Internet pioneer Bob Metcalfe joins Trace Labs’ advisory board to help apply Metcalfe’s Law for data value prediction in OriginTrail Decentralized Knowledge Graph

Published in
5 min readJul 8, 2021


The core development company of OriginTrail — Trace Labs — has expanded the advisory board with one of the earliest Internet pioneers, professor Bob Metcalfe. Dr. Metcalfe invented Ethernet and is famous for Metcalfe’s Law. As the OriginTrail Knowledge Graph gains traction among users worldwide, Trace Labs welcomes Dr. Metcalfe to help apply Metcalfe’s Law to predict the value of linked data based on the network effect.

The visionary engineer and professor Dr. Metcalfe is often referred to as the father of Ethernet, one of the first computer network systems. Ethernet was created in 1973, long preceding the adoption of personal computers and the spread of business machines. Ethernet today is the most widely installed local network protocol and international computer industry (IEEE) standard, which has revolutionized the way businesses operate across the globe. It’s highly likely that you are having this blog post delivered to you through an Ethernet network.

The Trace Labs founders were introduced to Dr. Metcalfe through his mentorship during the 2017 Food+City innovation competition in Austin, Texas. At that competition, OriginTrail won the People’s Choice Award among many prospective food supply chain startups. OriginTrail has since grown from a centralized system for food supply chains into a general open-source protocol for trusted data exchange. The protocol is based on knowledge graph and blockchain technologies and is supported by an open, permissionless OriginTrail Decentralized Network (ODN) of more than 900 nodes globally.

The CTO of Trace Labs, Branimir Rakic, and Dr. Metcalfe at the 2017 Food+City innovation competition in Austin.

The ODN hosts the Decentralized Knowledge Graph (DKG), a novel system designed to enable efficient data silos bridging and data integration across IT systems using the principles of interoperability, interconnectivity, and integrity. At present, the multi-chain DKG is deployed in productive applications used by Fortune 500 enterprises, governments, and transnational consortia.

We are delighted to continue our collaboration with Dr. Metcalfe and have him join Trace Labs as a key advisor focusing on long-term DKG evolution and value generation in the context of network effects.

From Ethernet to Metcalfe’s Law on the value of networks

Dr. Metcalfe is an engineer and entrepreneur from the United States who helped pioneer the Internet, starting in 1970. In 1973, Dr. Metcalfe received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Harvard. That same year, he co-invented Ethernet while at Xerox PARC and the company patented it in 1975. An industry was born and Ethernet was ready for its meteoric rise.

Dr. Metcalfe has been a key player in the space since and later, in 1979, co-founded the multibillion-dollar networking company 3Com, now part of Hewlett-Packard. He has received various awards, including the IEEE Medal of Honor and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his work developing Ethernet technology.

Dr. Metcalfe is famous for formulating Metcalfe’s Law, which states that “the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users.” As the physical cost of the network grows linearly, its value grows exponentially.

Applying Metcalfe’s Law to predict the value of linked data in OriginTrail Decentralized Knowledge Graph

Knowledge Graph (KG) technology utilizes a graph-structured data model to integrate data, creating domain-specific “knowledge networks”. Such knowledge networks, implemented on KGs, are heavily in use today within the most successful data-driven organizations — such as Google, Facebook, Uber, Amazon, and others — enabling them to attain enormous value from their respective knowledge networks; everything from search, recommendations, data integration all the way to AI and ML applications, relies on the value “grown” in the ever-evolving knowledge networks.

In the previous decades, the manifestation of Metcalfe’s Law (V ~ N2) was very visible through the rise of social networks where the value of a network roughly grew with the square of the number of participants of the network (e.g. users on Facebook, inviting and connecting with their friends). We make the case that Metcalfe’s Law is directly applicable to knowledge networks; the value of a knowledge network of size K, is proportional to the square of the number of its data points (V ~ K2). Therefore, the value of a knowledge network grows exponentially with the number of data points within the same knowledge network.

As OriginTrail aims to provide a general-purpose, public decentralized knowledge graph, it enables everyone to benefit from shared knowledge networks by contributing data to them, extracting insights, and powering domain-specific applications. This global “graph of graphs” presents a unique terrain for forming large global knowledge networks by constantly synergizing data points from various data sources — enterprise systems, knowledge graphs, or even personal devices — and generating enormous value from the emerging knowledge networks.

As the OriginTrail protocol is designed for data sovereignty and trusted data exchange, it enables referencing“ private” data points by indexing them publicly. The public index makes dormant, siloed data accessible and discoverable under explicit conditions of the data owner. With that, knowledge networks grow by leveraging previously siloed data. This key characteristic of the Decentralized Knowledge Graph, together with upcoming incentivization tools developed within the OriginTrail ecosystem, opens up huge potential for the growth of knowledge networks and practical ways of estimating and enlarging the value of its datasets, providing price discovery utilities based on Metcalfe’s Law.

Combining the principles of Metcalfe’s Law with exposing datasets to decentralized markets and proven techniques such as the Google PageRank algorithm, we expect to develop a comprehensive data value estimation framework for emerging data marketplaces, based on the “interconnectedness” of data and market demand within the knowledge networks.

Dr. Metcalfe to provide contributions to the upcoming OriginTrail white paper

The intuition presented above is under active research by academics and industry experts within the context of the Trace Alliance. The research will soon be published in the upcoming OriginTrail knowledge economy white paper. Dr. Metcalfe is actively advising Trace Labs on building a theoretical framework and providing his valuable insights for the paper, which will be released this summer.

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OriginTrail is the Decentralized Knowledge Graph that organizes AI-grade knowledge assets, making them discoverable & verifiable for sustainable global economy.