World Blockchain Conference Review: The World Is So New That Nothing Has Been Named Yet
The World Blockchain Conference (Wuzhen) has concluded with great success on November 9. The two-day blockchain annual event has drawn more than 11,000 person-time and 1.2 million views via livestream, making it one of the largest and most influential blockchain conferences in China.
Hosted by China’s leading blockchain news media 8BTC from November 8th-9th, this year’s conference is themed “Limitless Applications” with six panel discussions covering topics ranging from blockchain technology and its applications, decentralized finance, industry trend, as well as regulatory issues.
As the conference came on the heels of the blockchain endorsement from the country’s president Xi Jinping, the venue was packed with attendees from all walks of life. Apart from big names in the blockchain sector including crypto miner manufacturer Avalon maker Canaan, crypto financial service provider Matrixport, crypto wallet imToken, public chain project Bytom, etc, a line of heavyweight companies in the country including BATJ (abbreviation for Chinese internet giants Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and JD), the big three telecom operators (China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom), as well as Huawei have made their attendance at the conference.
The following is a summary of key opinions of the summit, which hopefully could guide our readers to have a glimpse of the industry future.
Application landing: big companies take advantage of existing resources, while startups look for new growth
A clear and noticeable trend in 2019 is the speedup of blockchain implementation.
In this trend, industry practitioners could be divided into two groups. One is the Internet companies represented by Ant Financial, Tencent, Baidu, WeBank, etc., which are accustomed to finding landing scenarios in the existing entity industries and using blockchain technology to help with their transformation and upgrading.
Electronic bill and electronic invoice have respectively become the blockchain landing scenarios of Ant Financial and Tencent. Li Jieli, senior director of Ant Financial and head of Ant Blockchain BaaS platform, said at the conference that in order to save time for patients and simplify claims and reimbursement process, Ant Blockchain has used blockchain in electronic bills in a dozen hospitals in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, which has helped reduced the average consultation time to 75 minutes from 170 minutes and reduced insurance claims period to a few minutes from half a month. Tencent, on the other hand, has obtained the approval of Shenzhen Tax Bureau to implement the blockchain-powered e-invoice in the region, which greatly saves enterprises’ time cost and labor cost. To this day, Ant Blockchain revealed it had issued 14 million e-bills in the Taizhou city; Tencent has issued over 10 million blockchain e-invoices.
The other side is blockchain-dedicated startups/project. They are better at the underlying technology, but has poor industrial resources. In such a context, they are more willing to be engaged in fields with low barriers like games and DeFi, in which internet giants are not involved.
Speaking of the reason why chose games in the blockchain application, Niu Fengxuan, founder of DAppReview, explained that games are pan-entertainment products with low user migration cost and easy to accept and use. In this sense, he believed games might be one of the first hotspot fields where blockchain is applied. As a startup dedicated to find interesting blockchain applications and then help large-scale implementation of blockchain technology, DAppReview has already included 10 blockchains with more than 3500 apps.
As for DeFi (decentralized finance), it is the movement that leverages decentralized networks to transform old financial products into trustless and transparent protocols. In an interview with 8btc at the Ethereum Technology and Applications Conference this June, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin hailed DeFi as a huge application for the blockchain industry. In the eye of imToken founder He Bin, DeFi is an expression of human good will. With the help of blockchain, DeFi allows people to participate in the financial market and enjoy financial services with zero thresholds without any international boundary, identity difference or amount difference.
Since the word DeFi was first coined in August 2018, the total value locked in DeFi has rapidly approached $650 million from $150 million at the time, growing at a compound rate of more than 10% per month. There are many subfields such as payment, stable coin, DEX (decentralized trading platform) and derivatives emerging, with the rise of many star projects such as lightning network, MakerDAO, Uniswap and Dharma.
Explore the frontier: the world is so new that nothing has been named yet
Sun Lilin, CEO of pioneering global privacy-preserving computing network PlatON, said that both privacy computing and blockchain are essentially public infrastructure. Today’s Internet companies have a monopoly on everything – our accounts, our personal information, our trading behavior and trading results. In a decent digital age, data itself cannot be disclosed, and privacy computing can ensure that all data parties cannot know the data of “the whole” and “the whole” does not know the data of “the part”.
Zero-knowledge proof has been favored by tech savvy for the feature that it can be used for privacy protection as it can be used to prove that users can do or know something without disclosing any information. In a recent interview, Ethereum founder Vitalik mentioned their efforts to achieve zero-knowledge proof in order to make Ethereum 3.0 protocol more secure. At the conference, Ben Fisch, co-founder and CTO of Findora, also shared a zero-knowledge proof approach to privacy. Compared to zero-knowledge proof schemes such as SNARKs, STARKs, Groth16 and Bulletproofs, Supersonic proofs Findora is using are quite small in proof size and verifies very fast, and it doesn’t need trust setup which could fit all privacy trading with all kinds of complexity.
However, Wu Yiqun, the former chief architect of big data in the security department of Alibaba, threw cold water on zero-knowledge proof solutions, saying using zero-knowledge proof to protect transactions from being seen by others would greatly reduce the computing speed and greatly increase the transaction data storage, which would bring about high network concurrency. Therefore, he thought zero-knowledge proof was a tough nut to crack.
“Thanks to smart contract, Blockchain has come this far,” commented Tony Tao, founder of X-Order, on the importance of smart contracts in his keynote speech at the conference.
Tao said that “Ethereum’s Turing complete smart contract directly pulls the ‘blockchain’ properties out of bitcoin. As a result, not only did the crypto community use Ethereum to realize the infinite possibilities of blockchain, but more importantly, everyone found that the cost and threshold for researching and using blockchain dropped dramatically. Financial institutions, research institutes and even governments have started to join in blockchain research and pilot.”
However, the limitation of smart contract is that it can only trigger data on the chain, but cannot connect to data off chain. Regarding this, Chainlink’s solution is to introduce Oracle, which is responsible for unique tasks during runtime and can add data feeds, data requests, and critical computations in a very secure manner. In this way, the smart contract can evolve from a fully integrated smart contract for tokens into a fully integrated smart contract for all other dapps.
Without cross-chain technology, various types of blockchain platforms at present will be ecological islands isolated from each other. Therefore, many projects are studying cross-chain. In the special “Keep MOVing” meetup, Bytom CEO Lang Yu introduced Bytom’s solution – MOV, a next-gen decentralized cross-chain Layer 2 value exchange protocol based on Bystack’s mainchain-side chain architecture. It is made of 3 core models: Magnet, OFMF, and Layer 2 high-speed side-chain Vapor. When blockchain is becoming a forefront of the global game, MOV aims to be the pacesetter to lead the domestic public chains to gain a dominant position in international competition.
NEO is also working on cross-chain solutions. NEO founder Da Hongfei mentioned in the keynote speech of Decoding The Future, unlike the cross-chain protocols such as Cosmos and Polkadot that focus on asset transfer, NEO’s cross-chain tech solution not only does cross-chain asset transfer, but also cross-chain transaction consistency. Cross-chain transaction consistency refers to the fact that two separate databases or two separate ledgers or two blockchains each have an event that either succeeds or fails at the same time. With this operation, it is possible to put together the building blocks of protocols on which the next generation of Internet applications can be built.
In promoting cross-chain implementation, many teams see DeFi as the breakthrough. In the panel discussion of The Emergence and Rise of Web3.0, both IRISnet and Bytom are doing related explorations. The former has recently opened IRIS Hub’s support for DeFi app development, and Bytom’s MOV is also fully promoting the landing of cross-chain DeFi.
Distributed digital identity
“Today’s blockchain, in fact, has not been used in a large scale yet, nor has it seen killer applications. There are many reasons behind this, and I think one of the most important reasons is the lack of a public infrastructure for digital identity.”
Zhang Yifeng, president of Zhongchao CreditCard Industry Development Co., Ltd. Hangzhou Blockchain Technology Research Institute, argued at the conference that distributed digital identity was an important infrastructure to promote the wider application of blockchain.
It is not difficult to understand that in the era of mobile Internet, WeChat and Alipay have become the actual entry for Chinese people to access the digital world. While in the new blockchain world, distributed digital identity will and must be an entry that is no longer monopolized by one enterprise or institution.
2019 is the year of 5G commercial use. What will happen once 5G encounter with blockchain?
At the “Decoding 5G+ Blockchain, For Fashion, Or Practical?” panel of the conference, the big three telecom operators – China mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom – discussed 5G.
Why are telecom operators studying 5G? Guo Manxue of China Mobile explained that the goal of 5G and blockchain is to change the mode of social digital ecology. The purpose of studying blockchain is to provide basic information service platform for society and provide new capabilities for ecological cooperation. Zhao Jun at China Telecom believes that through its own network resources and terminal advantages, integrated with blockchain technology, operators can upgrade from sinking pipeline providers to users’ value traffic entry.
In exploring the integration of 5G and blockchain technology, Zheng Jinrong, director of blockchain product planning of ZTE, said that there are two main directions at present: one is to use blockchain technology to promote the construction of 5G network infrastructure; Second, 5G will bring a lot of new application scenarios, while blockchain technologies featuring tamperproof, traceability and smart contract will accelerate the implementation of these new 5G application scenarios. Not long ago, ZTE and China Unicom jointly released The Whitepaper on the Integrated Development and Application of 5G+ Blockchain.
In addition, Zhang Xiaojun, head of Huawei blockchain, reminded that 5G is difficult to realize on the cloud side due to its characteristics of high mobility, high bandwidth and low latency, so he recommended to put it on the edge side. In this way, the increase of blockchain nodes will result in a large number of interconnection requirements between nodes. As the edge side can completely replace the current 5G transmission, it may be a better solution.
“AI and blockchain complement each other.” Zhang Xiaojun said that blockchain ensures the authenticity of AI analysis, and if there are corresponding data problems in AI analysis, it can be traced via blockchain. He believes that from the perspective of the future development pace of blockchain +AI, the two are inseparable, and Huawei hopes to do this work.
Xiao Wei, head of Baidu Blockchain Lab, also said that with the help of Baidu’s traffic and its advantages in AI, the Internet of things and big data, Baidu has also done a lot to put these technologies into real use. Without AI, without cloud computing, without the Internet of things, these scenarios would not work. Therefore, the full implementation of blockchain must be accompanied by the landing of AI, Internet of things and edge computing. Any company that can combine these technologies would have an advantage in the blockchain industry. According to Xiao Wei, Baidu will soon release another heavyweight product, which will make blockchain become an infrastructure like hydropower and coal not instead of an untouchable technology.