There is not going to be one blockchain to rule them all, each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Interoperability is key to unlocking the true potential of blockchain, where it will have a profound effect across all industries, creating a secure, trusted and hyper-connected world.
The rise of The Networks of Networks, interconnecting all DLT Networks, existing off-chain networks and even the Internet itself. Where true, scalable interoperability can be achieved without requiring connected chains to fork their code and imposing limitations, without the overhead, bottleneck and single point of failure of adding another blockchain in the middle. Where it will be quick, easy and free to participate.
It’s time to stop the childish tribalism that’s plagued this space for so long and realise the bigger picture. Tribes fighting amongst themselves over a tiny insignificant island where there is a whole world out there to conquer if they work together. A rising tide lifts all boats and with the birth of The Network of Networks all connected projects can benefit from the efforts of each other, to usher in Mass adoption of Blockchain.
In this article I will discuss the foundations that are being laid in preparation for the release of Overledger Network, The Network of Networks to make all of this possible and to unleash the true potential of blockchain with a secure, hyper-connected decentralised ecosystem. Table of Contents:
- Overledger SDK Update
- Overledger Network
- The Five Ingredients of Interoperability
- Connecting Blockchain and Non-DLT Applications / Networks to Overledger
- Connecting the Internet directly to blockchain
- Join your favourite Blockchain project to the Overledger Network Ecosystem
Overledger SDK Update
Quant have just released their Overledger SDK update which has enabled standardisation of objects to abstract and simplify how to interact with different types of blockchains (UXTO and Account-based) in a common model. As well as the ability to directly deploy, invoke and query smart contracts directly through Overledger. I strongly recommend reading the teams Overledger SDK Update which explains it in more detail and includes example use cases of how Overledger is being used and the benefits it brings. Dr Luke Riley also did a fantastic job providing an in-depth demo of the Overledger SDK Update via Video as well.
“This update sets the foundations to build the ecosystem for Overleger Network, allowing stakeholders other than Quant to write any type (DLT and non-DLT) Overledger connectors and sets up the ecosystem with multiple entry points for Overledger Gateways.
These updates open up the integration capabilities of Overledger to 3rd parties and create the foundations for the Overledger Network”
“Trusted standards mean that industry doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, that innovations will be compatible and work with existing technology, and that products and services will be trusted too. Governments use standards as trusted solutions to complement regulation, and they give peace of mind to consumers who know they are not putting themselves or their families at risk.” — Acting ISO Secretary-General Kevin McKinley
The foundations need to align with internationally recognised standards as they play a crucial role in ensuring interoperability with new and existing technology and validates a product meets the best practices / regulation required to ensure Enterprises remains in compliance. CEO of Quant, Gilbert Verdian, founded the ISO TC 307 standard covering blockchain as a whole, which 56 countries are working towards today.
Gilbert Verdian is the chairman for the ISO TC 307 working group for interoperability of blockchain and distributed ledger technology systems as well as being chairman for Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology for BSI (British Standards Institution) which represent the UK and includes companies such as Quant, IBM, Microsoft, HSBC, BAE Systems, Huawei as well as a number of UK Government bodies such as BEIS — Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Defence Science and Technology and the National Cyber Security Centre.
The standardisation updates to the Overledger SDK aligns with the work in ISO TC 307 and academic work from Dr Paolo Tasca and Dr Claudio Tessone to provide users with a clear distributed ledger data standard. This will enable everyone to easily create connectors in a standard way, facilitating interoperability with all of the connected blockchains / non-DLT networks that are already connected to Overledger through Overledger Gateways.
Cybersecurity is in Quant’s DNA. The team have a rich heritage of working for Governments, banks and industry for over 20 years protecting organisations and people from security threats. Before Quant, Gilbert Verdian was the Chief Information Security Officer for Vocalink (Mastercard) where he was in charge of security for the entire payments infrastructure in the UK (£6 Trillion per year).
Gilbert has led a team determined to take security to another level, protecting a critical part of the UK’s infrastructure, protecting UK citizens and businesses from fraud and risk and, by extension, allowing them to live as they want to. Under Gilbert’s guidance, Vocalink security is not merely best-in-class, but setting a new standard. — https://connect.vocalink.com/2017/july/a-winning-streak/
In addition to Quant being selected as a Guarantor for Pay.UK, Gilbert has also been appointed to the Cybersecurity Advisory Board (Pay.UK is the UK’s leading retail payments authority and runs the UK’s retail payments operations, which includes Bacs, Faster Payments and Cheques.)
The pillars of security are Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. As such, they have used their experience in running payment and financial infrastructure and critical national infrastructure for nations and embedded these principles into every aspect of Overledger.
Regulation is playing an ever increasing role for blockchain. Standards and Security naturally complement and help define regulation. The verticals Quant are involved in with regards to regulation span the globe. Gilbert helped shape the conversation about consumer data protection rights during his time as CISO of NSW Health, and is continuing to serve as a cornerstone for policy within the adoption of blockchain in public infrastructure. Quant serves as a founding member of INATBA (The International Association of Trusted Blockchain Applications), which is the formal governing body of the European Blockchain Partnership, all of which is overseen in Brussels by the EU. More locally, Gilbert and team are in consistent contact with the House of Lords within the UK, and advises the FCA in matters regarding cryptoassets.
As recently seen in the SDK update, Overledger can serve as a key component of automatic compliance of governance bodies’ financial regulation, shown here by an Overledger instance reporting to the BoE’s Prudential Regulation Authority. Project BARAC, stewarded by University College London, is a project examining the impact Automatic Regulation as administered by Blockchain can have on the Federal Government. Most notably, the FCA and R3, the developers of Corda, are involved here. Gilbert’s recent engagements with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston also seem to revolve around this very topic, with the Boston Fed pilot-testing a Supervisor Node for automatic regulatory compliance. While at P2PFISY 2019, it was noted by Gilbert that Raphael Auer’s “Regulation Automata” aligns very well with the vision of Overledger, with Paolo Tasca, former CSO of Quant, more recently co-hosting a recent blockchain panel with him. Raphael’s ideas will most likely be taken into consideration by the BIS, as they recently announced a trial of a 6 central banks collaboration centered around exploring CBDC, and are in the early stages of installing Innovation Hubs in Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Singapore.
The Network of Networks for a Hyper-connected world.
The Overledger Network is a network of networks, which allows enterprise and communities stakeholders to access and participate in a growing hyper-connected decentralised ecosystem. Enterprises, banks, central banks, trading venues, etc will be able to host their own secure dedicated gateways, enabling secure connectivity to permissioned networks, permissionless networks, ecosystems, consortia and other distributed technologies. Community members will also be able to run an Overledger gateway to further enhance the scalability, decentralisation and optimise network latency, providing enterprises, developers and users choice to use the closest gateway when accessing permissionless blockchains. The Overledger gateways will create a scalable p2p network that shares the transaction and volume between participants and chooses the closest or largest node to transact with.
As per the example use case in the recent update a Bank can run an Overledger Gateway to provide access to the various consortiums hosted on a variety of blockchains including Corda, Hyperledger Fabric and JP Morgan’s Quorum as well as access to the legacy / non-DLT platforms. Should they want to utilise a public blockchain as well in a hybrid scenario then they also have the option of using a Overledger Gateway hosted by a community member.
The Overledger Gateways contain several layers which we will explore some of their features below:
Overledger Operating System
Overledger allows connection to any blockchain / DAG as well as easily integrating with existing non-DLT environments. It does this without adding the overhead of yet another blockchain / consensus in the middle, ensuring that it’s scalable and doesn’t contain a single point of failure. Nor does it require the connected blockchains to fork their code to integrate and place restrictions on what can be implemented going forward. All of this is done in a secure, trustless manner where transactions are signed and encrypted client side so the contents can’t be viewed / modified as they pass through Overledger. It currently connects all of the leading permissioned and permissionless blockchains used by enterprises today. This article explains the differences between other interoperability solutions and the benefits of Quant’s approach
The Five Ingredients of Interoperability:
Recently there was an interoperability webinar with Fintech connect with speakers such as R3’s CTO Richard Gendal Brown, along with representatives from the Bank of England, Deutsche Boerse, Nasdaq, ArchaxEx and SwissRe. Richard Gendal Brown from R3 wrote about the Five key Ingredients of Interoperability:
1. INTEGRATE with existing business systems — Businesses aren’t going to replace their existing applications for new blockchain ones, they need to integrate with their existing systems.
2. INITIATE Payments on existing rails or blockchain rails — Needs to be able to make a payment / settlement using a wide variety of existing payment rails (off chain) as well as blockchain rails, ensuring delivery vs payment can be achieved with certainty that they have happened.
3. INTERCHAIN applications and smart contracts that can be deployed / executed across protocols — Enabling a solution built on Corda such as Marco Polo to easily connect to a solution on another platform such as Vakt on Ethereum or CargoSmart on Hyperledger Fabric etc
4. INTRACHAIN applications that benefit from value add of same underlying protocol — What happens when networks such as Marco Polo and Contour both running on Corda want to interoperate and the additional value and benefit that can be achieved.
5. INTERCHANGE applications to switch platforms — What happens if you want to interchange one platform for another. Can you achieve that holy grail of interoperability by being able to be completely agnostic to the underlying platform?
At QuantX in December they announced Overledger Interchange which enables settlement on a variety of existing non-dlt payment rails such as Faster Payments, BACS, CHAPS, SEPA, SWIFT as well as on DLT payment rails such as with Central Bank Digital Currencies, Stablecoins and XRP. It also facilitates Cross Chain Atomic Swaps using Hash Time Locked Contracts ensuring Delivery vs Payment is achieved. Interchange is at the centre of the discussions Quant has had with traditional exchanges in capital markets and central banks and is a technology financial services have been missing and was built it address client needs.
Overledger enables interoperability within the same ecosystem such as Corda DAPP to another Corda DAPP etc as well as interoperability between any of the connected permissionless and permissioned blockchains.
Quants blockchain agnostic Operating System enables users to benefit from using the best features from different chains in combination and migrate between them, preventing Vendor or Tech Lock in without having to completely rewrite existing applications, achieving the holy grail of interoperability. It enables developers to quickly test a variety of connected blockchains in a sandbox environment to see which is best suited for their requirements, starting with just 3 lines of code.
Transactions Services Layer
The Transaction Services layer handles more complex features of Overledger. Allowing for applications to request services such as cross-chain atomic swaps, treaty contracts (Multi Chain Smart Contracts as well as enabling smart contract functionality even on blockchains that don’t support smart contracts natively such as Bitcoin) and transaction brokering (using heuristic analysis to determine which method is the fastest / cheapest out of the various payment rails)
Financial Services Layer
Financial services features can be called upon by participants and applications to use crosschain and cross-platform. Financial Services specific use cases can use the features in Overledger to operate across networks. This layer provides enhanced privacy and security to regulated entities and institutions who require additional controls to maintain compliance to regulation and security policy. The features of Zero-knowledge Proof and privacy can be mandated for all transactions.
Channels provide interoperability of services related to digital assets, payments and tokenisation. The Overledger Network allows for participants to transfer interoperate enterprise and institutional issued tokens and assets. Connect to many existing payment rails such as SWIFT, SEPA, Faster Payments etc.
Connecting Blockchain and Non-DLT Applications / Networks to Overledger
The connectors to Overledger which grant access to Overledger Network will be open source and soon be made available, allowing for anyone to create a connector and benefit from being part of the ecosystem. Currently the permissionless blockchain space is mostly speculation with little adoption, mainly due to issues that need to be resolved such as scalability, privacy and regulation with permissionless blockchains, however there are some extremely large Enterprises, Banks, Governments, even Central Banks getting heavily involved and going into production albeit mostly in the permissioned blockchain space where such issues are not a problem. Just as each Blockchain has its advantages and disadvantages, parts of Enterprise applications are better suited to Permissioned blockchains (such as more sensitive parts) and permissionless blockchains suited for a higher degree of immutability, thus a Hybrid model requiring interoperability between permissioned, permissionless as well as existing non-DLT applications is required arguably for many years ahead. Just as with cloud computing where everything didn’t suddenly just move up into the cloud, well over a decade later since the birth of the likes of Amazon AWS, hybrid is still very prevalent today with only recently the likes of central banks, banks, governments discussing moving more sensitive workloads to public clouds such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud etc.
SIA, Central Banks, Banks, Trading Venues
Quant Network partnered with SIA, a game changer for mass blockchain adoption by Financial Institutions. SIA is the leading financial network provider in Europe that connects over 570 Banks, Central Banks, Trading Venues (stock exchanges etc) to their infrastructure. They provide a dedicated private network / infrastructure for financial institutions. Every European financial institution will either connect via SIA, in partnership with Colt or via SWIFT (and in many cases they will have connectivity with both) in order to access the Eurosystem Single Market Infrastructure Gateway, granting access to all RTGS, Securities and Instant Payment transactions for Europe.
SIA have integrated Overledger into their private infrastructure covering Europe consisting of 570 supernodes called SIAChain which enables each bank, central Bank, trading venue etc to utilise Overledger for interoperability. Some of the largest deployments of blockchain are happening on SIAChain such as the Spunta project where the entire Italian Banking Sector will be using blockchain and due to go live next month. As well as the “Fideiussioni Digitali” initiative (Digital Sureties) to digitize the management of sureties using blockchain technology with the Central Bank of Italy involved.
Central Bank Digital Currencies are going to play a hugely significant role in the future and there is one central Bank currently testing Overledger and Quant are in discussions with 4 others.
Connecting your blockchain / legacy network to Overledger enables the possibility that it could be used by any of these connected Banks, Central Banks, Trading venues etc in their private network (obviously due to the amount of regulation and critical financial infrastructure the options are going to be limited on what they want to connect).
Quant are a Fintech Partner with Oracle, the 2nd largest software company in the world and Oracle are taking Quant’s tech to their clients directly. They have 480,000 clients globally and towards the end of last year Oracle invited Quant to attend Sibos (SWIFT) where they met existing financial services and banking clients and introduced to new ones. By connecting to Overledger this also enables your solution to potentially be used by those 480,000 of Oracle’s global clients.
SIMBA Chain is a cloud-based, smart-contract-as-a-service (SCaaS) platform, enabling users across a variety of skill sets to implement dapps (decentralized applications). The easy-to-use platform is tailored for users, developers, government, and enterprises to quickly deploy blockchain dapps for their enterprise. SIMBA Chain are developing on Quant’s Overledger Blockchain OS to allow them to deploy DAPPs across multiple connected blockchains.
SIMBA Chain have recently been awarded a $9.5 million contract with the US Navy, they are also working with the US Air Force. They have a thriving ecosystem with over 1100 Organizations and 650+ Applications developed. Partners include Microsoft, Government Blockchain Association, Air Force Research Laboratory, Caterpillar, SAP and EY. Recently they also integrated Unity 3D plugin for Gaming to enable owning, storing, and managing all personal gaming assets across a variety of blockchains.
These are just a few of the companies that Quant have partnered with directly, but the ecosystem for Overledger Network is the Network of Networks. Every connected blockchain (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple (XRPL), EOS, Stellar, IOTA, DAG, R3’s Corda, Hyperledger Fabric, JP Morgan’s Quorum and other Permissioned Variants of Ethereum) and their associated partners / applications built on them have the ability to connect and interoperate with the other blockchains connected as well as non-DLT networks such as existing payment rails like SWIFT, Faster Payments, SEPA etc. This Network of Network’s effects will grow exponentially as more and more join the ecosystem.
Connecting the Internet directly to blockchain
Quant Network are also developing the ability to allow developers to build MAPPs that integrate directly with the internet as well as blockchain data. They will enable this via creating a new IP address for blockchains which they are calling Quant IP which will enable traffic to be routed from an IP connection from the Internet through Overledger to the connected blockchains.
Another Quant product called Seeq is a distributed search engine that is able to search and retrieve data from multiple blockchains and display them via html directly from the blockchain. More details will be released about Seeq later this year.
Connecting the Internet directly to blockchain will allow websites to be natively created and served directly from blockchains, without the need to have, run and maintain web servers, web services, SSL certificates etc and all running in a completely trusted, extremely resilient / tamperproof environment. The implications of this are enormous and more details will be released by the team later on this exciting prospect. By connecting your blockchain to Overledger you will also be able to benefit from this.
Join your favourite Blockchain project to the Overledger Network Ecosystem
Instead of the current mentality of having the main focus for many projects of listing on exchanges for vast sums of money, why not spend a little time (connectors can be created in as little as a week of development and don’t necessarily even need to be created by the team themselves) and make your blockchain / non-DLT application available to be used by all existing enterprises / members. Not only that but if you also run an Overledger Gateway connecting your blockchain node you also benefit from the transaction fees of the traffic going to it. The connectors are open source and completely free to connect and now with the standardisation of Objects in the recent SDK update the foundations are in place for the launch of Overledger Network with an ETA of Q2 2020. If you would like your favourite blockchain project to interoperate and be part of the ecosystem to further adoption then make the relevant people aware and keep an eye out for further details released in the future.