First an Update: Blockchain in the GTA
Since my post in March, I have fully immersed myself in the blockchain world and it has been both fun and frustrating at times, but mostly fun. The blockchain scene in the Greater Toronto Area is incredibly active, with numerous meetups and conferences happening all the time. I feel fortunate to live so close to it all.
In March and April I attended a bunch of meetups, mostly from a blockchain learning initiative from York University called The BlockchainHub (https://theblockchainhub.org), which hosts on a regular basis, a slew of meetups on blockchain awareness and introductory classes, I believe as a way to promote their blockchain certification programs (https://theblockchainhub.com/academy), but through their free sessions I learned a lot. I even participated in a hackathon called Block Hack (https://blockhack.ca) hosted by them, in partnership with a number of well-known players in the blockchain world. It was an intense weekend of working through an idea and coding. Through the struggles of that weekend, I learned a bit more about creating Ethereum smart contracts and DApps. I also got to know some interesting people.
In May, I attended a couple of very big conferences, AIONEX (https://aion.network/aionex) and AiDecentralized (https://www.aidecentralized.com). Both of the conferences further opened my eyes to the world of blockchains and how AI fits in. My brain was introduced to an incredible wealth of knowledge that I’m still working my way through.
Aside from all that, I also attended some meetups local to the York Region, where I live and work: Bitcoin North (started by a former colleague of mine) and Markham Cryptocurrencies (started by a young guy who works for one of the crypto exchanges) – it was from the latter group that I learned about a locally-based project called Gorbyte, the main topic of this post.
Altruism, Blockchain and Mobile
In my March post, I envisioned a future world with a “microblockchain” living on billions of mobile devices. Well, this is becoming a reality sooner rather than later with what Gorbyte is aiming to achieve.
Gorbyte is a blockchain in development for the past two to three years and is currently in its early funding stages. Gorbyte has two very big goals. The first is to put the blockchain on mobile devices – not just as a wallet but an entire node on the device. The second is to bank the unbanked of the world – a very altruistic goal.
The unbanked is a population of people who lack access to banking and financial services, and other needs most people of more developed countries take for granted. The challenges of the unbanked are most pronounced in less developed countries, where poverty, corruption and exploitation are more evident. While essential needs like shelter, food, clothing, health care and education have become better in the past few decades with awareness and assistance from more developed countries, they are still far, far behind in the access to services in the areas of finance, insurance, law, entrepreneurship, etc.
My family lived through the Vietnam war and left the country along with that whole wave of “boat people” at the end of the 1970s. We were unbanked. When we came to Canada, our sponsors helped my parents set up their bank accounts and when I was 12, after doing some work for my school, the vice principal took me to the bank and helped me open an account to deposit my earnings. I recall the feeling of having my very own bank account. It was an empowering feeling. I even had a bank card. This was 1982, so those were very early days for bank cards. I felt a sense of freedom – I was able to access my account from any branch, even when they were closed. Then in the 1990s, there was excitement of being able to bank from our homes with telephone banking and after that, with the advent of the internet: PC and web-based banking. And now, that accessibility has extended to mobile phones, where access is not only possible from anywhere, but transacting with other individuals and companies is a regular occurrence.
Gorbyte is banking on the imminent creation of global mobile services in the next few years by companies like SpaceX, Boeing, and OneWeb that will connect a billion more people to the internet, many of whom are currently unbanked. Gorbyte’s goal is to provide each unbanked individual with a free blockchain-enabled hardware device that can access free banking and financial services, without any intermediaries.
Through biometrics and other security measures, device owners will be pre-identified and do not need to transmit identities each time a transaction is made, increasing security and fluidity. The device will essentially become the owner’s unified identification and access card, which can then be used for entry into secured areas, perform purchases, provide authentication, etc.
My Understanding of Gorbyte
Each device, called BRDG (Blockchain Registered Device by Gorbyte), acts as a full node in the blockchain and participates in Gorbyte’s cooperative consensus mechanism that they call MARPLE (Majority Agreement Recursive Protocol based on Logical Environs), where a subset of interconnected active devices (called an environ) come to concurrent agreement using a technique called Consensus Lower Triangle Matrices (CLTM) — a concept in linear algebra whereby in a matrix, all the points above the diagonal are guaranteed to be zero, leaving the points on or lower than the diagonal to be either zero or non-zero. This means if the points represent the nodes in an environ in the blockchain, and their confidences reach a significant majority, like 80%, then consensus is reached. Blocks are composed synchronously and transactions normalized in such a way that 99.99% of the time, consensus will immediately reach 100%.
MARPLE differs from Proof of Work (PoW), Proof of Stake (PoS) and others, in that its energy cost is near zero (other than the operation of the devices themselves) and it is truly decentralized since it doesn’t require randomly centralized entities such as miners or stake holders. It only requires the voluntary participation of the device owners. Device owners don’t have to have their devices on all the time because the protocol is recursive and able to recover from cases where some or all of the devices go offline. Like other consensus algorithms, all devices adopt blocks which have been minted when majority consensus is reached. Those devices that might have different blocks from the majority (perhaps because they lost a transaction) must synchronize with their logical neighbours to become equalized again (much like a homing device).
In addition to hardware devices, Gorbyte will allow the registration of virtual devices that run on PCs or virtual machines as well as software components. This opens up the possibilities for a very wide range of applications including internet of things (IoT).
Companies will be able to create and register distributed/decentralized applications called GApps (General Distributed Applications) that serve Gorbyte users. Companies pay for this opportunity, because in the end they are the ones who will profit from providing products and services to the unbanked, who also benefit because they are getting something they didn’t have before, the ability to use the services with a free device – a win-win!
One of the interesting things about Gorbyte is its stable currency (Gors). To even out wild fluctuations, the currency will inflate or deflate during periods of volatility. A currency that fluctuates wildly, like many of the ones that exist today, is difficult to use for every day transactions, without constantly referring back to fiat currencies. Buying a house with bitcoin can become cumbersome, when the value difference between the initial purchase date and the final closing date can vary greatly. There will be greater confidence in conducting transactions using the Gors currency knowing it is stable. Holders of the currency will be incentivized with interest and dividends proportionate to the size of their holdings.
There is a lot more information (both technical and non-technical) on the Gorbyte website (https://gorbyte.com). I can’t say I fully understand or have covered all the technical intricacies of Gorbyte (and I’m sure the team is still working through or have not revealed the implementation details, such as the software development platform, supported programming languages, etc., etc.), but the possibility of putting the blockchain on mobile devices AND for an altruistic purpose (to help the unbanked) is very exciting to me. I’m looking forward to getting more immersed in this technology as it develops.