Taraxa for trusted collaboration, our hardware & software applications, and more.
We keep sharing our outlook on auditable processes and confident data collection with the tech community — this time together with NULS and Phala in a virtual meetup on trusted data interaction.
The transcript of the event was edited for length and clarity.
Q. 1: Hey everyone, our next speaker is Steven Pu — CEO and Founder of Taraxa. Can you tell us a bit about your background in tech?
Hi everyone! It’s great to be here! Before founding Taraxa I was an associate partner in Strategy consulting at Monitor Deloitte and co-founded multiple startups in healthcare and IoT. I hold an undergraduate as well as master’s degrees in electrical engineering, both from Stanford University.
Q.2: What is Taraxa, and how does it contribute to the vision of trusted data in the enterprise?
SP: Taraxa is a decentralized infrastructure that enables trusted business collaboration with minimal coordination overhead. We built a highly scalable public ledger from scratch and are almost done with the first prototype of our application — a business collaboration platform that uses an immutable audit log to minimize confusion and disputes. It will prove useful for all sorts of organizations, especially those that have complex internal structures or working with overseas partners, or making that shift to the remote office.
Q. 3: How would you define trusted data interaction, and how is it different from conventional data interaction models?
SP: I wrote an article addressing just that specifically describing the types of guarantees that blockchain can give for various types of data. In a nutshell, the vast majority of the world’s data is off-chain and is only known to a few people. Therefore blockchain can by no means guarantee its veracity, i.e. if it’s actually true or not. Veracity can only be 100% guaranteed for on-chain generated data (e.g., cryptocurrencies), or guaranteed to a certain extent for data that’s generated off-chain, but known to a lot of people, such as weather conditions and stock market prices.
Taraxa is tackling the third type of data — the one that’s generated off-chain and is only known to a few because this is where most of the world’s data resides. In our application, we only guarantee immutability and provenance. Immutability comes naturally from blockchain-anchored proofs, while provenance comes from identity management based on public-key cryptography. Our application platform guarantees the auditability and traceability of all operational transactions, but not the actual veracity — which is impossible to guarantee.
Q. 5: That sounds very promising. But how does this translate to business exactly?
We believe that exchanging operational data between companies can be greatly facilitated when backed by an audit log. And while you can’t guarantee the veracity, you still can rely on data auditability. This property serves well to maintain accountability and trace facts and deeds, i.e. you will know for sure who entered fake data to the system, which then, in turn, enforces veracity.
I gave a lecture at Stanford’s electrical engineering club last month specifically addressing the issue of tradeoffs between the cost of acquiring operational data and the confidence people have in it. I touch on the phenomenon of the confidence gap that occurs when trying to share internal data with external partners. The current state of affairs in business is that you need a tremendous amount of time and money to make internal data sufficiently “believable” to be shared with external parties. Our platform is unique in the sense that it breaks this tradeoff — you can bridge the gap between the internally collected, messy data, and the 100% trusted, audited information practically at no cost.
Q. 6：Faced with the economic downturn and uncertainty caused by COVID, how can companies make the most of operational insights? And, more importantly, how can they capture that precious ops data?
First, let’s talk about the importance of operational data. For many years now the world’s economy has been changing at a rapid pace, driven by a mix of accelerating technological innovation and globalization. In order to survive in this new environment, businesses increasingly need access to operational data in the front-lines and be able to generate actionable insights there-from. Just having financial data is no longer enough, as most CFOs today will tell you they absolutely need to incorporate operational data in order to make accurate forecasts.
Most operational data today resides not in ERP or project management platforms. In fact, in a study done by Box, we see that less than 20% of the world’s business operational data resides in these highly structured platforms, with the rest stuck in baseline communication tools such as text or email. The reasons are very simple. First, most people do not like to learn complex software platforms where they are required to manually enter and structure operational information. Second, there is no reason to trust the data that has been entered, especially when dealing with large numbers of external partners and stakeholders. This problem has not really been addressed, as the world just keeps churning out more and more project management software platforms, a trend that just adds to the problem.
So we came up with a platform built on top of Taraxa protocol that allows users to stay within whatever baseline communication tool they like, while at the same time have a cryptographically signed audit trail anchored into the blockchain that allows everyone to be highly confident of the process. We believe this is the first step towards completely changing the way we collaborate and structure our economic activities as a whole.
Q7：Speaking of Taraxa’s existing IoT applications, you’ve already made some progress in the commercial implementation of hardware modules for edge devices. What connection does it have with the ‘Trusted Operational Data for the Enterprise’?
SP：The IoT part of Taraxa is actually an organic extension of operational software because ops data can come from anywhere — whether from the device or human inputs. So we aren’t really doing anything fundamentally different. It’s just that in one you have a piece of secure hardware (that we designed from scratch) that transmits and cryptographically signs the data, while in the other, it’s a person who does this through our platform.
Q.8: What are the biggest value props of the platform? And where do you think it will start getting traction first?
SP: We all see how COVID has sparked a push for virtual collaboration and remote office, and it is Taraxa’s first target market where we’re in an excellent position to add value by accelerating machine-driven automation as we all try to minimize human to human contact. From a purely commercial perspective, anything involving hardware tends to move slower. And given the corona crisis, along with the fact that hardware-related projects have to do with physical assets, we see purely software-driven applications growing much faster in the near term.
However, if you think ten or fifteen years from now, there will only be more and more automation and machines in the world. Hence, the market for connected devices will grow so much larger than human customers. Taraxa was conceived and designed in a way that it is capable of capturing data securely both from devices and humans. So our business development efforts are targeting both at the same time.