Aion: A non-technical explanation of Unity; June Showcase; Matt’s update on Unity economics, Transparency Report, and AVM Template Contracts
Biweekly update 3rd July — 17th July
Hello, Aion fans! The beginning of the month was a very productive time for the project! The team was burning the candle at both ends these weeks. The development is ongoing. The June Showcase is now live on the Aion Blog. Coverage includes Network Dashboard Improvements, Marketing, New Docs internal Alpha, Kernel modularity project, and Unity consensus economics and timelines. These weeks the project was immensely active on the social side. A new blog post “Unity Consensus — Zero to Hero” gives a non-technical explanation of how Aion’s upcoming hybrid consensus works. Aion Founder Matthew Spoke shared updates on Unity economics, Transparency Report, and AVM Template Contracts in his monthly video update. He and Aion featured (again) in Entrepreneur. Kesem Frank featured on CRYPTO 101 Podcast. Great new videos from Rebuild Conference which took place earlier this year in Toronto were published. The Aion community constantly grows and the ecosystem is impressive and it continues to flourish! Mike Mason, Aion Ecosystem Development, answers community questions in Aion official subreddit at the end of each week. David Winterstein, the Co-Founder and CEO of Velocia, a mobility rewards dApp on Aion which recently launched a closed-beta pilot in Miami, was Aion special guest for last week’s Reddit AMA. Aion Connect is live, and there are a lot of projects build on Aion. Developers have been working extremely hard over the period of the last weeks so many updates on ecosystem projects appeared. Poket Network has added AVM support to its mobile developer toolkits. Velocia earned a spot as a finalist in the Miami Public Space Challenge. Chaion released Makkii v1.0.0 mobile wallet with tons of new features, including multi-currency support. Pesabase by Kesho Labs attended African Blockchain Conference. Daniel Arulraj, the CEO and Co-Founder of Abstrakt will be speaking on addressing Key Management at Voice Of Blockchain in Chicago this September. What an incredible year and the next months will be even more interesting with Aion migration to Unity consensus! The future looks bright! Stay tuned for Aion Network updates in the coming weeks!
Developer activity (from Coinlib.io):
For the non-techies out there who want to learn how Unity works, the Aion team explains what makes this consensus algorithm tick! If you’re technically inclined, you can read the Unity pre-print.
Back in May, the team released the first draft for the Unity consensus algorithm; read this to learn more about why they’re excited about Unity and how it’s different from Aion’s current consensus. As implementation on Unity heads underway, the team wanted to answer the question that they most often get from the non-technical community: “how does Unity combine Proof of Stake (PoS) and Proof of Work (PoW)?”.
The authors assume you know what a Blockchain consensus algorithm is and at-least vaguely know the mechanics of Nakamoto’s consensus algorithm, popularly known as “Proof of Work” (PoW).
The first thing you need to know about Unity is that it’s a hybrid consensus. Depending on who you talk to, the term hybrid consensus carries a different meaning. In the context of Unity, hybrid describes the fact that both, the hash power produced by miners, and the stake owned by Aion coin holders, is combined into a mechanism that reaches consensus on the blockchain state.
They uses some simple abstractions, often employed in implementation, to describe key aspects of Unity consensus design:
- Block production algorithm: This algorithm decides who gets to add the next block to the blockchain.
- Fork choice rule (FCR): This algorithm decides which chain is “the right one”, if multiple chains are simultaneously proposed.
- Difficulty adjustment algorithm: This algorithm adjusts some system parameter called “difficulty”, to get you a target block time (e.g. 10 seconds in Aion).
Block Production Algorithm
Proof of Work Block Production
Let’s start with the example you’re most likely to be familiar with: Nakamoto consensus. Blocks are “produced” via a lottery; your chances of being chosen to propose a block at any given height depends on the hash power you own, in-proportion-to the rest of the network. Based on the difficulty parameter, you’re going to have to perform a certain number of hash operations to get a “hit”. If we draw a box around this mechanism and call it a “block production algorithm”, we can visualize it like so:
Proof of Stake Block Production
Proof of stake (PoS) is yet-another term, that can mean different things to different people. There are several different strategies in the wild to incorporate stake into a consensus algorithm in order to secure a blockchain. Unity uses a particular PoS strategy that simulates a randomly determined process, in the spirit of Nakamoto consensus.
Let’s try to understand this particular flavor of PoS in isolation, before we talk about how Unity hybridizes it with PoW. So, assume you have a pure PoS blockchain; in this blockchain, blocks are “produced” via a lottery; your chances of being chosen to propose a block at any given height depends on the “staking power” you own in-proportion-to the rest of the network. As a function of your secret key, proportion of stake in the network, last block and difficulty, you are assigned a time randomly according to some distribution. To “win” this lottery, you need to have the minimum amount of time of all the online stakers for that block height, andbe online to propagate this block in a timely manner. Again, we can visualize this process like so:
Look familiar? Just like mentioned before, this flavor of PoS mimics the dynamics of the proof of work algorithm most people are familiar with. Here lies the key to achieving the hybridization proposed by Unity.
Unity Block Production
What unity does, is that it runs the PoW and PoS algorithms concurrently! Since the PoS algorithm is tuned to produce blocks with the same distribution as PoW, blocks produced by both algorithms can be interleaved into one chain. We can visualize like so:
Notice that there is no order imposed on PoS and PoW block sequencing, but at the end of the animation, the number of PoS and PoW blocks equals each other.
The FCR and the Difficulty Adjustment Algorithms
The authors are not going dive into exactly how the FCR and the difficulty adjustment algorithms are specified to work (please read the paper to learn more); instead they focuses on the problems these algorithms solve in the context of this design and why they play a key role in making Unity tick.
Due to the randomness involved in the block production algorithm, at any given block height, we might have multiple chains that contend to be “main chain”. The Fork choice rule (FCR) in Unity is designed to efficiently choose some heaviest chain based on the combined difficulties of the PoW and PoS block production processes.
Another problem that comes up in this hybridization work is how to keep the block production fair between PoS and PoW (i.e. both processes produce 50% of the blocks over time). The Difficulty adjustment algorithm makes the distribution of blocks equal over time by targeting a block time for each block production algorithm that is twice the target block time (e.g. 20 seconds in Aion-Unity); this way, due to the way the conjectured distributions of the block production processes “add together”, you end up getting a block produced at the target block rate (e.g. 10 seconds in Aion-Unity).
Check out Unity Consensus Feedback Form.
Showcases are an opportunity for Aion Foundation teams to share progress they’ve made in the previous four week period. They come prepared with talking points in a consumable group format that covers a 10 minute period (presentation, demo, etc.) In attendance are the members of the presenting “pod” and all “pod leads”.
Disclaimer: Some of this content are in early stages of exploration and as a result are not always commitments to outcomes. Much of the content is sourced across the Aion ecosystem and is not controlled or managed by the Aion Foundation. Not all questions have answers immediately and teams take those questions back with them. Notes are not exhaustive and are purposefully raw.
As of this Showcase, the team has moved to a common format for presenting their work and proposed future work. Marketing also joined Showcase.
At the beginning of June The AVM hard fork has officially happened!
The team made the strategic decision to leave the JVM intact so they could fully leverage the mature ecosystem around it. Leaning on a hardened language like Java was crucial since a major obstacle for a business interested in Blockchain is the cost and time needed to train their teams on unfamiliar frameworks, languages, and tools. The AVM removes those obstacles and provides developers with a familiar and reliable development experience. The team is very excited about the projects already building on the AVM and can’t wait to see them go live. Aion strives to bring Blockchain to the mainstream and the AVM is the first big step towards that vision.
If you, or someone you know is interested in building a dApp on the AVM, check out the Aion Docs for free comprehensive tutorials and tools to get started.
Lastly, the team has written a few AVM-related articles over the last year you might have missed so if you want a deeper dive, check out:
Matt Spoke and Aion featured (again) in Entrepreneur. Spoke talks about taking big risks early. There was frequent uncertainty about whether a major roadblock would suddenly gut the company’s finances and stand in the way of operations. Luckily, right before Aion Foundation fell into total peril, an angel investor was able to swoop in. Spoke notes that over the last two and half years, his business raised $30 million in investments. Over time, Aion has gone from a software company servicing big enterprise companies to an open-source, non-profit foundation.
New videos from Rebuild conference:
Matt Spoke, CEO and Founder of Aion, explains Web 3.0 as a new design of the internet that prioritizes the individual user and enables new business models. As a complex, decentralized system Web 3.0 has implications of governance, politics, technology and economics. The vision is to create a new foundation for businesses to build in a different manner; reducing pre-existing frictions such as geography and currencies that currently inhibit commerce in crossing borders, and structuring businesses away from monopolistic tendencies.
Matt Spoke speaks about the original vision of Tim Berners Lee and the intended design of Web 3.0. Tim Berners Lee envisioned the internet as an enabler of global economic participation, a public service and a public utility. In its evolution, we have failed to achieve this vision and the internet now sits at a tipping point where it can be used as a force of control. Web 3.0 seeks to change the internet’s fundamental design, but not its use.
Blockchain Explained: Alex Tapscott explains how blockchain solves world issues including: requiring third parties in transactions, compromised user privacy, centralized data, and the exclusion of large portions of the population. Listen to Alex Tapscott, co-founder of the Blockchain Research Institute in Toronto and author of Blockchain Revolution, use his unique ability to translate technical jargon to present a straightforward explanation of what blockchains are and how it addresses these issues.
The Problem of Internet Surveillance in our Society: Robert McChesney calls out the major internet players who are consistently tracking, sharing and profiting off our data, while working hand in hand with government and military entities. The change of protocol in 1990s caused by commercial pressures and government agencies has allowed mass surveillance to become the business model for the internet. This model creates an environment where users alter their behaviour online under assumption they are always being monitored. While these “great giants” hold entire profiles of our data and operate with unaccountable power.
Myths of Privacy: “If you have nothing to hide, then you’ve got nothing to fear” has become a common, yet misleading response to questions surrounding mass surveillance. Ann Cavoukian, three term privacy commissioner of Ontario, Ryerson University Professor, and author, dispels the myths associated with privacy. Speaking to freedom of choice and control over the use of your personal data.
- Weekly Community AMA — Week ending July 12: Mike Mason (Aion Ecosystem Development) answers community questions here at the end of each week!
- David Winterstein, the Co-Founder and CEO of Velocia, a mobility rewards dApp on Aion which recently launched a closed-beta pilot in Miami, was Aion special guest for last week’s Reddit AMA!
Token holders and the number of transactions dynamics (from Aion Explorer):
There is a stable slight grows in the number of token-holders these weeks.
Information from Coinmarketcap.com:
Phase 2: Denali
- Aion Virtual Machine (AVM) Version 1
This AVM is a custom-built, lightweight, performant, and stable VM that leverages key characteristics of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), providing concurrency and robustness within a blockchain-specific context. The AVM is responsible for running applications on top of Aion. The AVM will include its own scripting language.
- Aion Scripting Language
The Aion scripting language is used for writing chain logic that runs on Aion-Everest and potentially any connecting/participating network. The Aion language is compiled into AVM bytecode and executed by the AVM. The Aion language provides the following features: Defensive programming, Blockchain runtime environment, Blockchain context injection, Security.
- Proof-of-Intelligence Consensus Algorithm
An economic measure to deter denial of service attacks by requiring participants, solvers in Aion-Everest, to perform artificial intelligence (AI) computation. The intent is to motivate the creation of AI-specific or specialized hardware that could be used for machine learning and neural network training in the future.
Phase 3: Everest 2019
- Participating Network Bridging
The generic bridge protocol is designed to enable the atomic movement of value and data between heterogeneous networks. This will enable the development of cross-blockchain contract logic and free-floating token supplies.
- Complete Validator Nomination
The Hybrid DPoS / PoI consensus mechanism aims to achieve high performance while providing a fair and decentralized validator set. This is achieved through a token staking system and partly through a novel verification algorithm based on concepts used in modern neural networks called Proof-of- Intelligence.
- Aion Virtual Machine (AVM) Version 2
• Q4: Unity Consensus (PoW/PoS hybrid)
“Blockchain Interviews” by CryptoCoinShow — Alex McDougall, CIO of Bicameral Ventures
Daniel Arulraj, the CEO and Co-Founder of Abstrakt will be speaking on addressing Key Management at Voice Of Blockchain in Chicago this September.
Projects Building on Aion:
• Digital Liquidity Factory
• THÉO (theoproject.io) (with Syná wallets)
• Agora (beta.agora.theoproject.io)
• Spiro (centrys.io/enterprise)
See also Aion Connect.
Game-changing blockchain investment. Part 1: Identifying use cases: Happy to see such positive coverage this past weekend featuring a case study on Velocia with insights from Bicameral Ventures. A couple of great partners building real world value on Aion.
Aion Review: The Interoperable dApp Development Platform on Coinbureau.com
Social media metrics
Aion Community Commitment: a few initiatives that will involve participation from everyone and enable two-way communication.
Social media activity:
Social media dynamics:
There is a slight fluctuation in the number of subscribers of Aion social media channels.
Twitter — Average number of retweets is 15–30 for one post. The number of followers has increased by 5 thousand over the last week.
Facebook — 10–15 likes per publication.
Reddit — Threads with 2–10 comments. The community is quite active discussing latest news, development, mining, token price and possible partnerships.
The graph above shows the dynamics of changes in the number of Aion Reddit subscribers, Twitter followers and Facebook likes. The information is taken from Coingecko.com.
Aion Community is the new unofficial community-run Telegram channel for humor, memes, and trading discussion.
New Developer Subreddit — r/AIONgineering.
Discord — Active discussions on the latest updates and mining.
Aion forum — Discussions on mining, news, network statistics etc.
Global Telegram Channels:
Korea — Kakao chat
Russia — @AionNetworkRU
Poland — @Aion_Poland
Spanish — @AionNetworkES
Kenya — @AionKenya
Netherlands/Belgium — @AionBenelux