The Future of Blockchain is Private

Blockchain’s Problems

Those in the blockchain arena have heard the reasons why blockchain won’t be adopted by the masses. Blockchain doesn’t scale, it’s not secure, you can’t hold private data, and there’s no integration with private enterprises. Even the most passionate blockchain enthusiast can empathize with these shortcomings. Fortunately, the volatility of the markets and the fervor to innovate in the tech space has incentivized developers and driven exponential technological progress. Of course powerhouse projects in the space such as Ethereum, Stellar, and NEO showcase their potential in the form of high profile external partnerships like IBM and Microsoft but do they solve the problems that have plagued blockchain? Problems like interoperability and private data have to be solved prior to meaningful adoption.

What is the new internet without interoperability?

How can we combat the advertisement driven internet and flippant theft of private data?

For the past 20 years, the answer has been to centralize. Trust Google, trust Facebook and just let them profit. Have Equifax keep your data siloed and refuse integration. To actually benefit and make change you need the crypto community to be able to work together and have it be secure. Secure in the sense that, you can actually transfer sensitive data without the constant fear of the next data breach. Just as importantly you have to keep communication and data paths open to utilize the data and blockchain to its full potential. Economist author and journalist, Kenneth Cukier, puts it into perspective by saying “not using data is the moral equivalent of burning books.” At the same time, Cukier reminded people of the responsible handling of such data. Cukier needs to look no further than blockchain and the crypto space.

“Not using data is the moral equivalent of burning books.” — Kenneth Cukier

Aion

If you’re a fan of Ethereum and their Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, then you may have heard of Nuco Inc who’s a founding member and director of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. In the fall of 2017, Nuco created the Aion Network with the mandate to build a multi-tiered blockchain focused on interoperability, connecting public and private blockchains. In December 2017, a partnership between two potential darkhorses in the crypto space emerged as a formidable opponent to the blockchain naysayers. Aion and Enigma announced their partnership to bring “Secret Smart Contracts” to every blockchain. The goal was that Aion provides the interoperability between blockchains and Enigma provides the ability to keep sensitive data encrypted, but usable, across the Aion network.

Enterprise Ethereum Alliance

Got it, more promised solutions with big names.

The key here is that both of these projects, being protocols, do not have to build from the ground up in the form of adopting new applications. Their protocols can be ported over existing foundations and provide the much needed solutions over legacy systems like Ethereum. To better understand how both projects benefit each other, you need to look at them individually.

Aion is the first multi-tier blockchain network designed to interconnect blockchain entities. This potentially groundbreaking hub and spoke network allows public, permissioned, and private blockchains to integrate and capitalize on the capabilities of other protocols and projects. The Aion network offers blockchain projects to leverage the capabilities of the entire crypto space and allow the transfer of value and logic between those entities to any blockchain on the Aion network. Aion looks to deliver on blockchain’s potential to become the decentralized trusted internet that the blockchain space is dreaming of. Aion predicts, that in the future, blockchains will use a hub and spoke model similar to the internet.

Aion Protocol

Aion Protocol:

Per BlockGeeks, the hub and spoke distribution network is a system where various networks are distributed like a wire wheel where traffic flows through the spokes connected to the hub in the center. Aion envisions itself to be “a networked, federated blockchain to integrate these separate spokes.”

Aion aims to be a third generation blockchain that enables public and private organizations to:

Federate: Send data and value between blockchain connected to Aion and Ethereum

Scale: Increase the scalability of all the Aion blockchain.

Spoke: Helps organizations create blockchains which are interoperable but can have its own unique consensus mechanisms, issuance, and participation.

Interconnecting these separate blockchains are critical to blockchain’s quest to become the backbone of the new data ecosystem. Aion is off to a great start as they will soon be able to grow their network to integrate with:

Ethereum Hyperledger Icon Neo Cardono IOTA EOS R3 etc.

One goal for Aion’s network is to have partnered protocols be able to offer their service on the Aion network, giving projects like Enigma the ability to operate on any Aion integrated blockchain. Investors and “Hodlers” of cryptocurrencies often find themselves entrenched into a cult like state for the projects they support. For protocols like Enigma and Aion, you don’t have to be a parishioner to just one project and hoping it succeeds. Developers, enthusiasts, and investors could find a safe haven in both Aion and Enigma while benefiting from the cryptocurrency space as a whole.

Aion — Enigma Partnership

Privacy:

Blockchain has been championed as a tool to revolutionize big data, financial markets, and the digital framework but that can’t be done unless the technologies, that we’ve come to love, can work together in the new data ecosystem. Additionally, legacy data systems and blockchains that utilize and transfer sensitive data will not adopt the power of decentralized systems unless the future data ecosystem is built around privacy. Current regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR require data systems to be secure and keep private data protected. Other than government enforced requirements, consumers are becoming more aware of their data and the importance of keeping it secure. I could go on and on about the importance of keeping data secure and how Enigma could help solve those issues, but fortunately, they’ve done some of that work for me:

Read: Why Blockchain Alone Can’t Fix Facebook

Enigma

The Enigma Project, originating from MIT, is promising to deliver a scalable privacy solution for blockchain applications and will be doing so through two methods:

Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs): A TEE provides a fully isolated environment called an enclave that prevents other applications, the operating system, and the host owner from tampering with or even learning the state of an application running in the enclave. A TEE thereby provides strong confidentiality for smart contract data that blockchains cannot. Unfortunately, a TEE alone cannot guarantee availability or provide secure networking or persistent storage. Thus, it cannot alone achieve blockchains’ authoritative transaction ordering, persistent record keeping, or resilience to network attacks. Therefore, to recognize the potential of TEEs, it should be paired with a protocol that works off of the backbone of the decentralized internet.

Enigma’s Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs): MIT’s Enigma network provides a permissionless peer-to-peer network that allows executing code (secret contracts) with strong correctness and privacy guarantees. Another way to view the network is as a smart-contract platform (e.g., similar to Ethereum) that enables the development of decentralized applications (dApps), but with the key difference that the data itself is concealed from the nodes that execute computations. This enables dApp developers to include sensitive data in their smart contracts, without moving off-chain to centralized (and less secure) systems.

Secure Multi-Party Computations (sMPC): Enigma is looking to use sMPCs and an off-chain distributed hash-table (DHT) to ensure data privacy. The MPCs distributes data between nodes on the network, splitting the encrypted information into separate pieces to ensure its safety. The DHT, then, is responsible for storing this data in an off-chain database. The DHT stores the data while MPCs are responsible for handling and retrieving it, while both ensure that the data handled remains completely private. According to Enigma’s whitepaper, all data “is split between different nodes, and they compute functions together without leaking information to other nodes. Specifically, no single party ever has access to data in its entirety; instead, every party has a meaningless (i.e., seemingly random) piece of it.”

Secure Multi-Party Computation

Enigma’s Design

Enigma’s TEE and sMPC design will be able to be blockchain interoperable and agnostic where it serves as an extension to a blockchain platform for off-chain computations. It does not need to be the 100% solution to all of blockchains problems but it solves scalability and privacy issues that have limited blockchain’s adoption. To ensure that data stays secure, information can be encrypted before being sent to the network and this off-chain layer is responsible for distributing this data across Enigma’s nodes and keeping it private. The blockchain’s public ledger only stores references to this data to provide proof of storage, but none of the data itself is public–it remains obfuscated, private, and split-up on the off-chain network.

Enigma is scheduled to launch their mainnet for the TEE network by the end of 2018. Enigma is starting off strong by announcing 8 launch partners that will build on their network. Aion is also expected to have 15 projects launching on the Aion platform before the end of 2018. These two sleeping giants may not be asleep for too much longer.

Proposed Aion Network

Death to Privacy Coins? — Stay Tuned

With those exciting capabilities in mind, investors, businesses, and early adopters have more opportunities excited about especially with Aion and Enigma providing groundbreaking disruption and progress across an exploding data space. Their addressable market is in the trillions and have established the framework for the ecosystem that will provide the necessary functions for those trillions to flock to this emerging technology. It’s important to note the many new applications that will use the foundations such as Velocia and the Ocean Protocol. But, arguably more important, is the foundation of the network. That being said, if you coupled Aion’s interoperability and Enigma’s privacy and security features, any coin that utilizes those protocols could be considered a privacy coin. The “privacy coin” capability commanded as much as $50 Billion in the height of the “crypto boom” and sits at around $15 Billion in September 2018. As of 12 September, Aion was valued at $88 Million and Enigma is valued at $40 Million. Both Aion and Engima have a pivotal six months ahead of them as they’re scheduled to release major developments of their protocols. This provides early investors and businesses to get into both of these projects prior to the hype.

With Enigma’s Secret Smart Contracts, all issued tokens could immediately become privacy tokens, with almost no additional effort. As mentioned before, this helps protect the identities of holders and dramatically reduces security risks. — Guy Zyskind (Enigma CEO)

Ethics

Other than the technological potential that both companies have shown glimpses of, they both offer an immense amount of transparency in their progress and response to their communities. Aion and Enigma both have established Ambassador platforms that allow talented enthusiasts to help grow these nascent projects. Growing those communities is vital to the success of Aion and Enigma as the projects are being developed for the people so the people MUST be involved. Another similarity, is that Aion and Enigma boast robust community platforms focused on meaningful adoption, not hype. Despite their ability to champion their partnerships in Delloite, Microsoft, or Intel, the projects have made it clear that they’re not focused on the marketcap of their platforms but developing the foundation, network, and communities of their projects. The marketcap and the financial incentives will follow naturally as long as they prioritize progress.

Aion and Enigma are both focused on the technological progress and business development and don’t pay much attention to the price of their token as they are not concerned with the short term speculation.

As interoperability is known as the Holy Grail of blockchain, the ability to conduct computational analysis on encrypted data is considered the Holy Grail of Data Science.

With these monumental developments, disciples of blockchain should rally around technological advancements that potentiate blockchain with the purest forms of decentralization, privacy, and integration. Meaningful change takes a while and these projects aren’t interested in the hype but maybe, we enthusiasts, should be.

Full Disclosure: I do own some Enigma and I’m planning to invest in Aion at a later date.

Follow me on twitter: @TyJewell92

Enigma’s Contact Information:

Learn more about our project on our website and blog.

Join our developer community: forum.enigma.co

Want to build on our protocol? Check out our documentation to get started — or, if you’re a project or enterprise, submit your interest here.

Join the Enigma Team: enigma.co/team

Telegram: t.me/EnigmaProject

Reddit: reddit.com/r/EnigmaProject

Twitter: twitter.com/enigmampc

Discord: https://discordapp.com/invite/SJK32GY

Aion’s Contact Information:

Aion Telegram: t.me/aion_blockchain

Aion Website: https://aion.network/


The Future of Blockchain is Private was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.