Furthermore, while blockchain has also been thought of as gaining prominence in the finance industry, it has also been invading other areas. Among the blockchain-based companies emerging recently in the mobile space, we examine two: DENT Wireless LTD and Sirin Labs – FINNEY.
DENT Wireless LTD – Mobile Data Trading Platform
DENT is a Global Mobile Data Exchange based on blockchain technology. DENT has struck a number of chords in supporting the potential demand for its mobile data trading platform:
1. Underserved users in areas such as Africa, Middle East, and Asia can get access to data minutes;
2. Users who have data plans and don’t use their full allotment can recover some of their cost through selling data usage over the Exchange;
3. Carriers may have an added distribution outlet through which they can sell more data usage, via the Exchange.
The DENT system includes:
Downloadable apps (a web app and a mobile version of the app) for users to view available data quotes and execute orders;
DENT Exchange, which is the hub of system: it holds the data packages being traded, manages the distribution of information to parties, executes trades and does necessary analytics on prices, volume, etc.;
DENT tokens, issued by the company, which are used to effect transactions on the DENT Exchange. The company hopes that the tokens will, over time, become “a universal currency” for trading mobile data.
Blockchain: Transactions are fulfilled and the ledger maintained on the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications (dapps). Ethereum, which was first deployed in 2015, facilitates smart contracts. When running on the blockchain a smart contract can be automatically executed when specific conditions are met. The conditions, for example, under DENT, are that a qualified seller has offered data capacity to a qualified buyer at an agreed price.
The DENT marketplace requires the cooperation of cellular carriers. For an order to take place between two users, the system must verify with the seller’s carrier that the amount of data usage is available in the seller’s account. The carrier will then “lock,” i.e., secure, the data entitlement and the DENT Exchange will receive the buyer’s funds and lock them in an escrow maintained by the DENT system. Then the transaction takes place via a transfer of DENT tokens. The system will calculate any fee owing to the seller and see that the portion of the buyer’s data plan is canceled.
In addition to transactions between individual users, DENT also contemplates establishing a global trading system for data packages that carriers and middlemen can participate in. It has made a number of announcements of partnerships with significant carrier groups, including AT&T, Verizon, Airtel (India), America Movil and several carriers in Brazil, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Oman. The DENT Exchange will also accommodate roaming transactions, where a user wishes to buy data from a carrier in an area the user is visiting.
Sirin Labs – FINNEY
Sirin Labs attracted attention in 2016-17 with the offer of a highly secure smartphone that was priced at an extremely large premium, typically around $16,000.
After experiencing disappointing results, the team moved on to offer a blockchain-based set of products under the name FINNEY, described as “the first cyber-protected, blockchain-enabled mobile phone and PC.”
The smartphone is targeted to sell for around $999 and the PC for about $799. Both will operate using the company’s Shield OS, which is android based. The blockchain features of the Shield OS include secure P2P (peer-to-peer) resource sharing; a built-in crypto wallet; and “distributed ledger consensus”.
Sirin’s grand vision goes well beyond selling these specific products. The company intends to “tackle and solve … security and privacy challenges” of the blockchain era.
It sees blockchain as the basis for spreading resource sharing and “fee-less” transactions among vast numbers of users. Sirin will partner with consumer electronics OEMs to spread its architecture, software platform, and the Sirin (SRN) token as currency. It states, “Both hardware and software platforms will be released as open source.”
It will also maintain a D-app store, which it hopes will become a trusted repository for a wide range of apps. It encourages developers and offers an SDK (software development kit) giving them access to features of the Shield OS, to produce apps enabling “trusted and cyber protected” resource sharing among all types of electronic devices.
The concept behind blockchain is to provide a “shared, distributed ledger” that will simplify recording and tracking transactions and things, with an extremely high degree of security.
While the concept and purposes of blockchain are simple and easy to understand, the methodology by which blockchain has been achieved is highly original, even astonishing. The term “blockchain” derives from the fact that data about transactions is stored in blocks of information. Blocks have identifiers, “hashes,” that are timestamped, and saved in a link, the “chain,” that shows all previous and subsequent transactions.
All of the data pertaining to relevant transactions is stored across the blockchain. This decentralization and transparency create a high level of security and reliability. The whole process, however, depends upon hordes of programmers, called “miners” who are responsible for creation and validation of the blocks.
Amazingly, the most serious downside to blockchain implementation on a far wider scale basis may not be the complexity of software programming but the simple metric of energy consumption.
The extensive computations needed for successful peering in this software architecture appear to require up to 1000’s of times more electrical energy consumption than a non-blockchain transaction, This estimate, mentioned by Intel in one of their recent white papers on blockchain CPU requirements, is certainly in line with recent news articles indicating data centers, which are blockchain mining, have been searching for lowest price, megawatt capacity, grid locations. There are extensive efforts to radically change this situation.
Despite the complexity of this process, blockchain has been enjoying soaring growth. Bitcoin, the most prominently reported blockchain application has achieved a total market value of nearly $200 billion (over $300 billion at peak) while Ethereum has recently had a total market value of over $95 billion (per coinmarketcap.com).
We believe that the emergence of blockchain in mobile and related fields is at an early stage and will continue very strongly. Other mobile enterprises we have looked at include Status Network, MobileGo, Stuffgogo and more. (Also see our article, Ammbr – Universal Internet Access Through Blockchain-Based Wireless Mesh Network, 9/11/17.)
As for DENT and Sirin Labs, the former had a recently reported trading value for its DENT token of over $400 million. Sirin reportedly raised about $158 million in an ICO (initial coin offering) in 2017.
In our view blockchain is a major development with vast business implications. We picked DENT and Sirin Labs, in part, because they both embody grand visions and ambitions. We don’t review products as such. So, being objective, we realize there will be many failures, as well as stunning successes in the next few years.
Anyone who can remember the emergence of the Internet in the mid-’90s will understand this. For example, there was Lycos, the rocketing successful search engine of the late ’90s from Carnegie Mellon. But later there was Google. This pattern, we believe, will be repeated in the blockchain area – in mobile and in other verticals.
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