Basic Principles For Governance In Decentralized Systems

Decentralized systems, such as blockchain networks, come with some major challenges regarding their governance frameworks. Whereas centralized systems, such as typical enterprises, are typically organised as hierarchical structures with top-down processes, blockchains lack a central authority that sets the rules and acts as the ultimate policymaker. In a blockchain network, all participants (full nodes) decide upon the architecture and the processes in a decentralized way, defined by a governance model, set-up by the participants themselves.

Whereas public blockchains are open to the public, i.e. everybody can download a client and participate in the network, the members of private networks decide who can join as a new member. The consensus mechanisms are the rules that define how information is added and how the network’s participants can work together in the network. Many public networks rely on Proof-of-Work (PoW) that requires some work from the nodes, usually meaning processing time, in order to prove that effort has been invested to qualify for the right to decide what is the truth. In most private networks, other consensus mechanisms, such as Proof-of-Authority (PoA), or Proof-of-Stake (PoS) are used. In these cases, the network’s participants agree upon a governance model defining the processes within the networks. PoA and PoS don’t depend on nodes solving arbitrarily difficult mathematical problems, but instead use a set of authorities – nodes that are explicitly allowed to create new blocks and secure the blockchain (in the case of PoA), or the creator of the next block is chosen via various combinations of random selection and wealth or age – the stake (in case of PoS).

Governance of decentralized systems is a matter of hot debate on conferences and in technological, as well as political and sociological circles. Without claiming to discuss this topic in its entirety in this post, based on our practical experiences creating and working with blockchain networks, we want to point out three basic principles for governance models for decentralized systems:

1. Ability of self-regulation

Every decentralized system starts in a centralized way: an individual or a group of people have the idea to create the network and start by designing its architecture and processes. Given the human nature, even in the best case, this network will be designed based on the beliefs and convictions of its founding members – but not necessarily matching the requirements of its future members, let alone future challenges caused by social-technological change.

In order to design the network in a resilient, future-proof way, its most important design principle is an inherent self-regulation ability: based on the to-be-defined rules the network‘s members can re-define their rule set, beginning with the elementary governance principles. As important as the general ability to self-regulate, is the process that defines the conditions under which this self-regulation takes place. As in any democratic process, a major challenge lies in motivating the system‘s members to actively participate in the formation of opinion.

2. Based on accepted regulatory frameworks

Blockchain technology itself is quite new: with the advent of Ethereum‘s smart contracts, these distributed ledgers could be applied to industrial use cases. However, the basic functionalities of a database and a ledger are well known and are also provided by traditional software offerings.

When blockchains are introduced in enterprises, they come across their legacy forefathers – and – the legal and regulatory frameworks the legacy systems are embedded in. Some of these frameworks, such as the open source modelling framework Eclipse (EMF), are well known and accepted in their respective industries. Often, enterprises have invested significant resources to check which framework works best – in a functional, and in a legal sense.

For a wider acceptance of new breed of decentralized ledger technologies, it makes sense to adopt basic elements of existing and already accepted legacy frameworks. If a blockchain solution comes with a governance model based on an accepted model, they are easier to handle by the company‘s legal department. As so often, it‘s easier to sell innovation if it comes with a pinch of familiarity.

3. Integrated incentive scheme

Whereas the above-mentioned self-regulation and familiarity aspects are necessary conditions of decentralized governance models, a frictionless integrated incentive scheme is the sufficient condition: any decentralized system will exclusively work if a sufficient number of network participants feel permanently motivated to add their inputs to the system. In other words: each individual member must be incentivized to constantly add value to the network.

The essence of any efficient incentive scheme is a monetary incentive that is positively correlated with the respective participant‘s efforts: the more value I add, the more value I get. Ideally, the incentive evolves in parallel to the system; i.e. depending on the network’s development the incentive adapts, accordingly.

Of course, there are many other elements of efficient decentralized governance models. However, we regard the above mentioned as key aspects. In cooperation with a team of the European Blockchain Association, we have developed a blockchain-based governance model that inherits these elements. In our first 2019 Blockchain Meetup, on 22 January, we will present and discuss this model in public. Afterwards, the first clients can plug themselves in and make use of this model in a Governance-as-a-Service scheme.

XSC Wallet Driven Crypto Payments Available at the FI-Forum

The success story of the XSC Wallet continues as Datarella, for the second conference this year, offered visitors of the FI-Forum the possibility to use the XSC Wallet. This builds upon the our XSC Wallet deployment at the the DAHO.AM conference last July.

The Fi-Forum is the trade fair of Finanz Informatik, the IT service provider of the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe. IT solutions, innovations and new services are presented there each year. There were also more than 90 speeches and a parallel hackathon with interesting topics to be addressed. 

At the fair, visitors got XSC Coins in their own private event-wallet which they could spend on merchandising products such as powerbanks, bags and notebooks, generously provided by partner ZEB (zeb.rolfes.schierenbeck.associates GmbH). To do so, the visitors only had to download the wallet from the App Store or from Google Play. They were instantly rewarded with XSC Coins which they could spend on the goodies. The ease of use and rapid transaction execution often opened a new and more positive view on crypto payment. Moreover people who didn’t spend all of their XSC were regularly asked by others to send them the unused XSC to their wallet in order to buy extra goodies. 

Together with ZEB, we held many discussions with prospects about topics such as blockchain-based financial systems, crypto payments and the future challenges of this technology.

A big thank you to the Finanz Informatik and ZEB for making it possible to help visitors explore the world of crypto payments by using the XSC Wallet on the Fi-Forum.

Deepening Blockchain Governance Toolkit with Two-Factor Authentication 2FA

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Datarella demoed a new PoC for off-chain governance with our friends from tyntec at the TADSummit in Lisbon, Portugal this week. Using tyntec’s 2FA service we were able to demonstrate a proof of concept for using strong authenication to secure an Ethereum transaction. This is one elementary piece of the puzzle for creating robust governance structures for the blockchain.

What’s blocking the blockchain from going mainstream? Datarella and tyntec at TADSummit Lisbon 2018

One of the main issues holding back adoption of blockchain-based applications is that we’re still at a pretty basic level when it comes to governance.  Much ink has been spilled over the parity multisig wallet bug and the hack of the DAO. The exact causes of those incidents are beyond the scope of this article but both have to do with complexity and with finality.

One of the major selling points of Ethereum it utilizes the solidity programming language, which is Turing complete. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because this makes it technically possible to build very complex smart contracts which are capable of doing just about anything – that’s a big part of the promise of blockchain. The curse part of the equation is the fact that these complex programs may have unforseen bugs which end up irrevocably committing transactions on a large scale to public blockchains.  This is where finality comes into play. Once approved Ethereum transactions are subject to increasing probabilistic finality. 

In layman’s terms this means that there are no chargebacks, no refunds, no do overs and no room for error. The combination of complexity and probabilistic finality means that if we want to build blockchain applications that are ready for mass adoption we will need significantly improved safeguards and governance before transactions are committed to the blockchain.

In order to be useful, systems that transfer value have to exhibit some kind of finality. When you use a credit card to purchase a latte at your local store the money is transferred on a centralized ledger maintained by visa or mastercard. The money stays transferred unless there is a dispute. If you discover fraudulent charges on your card you just call your bank and prove your identity.  They roll back the charges on your account and an insurer takes care of the damage done. In other words, in the credit card system, finality is limited but sufficient and flexible. In the blockchain world what you commit to the chain remains on the chain. If you loose your private key or a bug in some complex code allows an unintended value transfer, it’s game over.

We can’t change the finality of blockchain and in most public cases we don’t want to. What would be nice is if we could put additonal controls on what the holder of a private key can do. This is useful as a component of our developing blockchain governance toolkit in a number of situations.

Some example use cases:

  • Resetting access to a wallet
  • Restricting malicous transaction attempts
  • Enabling multiparty quorum transactions without relying on complex on-chain multisig wallets
  • Off-chain voting mechanisms

Take a look at the video of the demo above. What we’ve implemented is a smart contract which requires a one time password provided by the tyntec 2FA API in addition to the private key before any transaction can be finalized on-chain. This opens the door to all sorts of governace options which we’re working on for our product RAAY and as part of the Codelegit arbitration libraries which we provide to the Blockchain Arbitration Forum.

We’d like to thank the awesome team of tyntec for their continuing collaboration on this. We’re really looking forward to the role such tech can play in moving blockchain-based governance procedures forward.

RAW Coin – A Joint Venture Between Wirecard And Datarella

Providing seamless B2B payments by connecting state-of-the-art payments infrastructure from Wirecard with battle-proven blockchain technology from Datarella.

Earlier this year, Datarella and Wirecard AG started a collaboration around a couple of blockchain projects. One of them was RAW coin, the trading of commodities made more efficient through the usage of blockchain.

We started by a thorough analysis of various commodity supply and trade chains, which led us to find the following challenges of supply chains:

  • rising pressure from global competition
  • many intermediaries and complex governance structures
  • the end-consumer is demanding ever-higher levels of transparency
  • struggle for supply chain stakeholders to maintain an adequate overview of their networks and the supply costs associated
  • difficulty to ensure the quality and integrity of raw materials

We decided to narrow the PoC down to one specific use case, namely coffee beans. The reason for this is not simply that we’re huge fans of (good) coffee, but actually, coffee is the second most sought after commodity after crude oil, globally. It has a trading volume of $100B per year and is grown in 50 countries (in some of which Wirecard offers financial services). Finally, the coffee supply chain has a large number of middle men and intermediaries adding marginal value but capturing a large amount of the end-price paid by consumers.

The coffee supply chain as it looks currently.

The basic idea of RAW.coin is to digitise trading mechanisms and replace middlemen. As a larger vision, we aim to establish the RAW.coin network to become the ecosystem for supply chains, ensuring the origin, quality, compliance and proper handling of items tracked by the network.

What the solution does is to connect the Producer and the Importer while providing a marketplace where any commodities can be traded. It’s based on Ethereum, using smart contracts and a modern decentralised architecture. We implemented smart contracts to represent the terms and conditions of the network as well as enforcing them at the same time through automation. Additionally, we integrated with Wirecard to provide truly seamless B2B payments and fiat interactions. All transactions are done using the cryptocurrency RAW, but which can be immediately exchanged into fiat using the Wirecard Gateway API.

The Product Journey of RAW.coin.

This is an actual screenshot of the current product:

RAW.coin as an application, prom the point of view of a Producer.

We are currently inquiring into the best way to scale up and apply it to other commodities and in which markets. If you wish to learn more, tweet us at @datarella or contact us!

Blockchain Project in Humanitarian Supply Chain – Datarella and UK Gov. DFID

We at Datarella are very proud to announce that we will work with the British Government Department for International Development (DFID) to develop a pilot project on the topic of “Blockchain in Humanitarian Supply Chains“!

The project is supported by the DFID innovation and future technologies programme, Frontier Technology Livestreaming. They source ways of improving how DFID works across the world using new technologies from DFID staff. Naturally, blockchain is one of those technologies, and supply chain operations is a very applicable area for this technology for three main reasons:

1. Transparency – Humanitarian supply chains could benefit from having the right tools to achieve increased transparency in a secure manner. More transparency could also facilitate collaboration across organisations.

2. Efficiency – If the operatives working at organisations in DFID and similar organisations (e.g. USAID, the UN World Food Programme, etc.) could rely more on the quality of data, they could focus on other matters. This could contribute to decreased “shrinkage” and thus improved efficiency as more goods are delivered to those in need.

3. Collaboration – Having a shared database of goods, shipments and importantly accountability, where many can write and read, but not change the history, is an ideal setup for collaboration. This could enable the creation of standards for data models and improved service to both those funding (mostly tax payers) and those on the receiving end.

With these prerequisites in mind, we are looking forward to the coming phases and sprints of the pilot where we will implement a live blockchain solution, hopefully of great use to many people, especially those in need of immediate and unconditional aid.

The project consists of building a blockchain-based system to track a shipment of plastic sheeting shelter kits (try to say that ten times in a row) from an offshore warehouse, by multiple logistics service providers to a country where they are needed. There they have to be cleared through customs, meaning that a consignee will need to assume responsibility for the shipment. This will also be tracked using a smart contract. Thereafter, a so-called implementing partner will start transporting and deploying the kits within the country.

If you have experience or are interested in learning more about this project and blockchain in humanitarian supply chains, feel free to @ @mountbranch or @datarella on twitter! Also, here’s a link to a Medium post by FTL themselves about the initial phase of the project!

Krypto AG acquires stake in Blockchain Solutions Provider Datarella GmbH

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Munich/Berlin, 07 September, 2018

Today, Datarella is welcoming a new shareholder, Krypto AG (www.krypto.ag).

Krypto AG is a listed company in Germany which has its registered office in Berlin. The company is a reputable and leading infrastructure provider in the field of blockchain technology.

The combined goal of Krypto AG and Datarella is to support its customers in leveraging the technological benefits of blockchain as well as investors in investing in the new asset class cryptocurrency.

“The Krypto AG team adds valuable expertise in the field of cryptocurrencies and ICOs to the existing blockchain business of Datarella, especially in our strategic key areas, the mobility and finance industries.”, says Michael Reuter, CEO of Datarella. Tobias Schröder, Board Member of Krypto AG: “We are very happy to join Datarella with its unparalleled track record in real-life blockchain projects in order to strengthen our portfolio.“

Customers of Datarella and Krypto AG will immediately benefit from this unique combination of sound technological blockchain expertise and an in-depth knowledge of cryptocurrencies. With offices in Munich and Berlin, Datarella is present in Germany’s crypto hot spots and  addresses both, the vivid Berlin community and the powerful Munich area corporate business.

About Datarella:

Datarella develops bespoke blockchain-based innovations for and together with its clients, providing full service consulting, development and implementation for business applications based on blockchain technology. Datarella’s new operating system for banking, RAAY, enables players of the financial industry to create new financial products profiting from benefits of blockchain technology. RAAY is inspired by designing, building and deploying the blockchain-based accounting and payment system Building Blocks for the United Nations World Food Programme.

About Krypto AG:

Krypto AG is an investment group focusing on blockchain technologies and investments in the areas Technology & Development (Datarella GmbH, Helix Cognitive Computing GmbH), Advisory & Consulting (Krypto Management Consulting GmbH) as well as Education & Communities (KryptoEducation GmbH). The Berlin-based company invests in a broad portfolio and strategically develops its investments. Krypto AG creates value for its investors and contributes to the growth of the blockchain ecosystem.

Getting Results: Blockchain Mobility Hackathon Solutions Map

Blockchained Mobility Hackathon

The Blockchained Mobility Hackathon on the weekend of July 20-22 saw a flurry of innovation by a colorful mix of corporate and independent hackers along with some of the world’s biggest mobility players. In order to visualize the PoCs presented, we’ve built an interactive infographic.  

Building a blockchain mobility ecosystem with multiple distributed ledger technologies is a complex task that will require the smartest minds among us over a number of years. To that end, we asked each of the hacker teams competing at the Blockchained Mobility Hackathon to locate their prototype within a specific point in the tech stack as part of a future mobility user journey. In the infographic above, you can click to explore each of the PoCs presented and see immediately where the solution fits into the big picture for blockchained mobility. 

Embedded in the infographic you’ll also find the results for each team including videos of the final pitches, team interviews about next steps and you can even drill down into the code with direct access to the repositories from each team. Click the image now to expand the infographic and navigate to detailed information about each teams results.

We’re working hard to move toward the development of a mobility future where everyone can compete and collaborate by leveraging blockchain and distributed ledger technology across the mobility industry. Thank you to all of the participants and sponsors of the Blockchained Mobility Hackathon 2018! This is just the beginning.

Team Evan Network – Blockchained Mobility Hackathon

Mobility-As-A Service Platform

Q: Your project in 1 sentence?

A: Mobility as a service (MaaS) through connecting Ethereum smart contracts with Datastreams on IOTA.

Q: What problem does your project solve?

A: We wanted to develop a case in the field of autonomous urban air mobility, better known for example as the concept of air taxis. In order to implement such an autonomous mobility concept, you have to bring together different partners. Making an air taxi fly is actually a bit more complicated than sending an autonomous car into traffic. Because you need some very important permission before you are allowed to start.

There is, for example, the flight control that has to check all the details of your flight to make sure that there is no other vehicle on the same route. Or the weather forecast service telling you if the conditions are okay for your flight. In addition to the permits, there are also other stakeholders, who should be integrated into the process. What about the insurance company offering real time insurance conditions depending on how much passengers you have and how long your flight will take? Or the booking platform where everybody can book easily his flight in an air taxi? So, at the end, it just makes sense to involve all parties in smart contracts on blockchain to automate as much processes as possible. And this is what we did.

Q: What expertise and roles do your team members have?

A: In our team we were one designer and two backend developers with numerous experiences in blockchain projects.

Q: Which technologies do you use for which purposes?

A: Mainly we used all kind of Ethereum based smart contracts, to bring the different participants together on a decentralized network. To get real time data of the air taxi we used the data streaming technology of IOTA. In our case, we created a process that opens a new data stream automatically in the moment in which the air taxi starts. From this point on we push the data stream in our Ethereum based smart contracts. To show the connection between IOTA and Ethereum, we used the data of the battery of the air taxi. The battery will be a very critical point for every autonomous process in the future. Because, while the air taxi is flying, the partners around, like for example the market places where you can book your air taxi, need the information when the air taxi will be available again for the next flight. And that is highly depended on the current status of the battery. So, to know in advance how long the air taxi has to charge after the flight before it can go back in the air, you need real time information about the battery condition.

Q: How do you plan to proceed with your project?

A: We will use the developed demo to show, what type of use cases you can implement at evan.network.

Team MeshUp – Blockchained Mobility Hackathon

An open IOT messaging service based on IOTA for nearby vehicles and infrastructure to communicate.

Q: What problem does your project solve?

A:Currently there is no broadly used method for smart infrastructure and vehicles from different manufacturers to communicate hindering progress in smart traffic management, accident avoidance and autonomous driving.

Q: What expertise and roles do your team members have?

A: Designer, Business Practitioner, Back- End Developers, Front End Developer

Q: Which technologies do you use for which purposes?

A: IOTA as the distributed ledger for recording the messages, Javascript services for messaging clients, Vue JS and UIkit for the demonstrator interface.

Q: How do you plan to proceed with your project?

Tricky question. Still thinking about that. We got really positive feedback even though we did not win.

Team Homomorphic Blockchain – Blockchained Mobility Hackathon

Location detection with full privacy on Blockchain.

Q: What problem does your project solve?

A:All data in Blockchain open, so personal data (e.g. location data) can’t be stored on blockchain. With homomorphic encryption the data are computably stored on blockchain.

Q: What expertise and roles do your team members have?

A: Back-End Developer, App-Developer, Business Innovation

Q: Which technologies do you use for which purposes?

A: .Net, homomorphic encryption (used SEAL), iota tangle, runtastic data, bing maps to visualize

Q: How do you plan to proceed with your project?

A: Investigation for further use cases like speed calculation, mobile app, ?