Taking Smart Contracts to the Next Level: Projects to watch in 2021by@degenbrainlet
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1,400 reads

Taking Smart Contracts to the Next Level: Projects to watch in 2021

by degenbrainletFebruary 27th, 2021
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In order for blockchain technology to become globally adopted there are first some issues that must be addressed.

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A future of trust-less digital economies has never felt more possible

The global adoption of blockchain technology is becoming more documented every day, with businesses and outdated frameworks in almost every industry sector able to benefit from the power of decentralisation.

But as promising as this may be, the overall growth of this trailblazing technology and, in particular, the smart contracts underpinning the Ethereum blockchain, is being somewhat delayed by issues such as scalability and ease of use by those not fluent in the language of blockchain.

Working on the protocols and platforms of the future, the teams behind the projects in this article are planning to see that the doors for enterprise adoption well and truly opened.

Elastic Sidechains (SKALE Network)

Technical scalability, user experience and cost issues have all been synonymous with decentralised networks such as Ethereum in recent years. SKALE Network offers DApp (decentralised application) developers application-specific blockchains, giving each application its own blockchain that connects seamlessly to the Ethereum Mainnet but that doesn’t sacrifice decentralisation or security in the process.

Providing Ethereum-as-a-Service to developers through a subscription-based network, SKALE Network can support thousands of fully decentralised blockchains, also ridding of the crippling gas fees prevalent within the Ethereum network.

The “Elastic Sidechain Network” that SKALE Network offers means that DApps can build on high-throughput, EVM-compatible, storage-enabled and secure blockchains.

As an open source Web3 platform, the team behind SKALE Network look to bring speed, scalability and configurability to blockchain. Having announced over 40 integration partners and validators last year, SKALE Network aims to “advance development of Web3 technologies and make decentralized web more user friendly and accessible for developers, validators, and end users.”

Cartesi Machine (Cartesi)

Besides transaction fees and scaling issues, one of the main bottlenecks hindering global adoption of blockchain technology is the roadblock that a lack of compatibility with legacy software stacks presents. Solidity is no doubt a powerful and battle-tested tool for building smart contracts with, but it is by far not the most widely used programming language by the world’s developers.

In a lane of its own, Cartesi’s value proposition is exciting; a Linux-based virtual machine that enables non-blockchain developers to run any type of computing application secured via blockchains.

As the majority of projects look to either adopt Solidity and work with Ethereum, Cartesi stands out like a sore thumb, but it could very well be the missing link in onboarding the many thousands of “traditional” software developers out there that want to enter the world of smart contracts but cannot due to limited or no knowledge of Solidity. 

By emulating RISC-V microprocessor architecture, which is the open-source alternative to the ARM instruction set commonly used in smartphones or Apple’s M1-based computers, the Cartesi Machine enables developers to create smart contracts in almost any programming language and development ecosystem that is supported by Linux. The second product Cartesi announced this year is Descartes Rollups, a variant of optimistic rollups with interactive dispute resolution that enables developers to code smart contracts that run on a Linux VM with a wide variety of mainstream software components instead of just Solidity.

The software development world wants to be more involved with blockchain, but this industry has largely been siloed due to Solidity being the predominant language used to write smart contracts. Having recently showcased the early results of their DApp incubation initiative, which ultimately chose 3 projects and gave them the opportunity to build using the Cartesi Machine, the team behind Cartesi are looking to build an ecosystem of developers that reaches far beyond the inner circles of the blockchain developer community and foster growth that will see the true adoption of smart contracts globally.

zkSync (Matter Labs)

With transaction fees on the Ethereum network seemingly getting more expensive by the day, the elephant in the room is becoming un-ignorable. Ethereum is in higher demand than ever with the introduction of so many DeFi protocols and, as the mainstream market floods into the cryptocurrency space once again, there has to be a solution to this bottleneck that is prohibiting the scalability that blockchain desperately needs.

With Ethereum Founder Vitalik Buterin stating that rollups are “the only choice” for scaling the world's second biggest blockchain, Matter Labs are utilising the power of Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs) to solve the “blockchain trilemma”. ZKP’s enable one party to independently verify the integrity of computations performed by untrusted counter-parties, and the Matter Labs team have used them to build zkSync as a possible solution to Ethereum’s woes.

Powered by zkRollup technology, zkSync is a trustless protocol that enables scalable low-cost payments. Boasting mainnet-level security with zero reliance on 3rd parties, the Matter Labs team have built several ‘zkTools” including a wallet, a payment link platform and an API that provides a convenient way to integrate zkSync checkout flow into any website.

The Matter Labs team are now working on permission-less smart contracts and recently announced a partnership with Curve Finance, a popular exchange liquidity pool that currently have over $4 billion locked inside it’s protocol. Having raised $2 million back in 2019, Matter Labs has received support from recognised funds in the blockchain space including Hashed and Dragonfly Capital Partners.

Arbitrum (Offchain Labs)

By now we’ve established that the race to provide a faster, cheaper and secure experience to users of the Ethereum blockchain has become an integral part of the mission to achieve global blockchain adoption.

Layer 2 scaling solutions for Ethereum Mainnet have been under development for a few years now, and some are finally read to attempt to tackle the burning issue; Offchain Labs’ Arbitrum is one such solution, or should I say solutions as there are in fact 3 products rolled up (pun intended) into a suite of scaling solutions.

Arbitrum has three modes: AnyTrust Channels, AnyTrust Sidechains, and Arbitrum Rollup. AnyTrust Channels and AnyTrust Sidechains provide the AnyTrust Guarantee which ensures that the code will run correctly as long as any validator is honest; Arbitrum Rollup, which is currently live on testnet, is like all rollups built on top of and secured by the Ethereum blockchain with all transaction data is logged on Ethereum. 

The noticeable difference between Ethereum and Arbitrum is that Arbitrum enables users to interact with and deploy smart contracts at a fraction of the cost, using the same tools that developers already use to build on Ethereum and integrating with the likes of Solidity, Vyper and Yul but without compromising on security or decentralization.

Having recently announced the release of Arbiswap, a port of Uniswap V2 on Arbitrum Rollup, the Offhcain Labs team look to showcase “just how awesome Arbitrum is by porting one of Ethereum’s most popular dapps”. Popular on-chain liquidity protocol Bancor also launched on Arbitrum testnet in January alongside other DeFi protocols such as Bounce, Burgerswap and MCDex.


With some truly pioneering technologies being designed behind closed doors, these 4 projects may well end up being the names attributed to the cambrian explosion of smart contract integration forecasted for traditional business infrastructures in 2021 and beyond. With pressure mounting for Vitalik and the Ethereum team to implement a complete and sustainable solution

Think I've missed a project worth mentioning? Hit me up on Twitter.