Senior product designer / cryptocurrency investor
Now more than ever, data is powering our next phase of the industrial revolution so much so that corporations are willing to offer services for free just to have access to customers’ data.
While this is indicative of the emergence of a data-powered economy, it also tells the story of how vulnerable the average individual is to data-related threats.
With just over 4,000 data brokers controlling the loosely regulated data economy, there are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to data protection, privacy, and ownership.
Regardless of the recent data regulatory implementations, the average consumer has little or no say on how service providers distribute or use their private data.
Therefore, we must go beyond regulations to establish some sort of leeway for individuals to retain ownership of their private data and do with it as they deem fit.
This limitation calls for innovative infrastructures that recognize the ownership of data, enforce privacy rights, and provide data autonomy to users. Herein lies the growing influence of blockchain and web3 in the data management and distribution conversation.
Much like how blockchain enables distributed networks for assets and provides autonomy to holders, it can also create decentralized data markets where there is no place for data brokers.
Due to the innovation of this architecture, several blockchain solutions have begun creating and delivering web 3.0-enhanced data solutions with sophisticated autonomous data distribution and security mechanisms.
One project of this movement is Ocean Protocol, which has developed a data asset-based ecosystem where users can buy, sell, publish and send data via a decentralized network. The project treats data as an asset class and has created unique infrastructures to provide a self-sustaining data economy.
I reached out to Sheridan Johns, Head of Ecosystem at Ocean Protocol, for more information about the project and the recently-concluded global hackathon. Below are excerpts from the interview.
Edward Moon: What problems are Ocean Protocol trying to solve, and how relevant will these solutions be to the average user?
Sheridan Johns: Ocean Protocol recognizes the potential of the data economy as well as the current overly centralized nature of its components. The existing system works against the best interest of the average individual. We provide the data resources but only enjoy a meager share of the multi-billion industry.
For us at Ocean Protocol, it is only fair that users retain ownership of their personal data and generate the appropriate value when they choose to sell or share them. Therefore, Ocean Protocol looks to help users reclaim full autonomy over their data and generate value by becoming a vital party to data distribution.
Edward Moon: How have you and your team solved the data economy debacle?
Sheridan Johns: Through Ocean Protocol, we have successfully provided an environment where data can thrive on web 3.0 infrastructures. We have envisioned data as an asset class and we expect our users to treat it as such.
We have provided a marketplace where participants can freely transfer the ownership of data or content by selling or buying datatokens. The core of operation centers around designing blockchain applications to improve the way we protect, transfer and store data.
Edward Moon: What are the applications of Ocean Protocol?
Sheridan Johns: Like I mentioned earlier, we have enabled a data marketplace. Furthermore, Ocean Protocol has developed data-powered assets on the Ethereum blockchain.
Hence, we provide on-ramp and off-ramp data assets for the explosive DeFi sector. This opens up interesting opportunities for Ocean token holders.
Edward Moon: It seems that your team is big on facilitating use cases for your project. How do you rate the progress achieved so far?
Sheridan Johns: We are impressed with our achievements and look forward to more wins. The team has not only designed an innovative architecture, but we have also created working products. Apart from our technical prowess, I am particularly impressed with our business achievements. The partnerships we have secured, exemplified by the number of brands that sponsored our recently concluded hackathon say a lot about our approach to project development. Our approach has established the Ocean Protocol ecosystem as an important addition to the larger crypto industry. However, I must say that there is still a long way to go.
Edward Moon: Speaking of the just concluded hackathon, what is the core motivation for initiating this competition?
Sheridan Johns: This is an annual competition designed to promote community-based involvement in the Ocean ecosystem. We want to encourage and incentivize developers to create intuitive and innovative Ocean integrations. The objective for this year’s hackathon is to expand the utility of Ocean data tokens and unlock data applications on web 3.0.
Edward Moon: How did the judges pick winners?
Sheridan Johns: Participants had to adhere to certain requirements to stand a chance of winning in various categories. First, they must have working products. They had to utilize an open-source developmental framework, integrate with the Ocean data token, and have real-world applications. Our judges used this template of four key criteria - innovativeness, functionality, traction, and sustainability - to choose the participants with the most compelling decentralized application.
We had 16 judges, experts in blockchain, DeFi, machine learning, emerging technology, and business innovation, including Adam Hall, Security & Identity Lead, OpenMined, Andreas Fauler, Ocean Protocol Advisor, Advisory Board Member, Digitalstadt Darmstadt, Anish Mohammed, Co-Founder, R2 Labs, Aron von Ammers, CTO and Founding Partner, Outlier Ventures, Dr. Astrid Woollard, Partner, Head of Research, Scytale Ventures, Eylon Aviv, Partnerships / DAOstack, Fernando Martinelli, CEO & Co-founder at Balancer, Jonathan Victor, Product / BD at Protocol Labs (Filecoin), Matthew Fontana, Head of Developer Relations, Streamr, Meltem Demirors, Ocean Protocol Advisor, Chief Strategy Officer, CoinShares, Simon de la Rouvière, Ocean Protocol Advisor, Commons Stack, Vitor Py, CTO, Pillar and Wendell Cathcart, DOS Economics and Analytics Engineer, Energy Web Foundation.
Edward Moon: Can you briefly explain why Data DAO, VideoWiki, and MoonJelly emerged as top prize winners?
Sheridan Johns: The winners showed beyond any reasonable doubt that they had developed innovative applications infused with Ocean Protocol components. In the first-place was Data DAO, which enhances governance, incentive mechanisms, and data value distribution by pooling data tokens. The France-based team created a permissionless marketplace and showcased the possibilities of decentralized autonomous organizations in the Ocean Protocol ecosystem.
VideoWiki emerged as the second-place winner because it could power a fully operational content edition platform. This product allows users to create and monetize content while also enforcing privacy measures like IP protection. The Portugal-based developers understand the importance of text-to-video resources to learning experiences. They also showed that web 3.0 and web 2.0 can integrate seamlessly for great effect.
US-based MoonJelly, on the other hand, enables a web browser extension for seamless curation and data minting for the Ocean Market. They also integrated the services of one of the competition’s sponsors, 1inch exchange, to qualify as the winner of a bonus prize.
Edward Moon: Considering the long list of brands that sponsored the hackathon, the Ocean Data Economy Challenge has somewhat risen in status. What does this mean for Ocean Protocol?
Sheridan Johns: First, I would like to appreciate everyone that made this competition a success. Remarkably, we could attract the support of reputable brands that understand the pivotal role of data in the ongoing technology revolution. The competition’s sponsors, including CoinMarketCap, Balancer Labs, 1inch Exchange, Energy Web Foundation, Messari, Pillar, Protocol Labs (Filecoin), DAOStack, Secret Network, and Streamr, share similar data economy ideologies.
Edward Moon: What should we expect from the next Data Economy Challenge?
Sheridan Johns: As always, we will ensure that this competition stays true to the broader objectives of the Ocean Protocol. Likewise, the next Data Economy Challenge will reflect the development phase that we are in at the time of the competition. This will help us promote innovation culture in our community.
Edward Moon: What about the Ocean Protocol? What should we look forward to?
Sheridan Johns: We will continue to capitalize on the composability of the Ethereum ecosystem to partner with other innovative platforms. This requires us to keep enabling advanced data economy solutions and delivering on the web 3.0 capacity of blockchain. So, expect much more in 2021.
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