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Wrap-up of AMA with Crypto Brahma

This AMA (short for “Ask Me Anything”) with Crypto Brahma was the first live-streamed AMA where all three OriginTrail founders answered questions at the same time. In an hour and a half, they answered each and every question posed prior to and during the live chat.

In this blog post, you can find a wrap-up of the key outtakes and ideas that were presented in the interview. You can also replay the video here:

The chat started with an overview of the story so far. The founders, CEO Tomaz Levak, COO Ziga Drev, and CTO Branimir Rakic, have been working together on bringing transparency to supply chains since 2011, and that path led to the solution that is now OriginTrail — a decentralized protocol that supports data exchange in various supply chains. It creates a foundation that brings data integrity and interoperability to the complex world of supply chains. The protocol could become the foundation of global supply chains, which account for two-thirds of the world’s GDP. This layer is crucial when it comes to ensuring the integrity of data upon which different applications can be built.

Ziga explained how the protocol works with an example of a startup that sells organic food online. After a certain point in growth, small businesses have a hard time carrying out quality control manually, so, a need for the decentralization of accountability arises. If anything goes wrong, it is crucial to be able to easily allocate and align responsibility. OriginTrail enables faster recall and assigning of responsibility, but it can also discover discrepancies in data between companies at an early stage, preventing complications later. It goes beyond the “1-step-forward, 1-step-back” principle that is the current standard. A decentralized solution for data exchange means there is no need for a middleman or proxy for brokering trust.

A Protocol Needs to Remain Neutral, Open-Source and Collaborative: Implementation Should be Economically Viable

Tomaz pointed out that OriginTrail is focused on delivering three key advantages:

  • data interoperability for data that is now being stored in silos;
  • data scalability by enabling access to the blockchain to more companies;
  • protection of sensitive business information.

Compared with some blockchain solutions that include sensors or tagging systems, OriginTrail is a middleware solution focused on data exchange, tackling problems that were not addressed before. This means that different data carriers — like RFID tags and EAN codes — can be included in the system. The blockchain has already been implemented to some supply chains as a proof-of-concept, but OriginTrail offers the possibility to make the process economically viable and scalable.

In order to achieve end-to-end transparency in any supply chain, collaboration needs to be established not only between companies but also between service providers. That’s why it is important that the protocol remain neutral. Neutrality is important for establishing collaboration across the supply chain.

OriginTrail has been implementing traceability projects on a company level since 2013, so we know it is time-consuming. That’s why OriginTrail is actively involving service providers in the implementation of the protocol, which enables scalability.

The Current State of the Protocol

At this stage, the team is following two important goals and is excited about the feedback we are getting. The goals are:

  1. Technical Development: We are following our ambitious technical roadmap. The development is very transparent, with a new release every 14 days. We are developing in an agile fashion, which also enables us to collect feedback about how the code performs during the early stages.
  2. Facilitating Adoption: Onboarding new users and pilot projects is important, so, we are setting up the Trace Alliance as a collaborative environment. We are connecting potential users of the protocol with service providers, and possibly also with hardware providers, to find the best setup for implementing OriginTrail to their business. You can expect more information on use cases that are in the pipeline in the following weeks.

There is an implementation kit already available for every company that is interested in the protocol. They can also get test tokens to test the nodes. When the network is launched, companies will be able to purchase tokens on the secondary market. A lot of value is still on the table for service providers that can build additional functionalities on top of the protocol. None of the companies that have decided to use OriginTrail have stopped using it so far.

Explaining the Zero-Knowledge Privacy Layer

CTO Branimir addressed the concerns of businesses about putting their data on the OriginTrail network. Some data is by nature already public, like the data about the products themselves. But for sensitive data, we are developing a “zero-knowledge” privacy layer. It allows companies to share data in a way that it is still encrypted and hidden, yet publicly verifiable.

Here’s a simple example: Often, in food supply chains, the question “How do you verify that a certain batch is really organic?” comes up. The answer comes down to the size and the volume of the ingredients entered into the supply chain. In the supply chain, you could verify the mass of the ingredients if you know the cumulative input and output in every point and verify that no new mass or quantity has entered the supply chain. This removes the question of false sourcing, but since some companies are also reluctant to publicly share data on mass or quantity in their supply chains it has not been possible so far. Because of the protocols ability to handle this information in a specially encrypted form with a zero-knowledge algorithm, allowing the mathematical operation of addition, the mass balance can be verified in terms of cumulative input and output, while keeping the actual data hidden.

A Collaborative System, Focused on Solving Problems

OriginTrail is an open, collaborative system. In the decentralized landscape, we see a lot of complementarity with certain projects which share a similar mission of transparency in supply chains. When some more tangible solutions are launched, the landscape will be clearer.

The space is big, oceans are still blue. Any project focused on the use of blockchain for supply chains is creating synergy effects at this point. Ziga pointed out that we have never come across a client that presented us with an alternative competitive solution during discussions about implementation. But, if a certain company is already aware of the benefits of decentralization, seeing benefits in OriginTrail is even easier for them.

At the ceremony at the Walmart Food Safety Collaboration Center when OriginTrail got the Innovation Spark Award, Frank Yiannas from Walmart pointed out that the retailer is not chasing the blockchain, it is chasing food security. By that, he meant that they are not looking for a specific solution or provider, but for a multitude of applications that will help them ensure food security.

About the Incentive Model

Branimir presented the agile development cycle, with two releases planned per month. An importer based on the EPCIS GS1 standard was included in the latest release, along with the node incentive model. We are carefully listening to the community’s feedback on our development. Some community members were expecting us to take somewhat of a different route with Delegated Proof of Stake, but that would not have been a good fit for the use case that we have.

One of the major misconceptions we daily run into is that OriginTrail is building a blockchain. OriginTrail is actually building on top of the blockchain, so some things that apply to blockchains don’t apply to the protocol, such as the concept of transactions which are not the basic unit of functionality for the protocol. Branimir held an extensive Q&A with the community and further explanation about this is archived on Reddit.

Expansion Plans

Tomaz explained that requests for using the protocol are coming from all over the world. We are planning a network of regional offices or service providers that will help with the implementations on a local level. OriginTrail started in the food industry but is actively exploring other use cases, like services connected to supply chains like trade finance. Our new advisor Andrew Webster is bringing vast experience with this topic to the table. OriginTrail’s use can be very broad, but the team’s role is to enable and support implementations, so other service providers can create use cases that create tangible value in different industries. We are focused on creating a process that enables scalability.

Incentives for Running a Node

The incentive model presented is flexible and allows for everyone to set up the parameters for themselves to make their nodes profitable. A market bidding system will be further detailed in the following releases. Staking is necessary to ensure the security and stability of the network and it will be set per agreement, not as a large continuous stake. It’s a different type of incentive system because the protocol is different than the blockchain. In the blockchain, every node has a copy of the whole blockchain. In our solution, every node has a different set of data, so not every node can check another node. This enables flexibility of the OriginTrail Decentralized Network and the needed scale.

We have been receiving questions, such as “What if my node goes off and I lose the stake?”. The system will be built in such a way so as to ensure that does not happen. That was never the idea. At the same time, the system must prevent the node from tampering with data or keeping it hostage and not providing service. Agreements will be made on a data creator-data holder level.

Which Attributes Get Stored on the Network?

It depends on the use case — product visibility is the most common one. OriginTrail supports the EPCIS standard by the GS1 organization. We are already doing another use case with laboratory results data. It is also possible to build cases for trade finance, transaction data, etc. Triple-point accounting for balancing between organizations is a perspective use case. We are heavily focused on GS1 as the most standard data exchange format, but the protocol will support even emerging standards, such as for IoT. We are also members of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance, which is building blockchain standards for transportation and logistics.

The Trace token is the glue of the system. Decentralized networks need something to bring them together and enable the network effects. The token brings together the entire network. The utility of the token is focused on the protocol level where it delivers the value. Cases can be developed on top of the protocol. In the Trace ecosystem, Trace is the glue that holds everything together.

We will be holding more AMAs in the following weeks. Follow us on our channels to get updates right away!

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