Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, internet inventers harped on using cryptography to solve the problems of security, privacy, and inclusion. The quest led to Nick Szabo proposing in 1998 what was called “The God Protocol” where all parties would send inputs to the ‘most trustworthy third party’ that was imaginable. A decade later, the global financial markets collapsed, and digital currencies started taking over. Cryptocurrencies, after all, promised to ensure integrity of the data exchanged among billions of devices without going through a trusted third party!
While Nick’s concept of the ideal protocol may or may not be a direct precursor to the present date bitcoin architecture, its underlying technology blockchain is claimed to have state-of-the-art cryptography. There is no central database to be hacked, and the data is double-encrypted. Perhaps the internet pioneers have got their trust protocol.
Or may be not. An overwhelming number of blockchains that have flooded the financial markets of late have failed.
Enter Overledger. Just another blockchain.. but could link all the other blockchains. In that, it’s a first.
It’s the brainchild of London-based Quant Network. “The uniqueness of our running machine is that Overledger is not every other blockchain,” Quant Network Chief Strategist Paolo Tasca said. “We do not impose new consensus mechanisms, new gateways, adapters or special validating nodes on top of existing blockchains. Overledger is a virtual blockchain that links existing blockchains and allows developers to build multi-chain applications (or in other terms blockchain-agnostic applications).”
The idea is to facilitate data interoperability across different blockchains in a manner something similar to TCP/IP which propelled the internet. Just that unlike the internet of information, we are talking about the internet of value or money.
Image courtesy of Quant Project
To some, Overledger seems to be a straightforward extension of the atomic swap concept. But unlike atomic swaps that only supports currencies, Overledger works for any data that can be put on the blockchain.
Gilbert Verdian, CEO and Co-founder of Quant Network, confirmed that a patent for Overledger technology was indeed filed in the first week of December. According to Verdian, Quant Network is focussing on three goals:
- developing an API to connect the world’s networks to multiple blockchains;
- bridging existing networks (e.g financial services) to new blockchains;
- developing a new Blockchain Operating System with a protocol and a platform to create next-generation, multi-chain applications.
Promoting the Blockchain ISO Standard
Verdian pioneered the development of Blockchain ISO Standard TC 307, which will allow for interoperability, governance and reference architecture of blockchain technologies to work between different blockchains. “There is no one blockchain standard or protocol currently in use,” Verdian commented. “International standards will allow for interoperability and implementation and use of multiple blockchain-related protocols.”
Currently, there are 40 countries and organizations, such as the European Commission, working on developing the Blockchain ISO Standard, and the timeline is to have a published Standard in 2020.
“Quant Overledger will be compatible to the Blockchain ISO Standard when it is released, allowing a gateway to ‘talk’ a common language to other networks and existing systems such as financial services networks,” Verdian said. “The entry and exit points of Overledger will be compatible to the ISO Standard, which any other technology vendor can also implement in future.”
Benefits of Interoperability
According to Verdian, the widespread adoption and use of international blockchain standards could facilitate a new wave of innovation, productivity, employment and industry opportunities. For example, the growing burden of KYC compliance could be reduced through the development of international blockchain standards which utilize shared databases for undertaking business and transacting payments.
The development of international standards to support smart contracts has the potential to decrease contracting, compliance and enforcement provision costs. Similarly, the development of international blockchain standards could reduce transaction costs for SMEs when dealing with governments and businesses.
“Quant will completely change how people will be able to interact with blockchains in a way that’s not possible today,” Verdian noted. “A good example is the recognition of a person’s identity by one entity on a blockchain will be recognized and understood by every other blockchain and every entity connected to those.”
There are plans for a Quant App Store that will allow developers and startups to create multi-chain applications on top of Overledger and monetize their applications in unique ways, without having to rely on capabilities of only one blockchain.
“As a company, we’re also planning to release distributed applications on top of Quant in the areas of RegTech, FinTech and HealthTech,” Verdian said, adding that by allowing businesses to directly interact with multiple blockchains, they will be better able to cope with the modern supply chain complexities.
An Initial Coin Offering will be launched in February in this regard. Before that, Tokens will be sold in a pre-ICO in January. Developers will be able to publish distributed apps on the Quant Network store and optionally monetize their apps by charging usage fees in the Tokens.
Quant Network plans to release the first versions of Overledger in Q1 2018 and finalize the SDK and libraries in Q3 2018. This will be an open source and freely available software release that developers and enterprises will be able to use for creating next generation multi-chain applications. The Quant App Store is then slated to be released at the end of 2018 for developers to publish their apps and earn Quant tokens.
Just to reiterate, Overledger is not just another blockchain; it connects all the existing blockchains. The new platform enables the great grand reconciliation of all digital transactions (just about everything) in real time. In the days to come, billions of ‘smart’ things in the physical world will be sensing, responding, communicating, and sharing important data in all the fields right from environment protection to health. This Internet of Everything certainly needs a Ledger of Everything.
In that context, a meta blockchain is not a bad idea. Such a seamless communication across multiple blockchains will also allow businesses to handle modern supply chain complexities better.