically to your use case, it can use of Roll-DPoS or it can use a completely different consensus mechanism and the states of all the subchains will be stored on the rootchain. The root chain is a diary of the entire network, what has happened on the specific subchain and also to enable cross-chain communication. In order to minimize the computation, the only kinds of transactions that will be running on the rootchain, will be the cross-chain communication and storing of the states of all the different subchains. This architecture is not just a way to allow interoperability but also a way to separate duties. For example all the voting transactions, take, EOS as an example, they don’t have a multi-layer architecture, so their voting and execution transactions all happen on the same blockchain. It’s really introducing somewhat of a conflict of interest, especially if you are a Block Producer. For example, a BP in EOS could chose to completely ignore the voting transactions and produce the block without those if they see that these transactions would help for them to get voted down. IoTeX removes this conflict by intruding a concept of Separation of Duties, where they have an Execution layer, Governance layer and Orchestration layer, that are all in sync but performing different functions.
The first subchain that we will be launching is the privacy-preserving subchain, that will be utilizing the concept of secure multi-party computation as well as trusted execution environments, to really allow people to experience privacy for the very first time. Some of the people are working on the concept of private smart contracts, but we think that we will be one of the very first to take a brand new approach to it. What we will be doing throughout 2019 is adding more subchains, that are tailored to specific use-cases, whether they are smart-homes, smart-cities, IoT data marketplaces, all these things can be optimized with the custom architecture.
So far the testing has been great, every week for the past 1.5 months, we have been releasing a new version of the mainnet and the Delegates have given us a great feedback as to how the mainnet is performing. We have released a private-beta to our Delegates, who have been rigorously testing it and helping to find any bugs, so that when we are ready, the Mainnet is ready to go. In 2018 we have been really focusing on building the underlying infrastructure and protocol that’s going to be powering the root chain, which is the Orchestration layer. In Q3, we will be launching our Gravity chain, which is the governance layer, so for now, we are running voting on Ethereum because it’s a lot more stable. Starting Q2, we will start launching different subchains and lower the barrier to entry for people building applications on IoTeX. Another thing we will launch is the hardware development kit, IoT-focused specifically and it will be paired along with our privacy-preserving subchain.
One really important initiative that we are launching soon it an IoTeX Wish List. Up until now, the development of IoTeX blockchain has been very internal, the core team has been building it for the last 1.5 years and now we are ready for the people to build on top of it. The immediate next step for us is inviting developers in to build more open-source tooling and create something of interest to both consumers and enterprises.
We are a Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) blockchain, and the way it works, is the token holders will vote for Delegates to stake their tokens on behalf of the token holders. Delegates are rewarded for producing blocks and maintaining the network and generally will share those rewards with voters. In other networks, such as Tezos (PoS) they call it a service fee, where bakers/Delegates/BPs will charge 15% service fee for staking your tokens, we kind of have a flipped model, where Delegates will re-distribute 88–85% of the rewards back to the voters. Voting in our network is extremely important and it just went live on March 11, so very new!
In addition to the Mainnet Launch at the end of March, 2019 is going to be action-packed for IoTeX. In Q2 we will launch the privacy-preserving subchain, as well as the hardware development kit, which is going to be specific for IoTeX. It’s kind of the entry path people the blockchain & real-world, it’s going to allow people to sync their devices, it’s going to come fully stocked and ready to use that privacy-preserving subchain, so all the privacy features are going to be built into this tool. We are also working on other pieces of the network, the Gravity chain, migrating voting from Ethereum onto our own blockchain in Q3, all of this is leading up to the big Mainnet GA launch in Q4 of this year. The Q4 is really going to be the transition point of our network, at that point we are going to hand the entire thing to the community. Even is the core team decides to make a change, they are going to file a proposal. So throughout this year, we are going to be working with our Delegates & developers to bring them into the development and make it more community-oriented.
Global Brand Ambassadors
Our Brand Ambassadors have been Community Leaders from day one and we are really excited to see some of them run as IoTeX Delegates and really excel in this new role and one of our Delegates, Simone, is actually already in the top 5. One thing, that we wanted to design is the ability not just for the private sale investors and fund to be the de facto Delegates in our network, but we wanted to make it inclusive by lowering the hardware requirements and costs and basically provide tools that any community member can contribute as a Delegate. We are excited to bring on many many more Brand Ambassadors, especially in different countries. Right now, we are very big in China, US and starting to break out into South East Asia, but the next frontier for us is going to be those hot areas, definitely in Europe, Germany is huge for IoT, already thinking a lot about privacy with GDPR, definitely Korea, Japan and South America.
Founded as an open-source project in 2017, IoTeX is building the world’s leading privacy-centric blockchain platform for the Internet of Things (IoT). Their mission is to build a decentralized trust fabric for a new era of collaboration and data exchange among devices, applications and people. Backed by a global team of research scientists and top engineers, IoTeX combines blockchain, trusted hardware and edge computing to realize the full potential of IoT.
Stay connected with us!
Telegram Announcement Channel: https://t.me/iotexchannel
Telegram Group: https://t.me/IoTeXGroup
Join us: https://iotex.io/careers