There are now an overwhelming number of legitimate projects and platforms being worked on that clearly indicate Bitcoin, Blockchain, and altcoins are not only here to stay, but will truly become mainstream a lot sooner than we might think. Let’s explore all the recent developments in this rapidly evolving ecosystem.
Blockchain Technology is Advancing Rapidly
Netherlands-based ING bank has been experimenting with blockchain technology for quite some time now. In fact, the giant financial institution has been working on zero-knowledge proofs for the past few months. According to the Director of Research at Coin Center, Peter Van Valkenburgh, what zero-knowledge cryptography “potentially gives you is the ability for you to prove something about a data structure without revealing the data inside the data structure”. Notably, Zcash and then Komodo were one of the first crypto-platforms to implement zero-knowledge proofs, however, ING bank introduced, a few months back, a modified version called zero-knowledge range proofs (ZKRP).
As the name suggests, zero-knowledge range proofs can prove whether any given number is within a specified range, while not having to disclose what the number actually is. ZKRP work by incorporating an additional layer of cryptography to a blockchain. Put simply, this allows for mortgage seekers to prove that their income falls within a particular range required for them to qualify. Additionally, if a payment is made, ZKRP can prove that the payment made falls within a certain range.
Mariana Gomez de la Villa, leader of ING blockchain projects stated,
“It can be used to protect the denomination of a transaction, but still allowing validation that there’s enough money in the participant account to settle the transaction.”
All this, however, is relatively old news. Now though, ING will be implementing zero-knowledge set membership. What this new proof will do is extend the ZKRP concept by allowing other types of data or information to be kept secret while proving its existence. This data can be about almost anything such as names and addresses.
So, what could be the potential applications of Set Membership?
Proof of Very Active & Competent Blockchain Community
Gomez explains that this method could be used to confirm if an individual actually lives in a country that is part of the European Union, while not disclosing which one. Therefore, this protects a person’s privacy by only revealing information about them which is absolutely necessary. Moreover, the codebase for Set Membership is completely open-source and extensively peer-reviewed.
The advantage of publicly sharing your codebase greatly helps in improving it and making it as bug-free as possible. Notably, Zcash co-founder Madars Virza demonstrated that it’s theoretically possible to narrow down the interval range, thus revealing more specific information about a secret number. Reportedly, ING claims to have resolved this issue.
In support of ING’s initiatives, Zerocoin Electric Coin Company executive Jack Gavigan stated:
“I think that’s why you see companies like ING delving into this space, getting hands-on with the technology, and joining the broader community – because when this technology matures and is ready for prime time, they’ll be ready and able to hit the ground running.”
In case you’re unaware, Zerocoin Electric Coin Company actively works to develop the Zcash platform.
Benefits of a Collaborative Development Community
The benefits of having a collaborative development community can’t be emphasized enough. Jonathan Bootle from University College of London and Benedikt Bunz from Stanford introduced Bulletproofs. The academic paper on Bulletproofs states:
“Bulletproofs shrink the size of the cryptographic proof from over 10kB to less than 1kB. Moreover, bulletproofs support proof aggregation, so…If all Bitcoin transactions were confidential and used Bulletproofs, then the total size of the UTXO [unspent transaction output] set would be only 17 GB, compared to 160 GB with the currently used proofs.”
Clearly, this seems like a dramatic improvement.
Reports have surfaced that Silicon Valley’s Chain company is leveraging and expanding on this new tech. Meanwhile, JPMorgan is leading the charge among financial institutions by developing Quorum, a blockchain powered solution that uses zero-knowledge proofs to enable applications to execute much more efficient transactions. Quorum reportedly not only makes transactions much faster, but also allows applications requiring high throughput to process “private transactions within a permissioned group of known participants.”
ING claims that they have taken what Quorum does and taken it up a notch by making their version computationally less intensive. Gomez notes:
“Zk-SNARKs, used in JPM Quorum, are known to be less efficient than the construction of zero knowledge proofs for a specific purpose, as is the case of zero-knowledge range proofs. Indeed, range proofs are at least an order of magnitude faster.”
So, here we see that pure capitalism is also driving competing for-profit organizations to dedicate time, money, and human resources toward improving blockchain technology. It’s pretty obvious that they’re acting out of self-interest, however, their efforts are helping to grow the blockchain and crypto ecosystem as well. Now, it’s not only privately run, money-hungry organizations that are immersed in the crypto and blockchain world.
UNICEF now Raising Funds via Cryptocurrency Mining
Cryptocurrency mining, which requires a blockchain of course, is now being used by UNICEF Australia to “supply water, food, and vaccines to refugee children in Bangladesh.” This is done through the HopePage, which lets users donate to this charitable cause by simply keeping their webpage open, thus allowing their CPUs to be used to mine valuable cryptocurrency. This mined currency then goes toward helping those in need.
Whenever users visit the website, they are asked just how much CPU power they’d like to donate, the range being between 20-80%. UNICEF Australia Director of Fundraising and Communications Jennifer Tierney stated:
“We wanted to leverage new emerging technologies to raise awareness about current humanitarian crises and raise funds to support children caught up in them. The HopePage allows Australians to provide help and hope to vulnerable children by simply opening the page while they are online.”
This initiative shows that crypto technology is not just being talked about. These developments also indicate that the cryptocurrency market could be beginning to move away from pure speculation and only being focused on the trading of digital currencies, as opposed to developing their actual use cases.
There are a number of noteworthy educational efforts that are currently ongoing to help bring more awareness to the crypto space. These efforts are not limited to an adult audience.
There’s now reportedly a book that has been published which teaches kids about Bitcoin and blockchain.
Educating Everyone, including Children About Blockchain and Crypto Tech
Finally, we have Blocky, the leading character in a children’s book titled: A Place in the Blockchain.
And, here’s Blocky pictured below:
This book is authored by Brett Biery, a computer programmer and blockchain specialist. Biery, through this book, tries to capture all the emotions that children go through during their time at school and while trying to “fit in” with the rest of crowd. The “rest of the crowd” is actually represented by a blockchain, so that kids can learn by using vivid analogies.
For the adult audience, Blockchain head Sheila Warren from World Economic Forum is working to help organizations learn how to incorporate DLT into their existing business practices. Sheila says that blockchain is not suitable for everything, so has along with her colleagues released a tool that allows organizations to determine if and how to leverage this distributed ledger.
In conclusion, these efforts show that Bitcoin, Blockchain, and other crypto platforms are being taken quite seriously by just about every type of organization that is out there. Those who’ve not jumped onto this promising technology will surely be left behind, and will regret that they didn’t look into a lot sooner. So, if you’re still watching from the sidelines, please join this paradigm shift.