“The year of Factom” ?
Paul Snow, CEO of Factom, Inc. the inventors of the Factom ® protocol, mentioned several months ago that 2018 would be “the year of Factom”. His comment has been ridiculed by some and questioned by others. Mostly by Factoid (FCT) token holders, the native crypto currency of the Factom ® blockchain. That sentiment is understandable as the price of the Factoid token has lost more than 90% of its value since the all-time high and the token seemed to have been hit harder than most other crypto projects.
Paul and his team have been proven to be visionaries in the past. Bringing the two-token system to Factom meaning enterprise don’t have to deal with crypto currencies, inventing segregated witness (segwit) before Bitcoin ran off with it, to name a few. He just might be right again. As the year is nearing its end, I will use this piece to highlight some of the noticeable accomplishments this year as well as dig briefly into exciting new projects being worked on. I will post some subsequent and more in depth pieces about several subjects.
At the beginning of 2018 the Factom ® blockchain ran on servers, called nodes that were in sole possession of Factom Inc. Milestone 3 or M3, bringing full decentralization was long anticipated, but at the end of Q1 preparations to make this happen have begun. It started pretty much with community member Quintilian starting a community testnet together with Factom Inc. This meant gathering and attracting talented people and organizations to run the nodes. It meant creating a governance structure and document to which all (standing) parties must adhere. This meant the community chose 5 Guides out of their midst to make sure that the total decentralization process would take shape and several standing parties will find their place in the governance. These are FCT holders, users of the protocol by means of burning Entry Credits, the utility token, Authority Node Operators and grant recipients all get a place in the protocol, without any separate organization being able to gain full control. Without going into all the details in this piece, we now have 5 guides, 25 separate authority node operators running the network and developing solutions for Factom, weekly meetings, a grant pool for marketing, legal support, support projects and development projects.
Authority Node Operators
As mentioned, we now have 25 Authority Node Operators (ANOs), which eventually will become at least 65 ANOs. We held 2 ANO application rounds and will hold another round in the not too distant future. The 25 ANOs currently run 2 authority nodes each. They receive factoids as an incentive to run these nodes. Contrary to most projects a lot of these ANOs are also involved in all kinds of aspects of the protocol. From governance, to marketing to making sure we are listed on exchanges. The funny thing is that exchanges are not ready to handle a fully decentralized protocol like Factom, since they want to talk to CEOs, CTOs of the protocol. Guess what? There is none for the protocol, we have 25 ANOs and to some extent 5 guides currently deciding, with new standing parties to be added as well. We have ANOs doing development work, both open-source and making commercial solutions. With one common denominator. All this work touches Factom somehow. Being tools to enhance user experience, tools to integrate with Factom, tools to enhance the governance process and products/solutions that run on Factom and bring usage of the network.
We even have several ANOs that are building commercial solutions. “Federate This”, an ANO with a background in Aviation is focussed on building applications for the Aviation Industry. Its first product is Off-Blocks: a Mobile App for Digital Identity on Factom. What you can do with that Identity is quite exciting. It’s intended to be used both in and out the Flight deck.
Building Innovation Management Ltd, a UK based company who aims to reduce the cost of construction by bringing existing technology (Building Information Modeling) into the construction site for all workers. Its aim is to build a SAAS platform that uses the anchoring power of Factom to improve site safety and track workers while lowering the overheads of doing these activities. Other features it aims to offer through their SAAS are remove wasted effort, increase visibility of site metrics (completion percentage, delays, etc), and shorten the communication path between construction workers and designers.
In less than a half year countless developers, business people and other enthusiasts have taken on the mission to build out the Factom protocol to become the number one Data Integrity Protocol in the world. During bearish times, where ANOs make no money at all and are even investing money, people are still building behind the scenes on the Factom protocol. Has it been simple, of course not. It simply shows the resolve and the belief of the parties that have put blood, sweat and tears into it and will do so for the future as well.
Where do we stand now?
What has been accomplished last 6 months besides the already mentioned decentralization, standing parties and governance? The stability of the Factom blockchain has been improved drastically. Performance enhancements have been made as well. Below is a list with things already accomplished this year.
Forum and social media
We have the Factomize forum for standing parties and external people to discuss, hold polls, and do votes. It helps the governance as it facilitates timed discussions and automatic votes, considering the standing parties.
We have a rather active Discord, that is mostly hidden from the general public, people might have gotten the impression that Factom was not moving at all.
Partners and noteworthy news
· Factom Inc announced a partnership with FPT, a Vietnam based rapidly expanding IT company with a staff of 30.000 people, including an USA division focused on digital transformation for Fortune 1000 clients. (more info)
· An outside company affiliated with the Factom protocol, Sphereon took their first large Financial Services company on Factom to the mainnet (production), doing roughly 1 million document registrations a year. It also took their first Dutch city to production with an integration in their IT system for council documents and a public verification website integrated into their official website. Lastly it partnered with Validsign to integrate their “traditional” document signing solution with blockchain capabilities. Sphereon is doing more than 40 blockchain projects.
· DeFacto an ANO from Russia settled an agreement with a Russian developer of commercial realty (top 10 Forbes Russia), integrating Factom into business processes of its shopping mall. Expected mainnet onboarding in Q4 2018. (more info)
· Factom, Inc. is the first blockchain company that went into the 4th and final stage of the Department of Homeland Security Innovation program with their project to secure IOT data (border camera’s).
· Equator, an Altisource business unit and a leading provider of residential loan default software and marketing solutions for many of the country’s top servicers, real estate agents and vendors, announced an agreement with Factom Inc. to integrate the Factom® Harmony blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platform into the Equator® PRO solution. (more info)
· Hangzhou Court (China) Accepts Factom Blockchain as Evidence in Online Copyright Trial. A court in the Zhejiang-province capital of Hangzhou has confirmed the legal validity of electronic data stored via the blockchain as evidence in an online copyright trial. This is really shows the value of Factom in legal cases.
·Several ANOs and related companies are talking or working with enterprise clients currently.
First grants awarded and most implemented
Some of the notable grants that have been awarded have been implemented already or work is progressing nicely
· The release of MyFactomWallet, although online a complete client side, easy and safe way to manage your Factoids, with integration of the Ledger Nano S.
· Legal review of our governance. Although not as sexy, we believe that having a proper governance and making sure we do everything in our power to be compliant with laws and regulations is paramount for any blockchain project targeted at enterprise usage
New protocol website coming
Currently a lot of work has been done on the soon to be released new protocol website. This website will be the one stop shop for all different types of stakeholders to learn more about the Factom ® protocol, the global Data Integrity Protocol. It holds resources for developers, crypto currency investors, governance and people wanting to learn about Factom their business case(s). In the mean time Factom Inc also released their new website. The protocol website which has been created and populated by the Authority Node Operators will show a clear distinction between Factom Inc offering commercial solutions and the protocol website targeting the above audience.
We have great Factom related statistics at https://factoshi.io/ as well as a shiny new additional explorer at https://explorer.factoid.org/. If you want to find info and graphs about usage of the network, the price of the token, the locations of the teams I urge you to checkout these sites.
Ongoing and Future work
We recently had another grant round, which was so overcrowded that with current crypto prices we were unfortunately not able to award all parties a grant. Next grant round will be start in roughly 2 months, so if you are interested in Factom® development or becoming an Authority Node Operator, this is the time to get started. Most of the projects are currently being worked on and a lot of them will even be released next quarter. This is only the public known projects. Several companies are building new solutions on top of Factom that are not mentioned. I know because Sphereon has several projects as well as some of it’s partners. These are mostly enterprise targeted solutions. Both in infra, identity, access management. Sever based solutions as well as mobile solutions.
Factom® Asset Token (FAT)
One of the most impressive projects that was started 6 months ago by DBGrow, Inc. is FAT, the Factom ® Asset Token protocol. FAT will bring fungible and non-fungible tokens as well as smart contracts to the Factom ® in an efficient, modular, composable, and extensible way allowing developers to layer token functionality to meet their specific use case. FAT tokens are exceedingly efficient, with a cost of $0.012 to issue any number of tokens, and $0.001 to transfer tokens. FAT thrives in data intensive applications, such as non-fungible tokens. This efficiency is further amplified by the ability to integrate them into FAT Smart Contracts that will be able to write arbitrarily large amounts of data into the blockchain for a static $0.001 per kb of data, a feature other protocols cannot match.
The FAT protocol has already garnered interest from a variety of parties. It is working with Sphereon, to create tokenized currencies with unique graph-based network properties that will be deployed in several cities in the Netherlands for government aid. Additionally, FAT has received interest in creating programmable currencies and tokenizing financial instruments like bonds and options contracts on the FAT protocol from a variety of government and corporate entities. Including American Alliance Transnational Corporation, a new holding company representing vast asset holdings, to initially tokenize two billion dollars’ worth of options contracts on the Factom Asset Token protocol.
A DID is a Decentralized Identifier. It is a way to give an identity with a pointer (URL) to any device, organization, person, asset, document whatever fully in control of the owner of the identity. It removes the centralized component of identities we have now (large organizations like Google, FB, governments, Certificate Authorities) and makes identity management completely decentralized and self-sovereign. The trust is inferred from the shared immutable ledger (Factom). You can literally compare a DID to an URL. A traditional URL is a pointer you use to lookup webpages in a browser, a DID is a pointer to somebody’s (or something’s) identity (that certainly doesn’t mean one person would only have one DID btw. Far from it). DIDs are believed by some to become the future identity layer of the Internet. The concept is being backed by large players like Microsoft, Accenture and IBM for instance. DIDs allow for of chain storage of data in control of the holder, with verification, attestation, authentication and service discovery on Factom.
FactomMask will break down development and ux barriers, making interaction with the Factom blockchain possible from within a browser. FactomMask will store your keys encrypted safely in your browser extension, logging into MyFactomWallet will be seamless. It will provide the software equivalent to a hardware wallet in terms of key services (e.g. Transaction signing, public address query and derivation, and message signing using your identity). Ledger hardware wallet for added security. It will include identity vaults, which will allow the user to manage various logins to different sites and sign transactions on the Factom blockchain. FactomMask will be capable of integrating Factom® Identities and provide Factom-related sites/apps a secure means of access via identities. It will allow mapping DNS-style names to wallet addresses, website spoof protection, certificate authority capabilities. Extendable Capability where web developers can extend functionality through dapps and smart contracts.
Integration into Alfresco
Alfresco is working on a new customizable client on top of their populair Document Management System. This solution will be introduced during Amazon Reinvent. One of the largest IT conferences in the world. Sphereon has been working closely with Alfresco on bringing in a fully open-source Factom blockchain integration into their new solution.
Some other notable projects
Courtesy nodes: A courtesy node system is being put in place by several ANOs to provide courtesy nodes using a single URL with load balancing providing easy and free support to the Factom API that can be used for instance for MyFactomWallet, On-Chain Voting, the Factom Enterprise Wallet a future Factom Open-Source BaaS API, Accounting scripts or developers testing functionality.
Verifiable claims: Driver’s licenses are used to claim that we are capable of operating a motor vehicle, university degrees can be used to claim our education status, and government-issued passports enable holders to travel between countries. Verifiable claims provide a standard way to express these sorts of claims on the Web in a way that is cryptographically secure, privacy respecting, and automatically verifiable. Research will be conducted to implement Verifiable claims together with DIDs on Factom.
Open-source Factom BaaS: An Open-source API with advanced functions will lower barrier to entry for traditional (non-blockchain) developers & developer companies and bring new developers, clients and users to the Protocol.
[H]ERC: The Human Protocol, is a Supply Chain Management Platform and General Proof of Custody Provider. We leverage Factom as a Notary for our reference hashes and act as a use case for Factom as well as other decentralised solutions. Having our own blockchain or being on another more global payments settlement layer will never edge out Factom as we intend to store our references hashes in Factom, and thus in Bitcoin, throughout the entirety of our experiments, enterprise, and commercial use of our platform.
Hackathons: 2 Dedicated Factom hackathons have been organized by Factom, Inc. More are being planned by other ANOs across the globe as well. Sphereon is in talks with Dutchchain to look at whether Factom can be part of the largest blockchain hackathon on the world.
Hyperledger Fabric: The Blockchain Innovation Foundation proposed a grant for anchoring data from a Hyperledger Fabric permissioned blockchain into the public Factom blockchain. This adds a public Witness to a Fabric Hyperledger network, increasing its trustworthiness.
The year of Factom?
As the CTO of Sphereon, working daily with enterprise and public services clients both domestic and abroad on blockchain and Factom projects, as well as being a Factom blockchain guide, working daily with a lot of talented people in the Factom ecosystem, I certainly believe this is the year of Factom. The year where the foundation for the future of Factom has been made a reality. The year where people will finally notice where the project is heading, and the year people will look back at and agree that this was the year where Factom took off. In terms of resources, talent, integrations, use cases, decentralization. The year where development accelerated at an unbelievable rapid pace. The year where the price of FCT did in no way do justice to what has been achieved behind the scenes. Maybe the strength alone of the people behind the project already could have made this the year of Factom. The fact that they continue to #BUIDL shows true determination. It is the start of becoming the global Data Integrity Protocol. Definitely “the Year of Factom” as a visionary already mentioned.
(this is the start of several future pieces about Factom)