Skynet Open Network — An Integrated Solution for Large-scale Intelligent IoT Interconnection

Imagine a world in which intelligent devices can interact autonomously and securely at a large-scale. Billions of identifiable devices participate effortlessly in a global machine to machine (M2M) economy. This has long been the vision of the Internet of Things (IoT), creating self-organizing networks of artificial intelligence (AI).

Blockchain technology is considered a strong candidate for providing a secure data bus and payment channel to make this possible. However, current blockchain technology simply lacks the performance and scalability to make to this happen.

The Skynet project, recently launched by the OpenSingularity Foundation, aims to change this. The system consists of a combination of a system-on-a-chip core optimized for artificial intelligence and blockchain applications and a highly-scalable blockchain solution.

An Intelligent Network of Machines

Science fiction movies such as The Terminator picture a network of intelligent machines as a threat to humanity. However, in reality, AI and IoT give rise to many beneficial applications. This is not to say that such a vision is free from risks and troubling side-effects. Cybersecurity and privacy concerns have to be taken seriously.

Distributed Ledger Technology, brought into existence with Bitcoin in 2009, can provide a secure and trusted communication layer for a safe network of interconnected IoT devices. Blockchains can provide solutions for device identity, secure decentralized micro-payments and trusted communication with guaranteed data integrity.

Such a trusted infrastructure needs to support very high transaction-throughputs, almost instant transaction confirmation, and almost infinite scalability in terms of the number of devices supported. No current blockchain provides these guarantees, although recent advances in blockchain protocols have laid down the groundwork to make such systems possible.

Skynet combines innovative solutions for scalable distributed ledger networks with purpose-built hardware to create an IoT-ready high transaction throughput architecture of unprecedented scale.

Skynet Core

At the heart of Skynet is Skynet Core, a purpose-built chip that implements a system-on-a-chip (SoC) optimized for blockchain and AI applications. The chip uses a 32-bit or 64-bit RISC-V core, depending on the version chosen and contains patent-pending technology to provide the following blockchain specific components:

  • Hardware cryptocurrency wallet: Key management and wallet security issues are one of the main reasons cryptocurrency funds are lost. Connected devices hosting wallets for M2M interactions are exposed to external attack vectors. Integrated hardware wallet support, similar to those provided by Ledger, provides an on-chip level of security for key management. However, to provide true M2M payment capabilities, the Skynet Core includes an automated permission system and AI authentication.
  • Hash Acceleration: Amongst the most common algorithms in blockchain technology, cryptographic hash functions stand out. For this reason, Skynet Core includes on-chip SHA-256 acceleration.
  • Automated Transaction Signing: Devices connected via blockchain communicate through transactions. To facilitate this, Skynet Core includes automated transaction signing, allowing the sources of all blockchain interactions to be clearly identifiable.

In order to support intelligent devices supporting deep learning applications, high-end versions of the chip will also contain tensor processing units and tensor processor arrays. These features allow the efficient execution of complex deep learning-based AI models.

Importantly, Skynet Core will be released under a license-free model, allowing SoC manufacturers to create implementations of the chip and bundle them with their solutions.

Skynet Open Network (SON)

Using a blockchain layer for IoT device interaction has several advantages. First of all, devices are always clearly identified and the integrity of the data they interchange can always be verified. In addition, devices can build a reputation based on past transactions. Devices may distribute loads and share data and use M2M micro-payments to be rewarded for their services.

To facilitate this global blockchain-backed network of connected devices, Skynet provides a highly scalable blockchain network called the Skynet Open Network (SON).

SON implements a multi-chain approach, which combines multiple blockchains integrated via a root blockchain.

SON Fabric is the root blockchain, which can be used to integrate a large number of blockchains. Initially, three other sub-ledgers form part of the SON:

  • SON Nova is an Ethereum compatible smart contract platform that allows the creation of decentralized applications.
  • SON Idex provides a device identity solution capable of providing secure node discovery and IoT device management.
  • SON Singularity is a sub-chain aimed at providing an AI knowledge network consisting of decentralized machine learning applications and a marketplace allowing data sharing between devices.

Based on Tendermint Core, SON blockchains use a highly efficient combination of Delegated Point of Stake (DPoS) and Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) consensus. The Skynet native staking token can be staked to elect 100 to 500 delegates on the SON Fabric chain. The delegates engage in an adapted BFT voting protocol, which provides sub-second block finality, meaning transactions are confirmed within less than a second. Note, that in contrast to proof of work blockchains, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, SON’s BFT consensus protocol actually provides transaction finality. This means that once consensus is reached the block is final. PoW chains do not provide this property. Instead, the chain may fork occasionally, and the finality of a transaction is probabilistic. The more blocks are added to the chain, the less likely it is an alternative fork “wins out” undoing the transaction history. This is the reason why it is usually recommended to wait for six new blocks before assuming a Bitcoin transaction to be confirmed (approximately one hour). The Skynet Open Network does not suffer from this limitation.

Note, that the Skynet token in SON is only used for staking. SON also provides Light, a native cryptocurrency used for block rewards and fees. Light is used by Nova and Idex and can also be leveraged by other IoT chains that do not wish to implement their own token.

Sub-chains connected to SON Fabric are called IoT chains and use a proof of stake protocol. These chains must have at least four but can have any maximum number of validator nodes. A Go language Fabric SDK facilitates the implementation of IoT chains. The Fabric chain keeps track of the IoT chains’ tokens and enables cross-chain communications.

A complete End-to-End Solution

Skynet is a complete solution for a decentralized network for intelligent IoT devices at large scale. A highly scalable multichain distributed ledger solution is combined with specific blockchain and AI-enabled hardware to allow secure M2M collaboration for self-organizing knowledge networks.

The future of an intelligent network of machines might not look like in The Terminator but has never been closer to being accomplished.