I want people to open their eyes and see there is more than just ICOs and classic blockchains. A lot of cool projects are pushing the boundaries of distributed ledger technology in different kind of ways. Let’s explore the most innovative things out there.
1. Cosmos — Multi-asset Distributed Ledger
Cosmos is a novel answer to “sidechains,” which aims to enable users to traverse a galaxy of blockchains with ease. Cosmos wants to offer multiple parallel blockchains to interoperate while retaining their security properties. Cosmos is focussed on interoperability between blockchains and a low-energy consuming version of a blockchain with great scaling flexibility.
Cosmos makes use of a hub that connects different zones. A Hub hosts a multi-asset distributed ledger, where tokens can be held by both users or zones. The cool thing here is that it’s possible to move tokens from one zone to one another. This is again accomplished through IBC communication of a coin packet. Basically, the Hub is as well a routing mechanism. A Zone is an independent blockchain that is capable of exchanging these IBC (inter blockchain communication) messages with the corresponding Hub.
2. Komodo — Atomic Swap
Atomic swaps, or atomic cross-chain trading, is the exchange of one cryptocurrency to another cryptocurrency, without the need to trust a third-party. A relatively new piece of technology, atomic cross-chain trading is looking to revolutionize the way in which users transact with each other. For example, if Alice owned 5 Bitcoins but instead wanted 100 Litecoins, she would have to go through an exchange, i.e. a third-party. However, with atomic swaps, if Bob owned 100 Litecoins but instead wanted 5 Bitcoins, then Bob and Alice could make a trade. — Source: cryptocompare.com
Komodo has already accomplished some successful atomic swaps between several currencies. Atomic swap technology is for the moment only possible between blockchains that implement the same hashing algorithm, although, the real challenge is to perform an atomic swap between different algorithms.
3. Waves-NG — Clever Selection Algorithm For Fastest DEX
Waves-NG is simply a clever selection algorithm. Think about submitting a transaction to the Bitcoin network. Generally, it takes up to 10 minutes before a miner is elected to mine the next block including new transactions. In case of a large backlog, not all pending transactions fit into the ready-to-mine block. That means you have to wait for another 10 minutes and hope your transaction gets included in the next block. Waves-NG optimizes this process by selecting a miner in advance so that transactions can be added to the next block more or less instantly. Using Waves-NG, the only, minimal, delay a transaction may experience is the time it takes for the transaction to be broadcast across the network.
Higher volumes are now possible with the Waves-NG consensus mechanism for the Waves DEX. This new consensus mechanism is capable of reaching a throughput of around 6,000 transactions per minute or 100 transactions per second, rather than bitcoin’s 5–7 TPS.
iOlite offers a platform to create smart contracts using any language, programming or natural.
They are satisfying the public demand for an easy solution to bridge gaps between the blockchain and other programmable environments. iOlite is developing an engine which can quickly translate any language into a smart contract.
iOlite is using a Fast Adaptation Engine (FAE), derived from the Stanford NLP engine, which is focussed on machine training by a community of experts. Solidity experts can natural language structures and attach them to Solidity code. It’s a fully community-driven approach combined with the power of natural language processing and machine training making the engine smarter so it can understand more complex language for generating contracts.
Let’s go through an easy example to show the strength of the engine: We tell it we are writing in English, and we want a Solidity smart contract as the output. If you wanted to sell your house, all you have to do is write: “I want to transfer my house to a new owner when this person offers an amount of $330,000 or more. Sign the document with my signature or private key and request a signature from the buyer. When the buyer signs the agreement, transfer the property rights and register this transfer. Done!”
Requesting a smart contract is free, however, the contributors are rewarded with iOlite tokens (iLT) for each time a piece of code they wrote is used.
5. NuCypher — The TLS/SSL of the decentralized internet
In a decentralized world, traditional encryption and access control won’t be enough. Today, internet security is architected around a trusted central server and multiple clients connecting to it. The server encrypts everything it sends to the clients with session keys and enforces access controls. But in a decentralized world, there is no central server you can trust!
Privacy, and the storing, sharing, and manipulating of private data in public consensus networks like Ethereum has proven a significant challenge.
They’ve architected and designed the NuCypher Network to solve this problem. Using proxy re-encryption, NuCypher provides decentralized key management, secrets management, and cryptographic access control.
More information: nucypher.com
6. Hashgraph — Gossip about Gossip & Virtual Voting
Hashgraph is a blockchain-alternative that achieves high scalability without sacrificing security. It has been proven to handle hundreds of thousands of tx/s in a single network and is expected to do millions of tx/s with sharding. Hashgraph makes use of “Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT)”. A very secure version of BFT.
Hashgraph uses two unique techniques ‘Gossip about Gossip’ and ‘Virtual Voting’ to achieve a fast, secure, and fair consensus.
‘Gossip’ is a commonly used term in computer science, which can be defined as calling any random node and telling that node everything you know, that it doesn’t already know. For example, node A gossips event A to node B. Next, node B gossips event A from node A but also an additional event created by himself. So, we are actually broadcasting the gossip history as well, which is referred to as ‘gossip about gossip’.
Once this gossiping processing has finished, every node knows what information each node has because of this gossip history which enables them to perform ‘virtual voting’ where nothing is broadcasted. This low bandwidth usage allows Hashgraph to reach very high transaction throughput.
Read more / source: cointelligence.com
7. Enigma — Secret Contracts
Blockchain technology has the power to disrupt the future of technology, but not at its current state. A blockchain exposes all data to anyone. Privacy is much needed if we want blockchain to be widely adopted. Guy Zyskind, CEO of Enigma, saw this problem as an opportunity. He wrote a groundbreaking MIT thesis titled ‘Efficient secure computation enabled by blockchain technology’. The Enigma project solves blockchain’s scalability and privacy issues from the protocol level by creating a second-layer, off-chain network using “secret contracts,” allowing data to be processed by nodes while being kept private. — Source: cointelligence.com
8. DAG (Tangle) — IOTA, Nano, and Byteball
A directed acyclic graph (DAG) or Tangle doesn’t use the principle of linking bulky blocks to each other. Instead, a tangle builds a graph of transactions which reference older transactions and therefore can confirm transactions immediately as they are received by a node, instead of having to wait for the next block. In theory, this enables parallel verification of transactions.
To simply put Tendermint is a software which can be used to achieve Byzantine fault tolerance (BFT) in any distributed computing platforms. BFT is not a new technology, however, Tendermint is focussed on blockchain related features.
Tendermint consists of two main components: an Application Blockchain Interface (ABCI) and a blockchain consensus engine, called Tendermint Core. Tendermint Core ensures all transactions are recorded in the exact same way on every node in the network. The ABCI enables developers to process transactions using their desired programming language and acts as a gateway to Tendermint Core. A socket protocol is used to enable the Tendermint Core to manage multiple application’s states.
In short, Tendermint is responsible for:
- Maintaining the world state of your blockchain.
- Validating of transaction signatures.
- Preventing malicious transactions by implementing 2/3rd voting consensus for each transaction.
- Allowing clients to query against the world state. Blockchains like Bitcoin are not designed to make querying possible.
- Providing a simple to use API for developers to access Tendermint.
Note: Projects like BigchainDB and Cosmos have implemented Tendermint.
10. Off-Chain Scaling — Lightning Network, …
Off-chain scaling is invented to reduce the stress on blockchains. Lightning Network came with a proposal for Bitcoin to implement a second layer for off-chain scaling.
It uses payment channels that facilitate lots of transactions off-chain, thereafter uploading them all at once at a chosen or specified time. In this way, the amount of transactions is drastically reduced. However, it provides only vertical scaling, where we actually need more horizontal scaling. Still, this is an amazing accomplishment where security is not compromised.
Extra information on off-chain scaling using payment channels can be found here.
Extra: Too much to talk about
Many other great technologies are being developed to improve our blockchain space. I think we can all agree we need more scalable solutions which provide security as well. Here is a list of other interesting and cool stuff you should be aware of:
- Delegate Proof of Stake (Lisk uses this)
- BigchainDB: Decentralized asset storage (Big data database with added blockchain characteristics for obtaining higher scalability).
- Interledger protocol (Packages info to be sent from one ledger to another)
- Zero Knowledge Proofs
- Bulletproofs (on-chain scaling and confidential transactions)