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Next-Gen BUIDLers: The 8 Teams Working on Ethereum 2.0

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel when building [ethereum] 2.0.”

Speaking to the complementary efforts of developers working on two separate upgrades to the ethereum blockchain – one dubbed ethereum 2.0 and the other dubbed ethereum 1x – Raul Jordan insists upgrades to be included in ethereum 1x on a shorter time horizon would have benefits to ongoing research for ethereum 2.0.

Jordan is the co-lead for one of eight different developer teams currently building software clients for ethereum 2.0.

(As background, clients are software implementations usually written in differing programming languages that users deploy to connect to and participate in the ethereum network.)

Maintaining that the “incremental enhancements” being proposed within ethereum 1x don’t affect the blockchain’s long-term roadmap, Jordan told CoinDesk:

“I think both groups are fairly orthogonal but we must at least be aware of what each is implementing.”

Presently, the technical guidelines also called specifications for both upgrades are still very much in the works.

Having been discussed in earnest among ethereum developers only in the last couple of weeks, ethereum 1x is intended to be an intermediary upgrade that focuses on enhancements to the current ethereum network.

Ethereum 2.0, on the other hand, features a more ambitious agenda that dates back to 2014 and consists of fundamental changes to the blockchain platform.

Known in its early days under project name “Serenity,” the current specifications for ethereum 2.0 can be summarized as a combination of three main components:

  • A switch to PoS from the current energy-intensive consensus protocol known as proof-of-work (PoW)
  • Implementation of a network-wide scaling solution called sharding
  • A revamping of the ethereum virtual machine (EVM) – the engine responsible for deploying decentralized applications (dapps) on the blockchain – to run on new programming code known as WebAssembly (WASM).

And while one of these components – namely ethereum’s implementation of WASM – has the potential of being tested in the earlier roadmap for ethereum 1x, the majority of the work to build out ethereum 2.0 is still ongoing as a separate project.

And that work is being carried out by eight different teams spread out across the globe.

1. ChainSafe Systems

Based in Toronto, ChainSafe Systems is a blockchain research and development startup offering consulting services to a number of different ethereum-based projects including Shyft, Bunz, Aion, and Polymath.

Motivated by a desire to “contribute to something bigger,” project lead at ChainSafe Mikerah Quintyne-Collins told CoinDesk:

“For me, developing ethereum 2.0 was my way to make a mark on the future of the internet.”

Called Lodestar, Collins and her team are currently building an ethereum 2.0 client written in Javascript – the primary programming language for web development.

Privately funded and seeking additional support through the Ethereum Foundation grant program, Lodestar according to Collins is envisioned to “bring a whole host of web developers to the [ethereum] ecosystem.”

“All of these programming languages have their own communities. The whole community might not want to contribute but they’re big enough that parts of it will want to contribute and build on top of ethereum,” said Collins.

Even suspecting development work to help other blockchain platforms progress, Collins emphasized that in her view ethereum 2.0 is not about ensuring ethereum’s future as “the main blockchain,” saying:

“It’s not about who’s going to be the next big thing. It’s more about trying to make these systems work. Rushing it just so we can catch up with another supposed ethereum killer defeats the purpose of working on this.”

2. PegaSys

“Our goal is to bring enterprises to the mainnet. We want to do that by creating software that is easier for enterprises to adopt.”

That’s Faisal Khan, strategy and business development head for blockchain protocol engineering group, PegaSys.

Fully supported by Consensys – the self-proclaimed “venture production studio” of ethereum headed by ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin – PegaSys is building out ethereum 2.0 specifications for an existing ethereum Java client called Pantheon.

Unveiled recently at a gathering of ethereum developers in Prague, Pantheon uses an open-source software license called Apache 2.0 to enable businesses building products on top of the ethereum platform to monetize their intellectual property.

Speaking to CoinDesk, Khan highlighted that extending support for ethereum 2.0 specifications meant close collaboration with Ethereum Foundation researchers and other client development teams.

“There’s a lot of touch points. There’s a weekly call. There’s a research forum, ETH Research. There’s a Gitter channel. The communication is pretty frequent. Obviously, there’s crypto Twitter. It’s pretty rich the conversation between any of the [ethereum] 2.0 teams and the Foundation,” said Khan.

Adding that, ethereum 2.0 would kick-start a new “cycle of network effects, dapp development and user growth” on the platform, Khan reiterated that the biggest need at present for the project was “more people involved.”

3. Harmony

Launched last October, Harmony is ethereum’s original Java client formerly maintained by a group of independent developers called Ether Camp.

Now called simply the Harmony team, these group of developers were recently awarded $90,000 through the Ethereum Foundation grants program to build out specifications for ethereum 2.0.

Subsidized by the Ethereum Foundation, Harmony is expected to continue running as an alternative Java client to the enterprise-focused Pantheon.

Separate to the Apache 2.0 software licence underpinning Pantheon, Harmony operates under a General Public License (GPL) designed to ensure any implementations of the code remain “free software and stay free software,” as described in the official GPL guide.

Likening the project to “building a new internet,” Harmony developer Mikhail Kalinin told CoinDesk:

“The biggest challenges are staying on top of all changes in the research area and following the progress of every part of the work. The scope of it is huge.”

4. Parity Technologies

Co-founded by former Ethereum Foundation chief of security officer Jutta Steiner, Parity Technologies is a blockchain infrastructure company responsible for maintaining the second most popular ethereum client on the platform today.

The name of the client called Parity Ethereum is self-proclaimed to be “the fastest and most advanced ethereum client.”

As detailed on the official Wiki page, Parity Ethereum is programmed in Rust and built for “mission-critical use,” meaning fast synchronization speeds and maximum operation uptimes.

Speaking to renewed efforts to build a ethereum 2.0 client within the organization, Head of Public Affairs for Parity Peter Mauric explained ethereum 2.0 was really the “production-ready” version of the ethereum blockchain.

He told CoinDesk:

“Broadly speaking, I believe that ethereum as it exists today is very much in beta … Ethereum 2.0 is going from this experimental project that Vitalik launched just a few years ago to a more production ready blockchain protocol.”

5. Prysmatic Labs

Building out the first implementation of ethereum 2.0 in programming language Go, Prysmatic Labs launched this January with the goal of helping the ethereum blockchain reach scalability.

Speaking about the endeavour, team lead at Prysmatic Labs Raul Jordan told CoinDesk:

“Ethereum 2.0 is a system that is scalable to the needs of a global computer…What this means is that it will be able to handle the load of real world necessities…Anything from something simple to a completely immense financial system built on top of it.”

Named Prysm, the ethereum 2.0 client will act as a counterpart to the blockchain’s current most popular client implementation also written in Go called Geth.

Not seeing client development as a competitive process, Jordan highlighted that multiple different client implementations is a great necessity on the ethereum blockchain.

“The reason is that when you’re working on a blockchain like this, you want as much decentralization of implementations. So for example if the ethereum blockchain is running on Prysm and there’s a bug in Prysm, everyone can just switch to [another client]. You have options,” said Jordan.

Still, likening the endeavour to building “a public good,” Jordan highlighted support for development work was largely by donation from both the Ethereum Foundation and other private donors.

Receiving roughly $1 million in support to date, Jordan told CoinDesk one of the biggest challenges of building out an ethereum 2.0 client was making sure work corresponded “closely with the research.”

He explained:

“There are new ideas coming out every week, every day, and we’re basically building on a ever changing specifications… So I think one of the biggest challenges has really been multitasking between developing and also making sure that the research is good and we evaluate options moving forward.”

6. Sigma Prime

Founded in 2016, Sigma Prime is an information security and blockchain technology consulting company.

Recently awarded a $150,000 grant from the Ethereum Foundation, the company is building an ethereum 2.0 client called Lighthouse written in programming language Rust.

Being the second client implementation in Rust next to Parity, co-founder of Sigma Prime Paul Hauner told CoinDesk that he didn’t expect there to be “any fundamental differences” between the two products.

Emphasizing that a duplication of work was actually “really desired in a blockchain,” Hauner explained:

“Software has bugs. So, if everybody runs the same client and there’s a bug, everyone goes down. If there’s this diversity of clients, they’re most likely going to have different bugs. One client goes down that’s fine. The rest of the network still stays up.”

And speaking to the importance of the ethereum 2.0 upgrade in general, Hauner added that not only would users notice “a huge increase in transactions in per second” but also significant environmental gains under a proof-of-stake consensus protocol.

“Personally, I feel people are going to use it and it’s going to work. In terms of the actual technology, I don’t have any concerns about is it feasible. Is it bulletproof at this point in time? Absolutely not. It hasn’t been built,” said Hauner.

7. Status

A messaging platform and mobile browser specifically designed to engage users on the ethereum blockchain, Status unveiled this August active development for an ethereum 2.0 client called Nimbus written in programming language Nim.

Funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the Ethereum Foundation, the goal of the project as highlighted on the official website is “to drive mass adoption of ethereum” by optimizing Nimbus for performance on “resource-restricted devices.”

As such, leveraging the lightweight capabilities of running Nim code, Nimbus is expected to be ethereum’s first mobile client connecting smartphones devices and other handheld electronics to the blockchain platform.

With eight core contributors to the project, Status highlighted in a blog post a few months ago that it is looking for additional developer support.

“We are entirely open source and encourage contribution from those who want to get involved,” wrote head of research development at Status Jacek Sieka.

In addition, speaking to CoinDesk, Sieka added that he foresaw development work for ethereum 2.0 being rolled out in multiple stages, with a suspected test network for one of the first components called the beacon chain coming some time in the next year.

“That being said research is ongoing and any timelines are usually in flux but from an end user perspective, a year, two years is a reasonable timeline to expect for [ethereum 2.0] to become generally useful,” said Sieka.

8. Trinity

Last but not least, Trinity is a current ethereum client written in programming language Python.

Championed to be the new standard Python implementation for ethereum, Trinity features upgraded code to the now dormant PyEthApp originally authored by founder of ethereum Vitalik Buterin.

Having launched this year in a preliminary alpha phase, Trinity is comprised of six developers including Merriam all except one of whom are contracted to work by the Ethereum Foundation.

Expected to build support for ethereum 2.0 specifications as well, lead architect for Trinity Piper Merriam highlighted developing “at the boundary between research and implementation” was what he did best.

“I like the application of theory more than the theory. Protocol research is neat but implementing the protocols is more inline with what I’m good at,” said Merriam.

Adding that the work was really “only just getting started,” Merriam likened the process of ethereum 2.0 client development as putting together the pieces of “a puzzle.”

A puzzle requiring many hands, the collective work of all eight teams are expected to mutually reinforce each other and secure the future of the ethereum blockchain.

Merriam told CoinDesk:

“By having many implementations of any protocol … we can derive confidence that the written definition of the protocol is accurate [and] that the individual clients are correct.”

Metal working image via Shutterstock

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Swiss Post, Swisscom Developing New Blockchain Platform on Hyperledger

Swiss Post, the country’s national postal service, and state-owned telecoms provider Swisscom have united to develop a blockchain platform.

The two announced Thursday that they are using Hyperledger Fabric to build their “simple, secure and sustainable” private blockchain infrastructure, intended to be utilized by their own, as well as other companies’, applications.

The infrastructure is designed to meet the high security levels required by banks, while all data hosted will remain within Switzerland, they added.

The announcement indicates that the system is more energy efficient than public blockchain offerings, stating:

“In contrast to “public blockchains” (e.g. bitcoin and ethereum), this private blockchain infrastructure requires much less energy, since it can only be used by identified users who have a contractual relationship with the providers of an application. This enables more efficient agreement procedures as well as significantly higher security and performance.”

The first pilot blockchain apps are scheduled for launch in Q2 2019, with use cases said to be focusing on corporates and government agencies desiring to digitize business processes in a “secure and verified” manner.

Swiss Post and Swisscom also said they are open to accepting other partners to join them on the project. Ultimately, they desire “to enable the Swiss economy to quickly obtain a leading position when it comes to using this promising technology.”

The two companies are already using blockchain technology for several use cases.

Swiss Post’s financial services unit PostFinance, for instance, launched a pilot project in May that provides smart energy billing via blockchain. It also stores temperature data on a blockchain for monitoring pharmaceuticals in transit.

Swisscom is working with its subsidiary, Daura AG, on a blockchain system that facilitates the issuance, purchase and sale of shares.

Swiss postal mailbox image via Shutterstock

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Crypto Anarchists Are Building Tools to Resist the State in Eastern Europe

“Is this really what Satoshi expected 10 years ago?”

That was the question asked by activist Pavol Luptak, at the opening of a new centre for crypto-anarchy – the Paralelni Polis – in Bratislava, Slovakia in October.

Citing new surveillance infrastructures, relentless taxation, and the adoption of blockchain by state actors, Luptak called for a return to the political vision that underpinned bitcoin at its inception – or what he calls a “crypto renaissance.”

Luptak – the co-founder of the Paralelni Polis in both Bratislava and Prague in the Czech Republic – and his associates are fixated on the question of how to use decentralized technologies to liberate individuals from state control.

In his eyes, bitcoin and related cryptocurrencies cannot be distinguished from the political climate from which they arose – the cypherpunk movement, with its focus on privacy and individual liberty.

By providing a radical alternative to the banking system, this vision stands apart from an industry that has, to some, become defined by the use of cryptocurrencies as speculative investments.

“We perceive cryptocurrency as a liberation tool,” Luptak told CoinDesk.

And it’s the Paralelni Polis – which Luptak calls a “freedom think-tank” – that aims to serve as a breeding ground for such ideas. A phrase that translates to “parallel city,” at its surface, Paralelni Polis is like many cryptocurrency centres worldwide.

The Paralelni Polis focuses on education, meetups, a co-working space, and walking newcomers through the process of converting their fiat into cryptocurrency in order to buy a coffee, for example.

But Paralelni Polis stands out for its open refusal to cooperate with governments; its role in nurturing projects that actively antagonize the state; and its mission of providing individuals with the tools to disassociate themselves from it.

“We use crypto technologies to keep our community safe and eliminate any negative impacts of political decision made by politicians and the democratic masses,” Luptak told CoinDesk, adding:

“We are a minority, and we use crypto technologies to build our own parallel society with the same or similar-minded people. That’s why we have the Paralelni Polis.”

Parallel city

The term “parallel city” is a reference to the ideas of political dissident Vaclav Benda, a member of the activist group, Charter 77, which rose up against Czechoslovakia’s socialist government in the late 1970s.

In a manifesto from the same period addressed to his fellow activists, Benda argued against protesting as a means to change the system. Instead, Benda called for the creation of parallel institutions that would offer a fairer, more humane alternative.

The ability for this parallel institution to survive would also serve as a measurement for the freedom – or authoritarianism – of the external society.

“He defined that the only free system is a system which is able to accept and tolerate a parallel system,” Luptak said.

Pavol Luptak presenting at the opening of the Paralelni Polis, Bratislava

In 2014, Luptak and others founded the Paralelni Polis in Prague, which combined Benda’s ideas with newly discovered, decentralized technologies in an effort to foster a kind of parallel society.

Our goal is to make the state obsolete, to build, develop and improve a parallel society, so finally people stop noticing that the state exists. They won’t need it,” Luptak told CoinDesk.

And in the years since its inception, the impact that the Paralelni Polis has had on the surrounding area in Prague is tangible.

For example, bitcoin is more readily accepted in Prague than in most European cities – a state of affairs that becomes more notable the closer in the city you are to the Paralelni Polis.

According to Josef Jelacic, an ambassador within the Prague arm of the institute, part of that adoption came about because of the role that the centre played in allowing people to test the currency in real-time.

But speaking to CoinDesk, Luptak noted other reasons for bitcoin’s popularity, including concerns about snooping by finance regulators.

“We are a pretty fucked up country, like the other ones,” Luptak said, “In Czech Republic there is complete financial surveillance.”

Subversive systems

To understand why that appeal might exist today, one angle to look as it is that fact that, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the use of cash is becoming increasingly discouraged – something that is playing out across the wider European Union as well.

For example, personal cash transactions over €15,000 euros are prohibited, while companies are banned from spending over €5,000 in cash. Moreover, like many places in the world, cash in excess €10,000 cannot be transported over borders without being declared.

A new law called the Electronic Evidence of Transaction (EET) is in effect in the Czech Republic, and is under consideration for Slovakia, which means that every transaction – even cash transactions – are digitalized and “immediately sent to the tax office,” Luptak said.

“The situation is as bad or even worse in other European countries,” Luptak said.

But Luptak believes that the more oppressive these systems become, the more people will look to crypto-anarchy as an alternative.

Crypto-only flea market at the Paralelni Polis, Bratislava

“I strongly believe that more stupid regulations and more stupid laws we will have the more business opportunities we will have too,” Luptak said.

In preparation for this, Luptak has a company that provides individuals and companies with “crypto-liberation services,” how to “go full crypto,” shop around for the best taxes, change residency, or even to give up their residency entirely.

And several other projects at the Paralelni Polis have a similar focus.

For example, Paralelni Polis has launched prediction markets on ethereum-based Augur to incentivize users to expose sensitive information about local politicians. The group also uses its own blockchain to store evidence of governmental corruption.

“Despite the fact that we boycott the government, we also provide feedback to the government as well,” Luptak said.

The tech stack

Speaking at the opening event of the Paralelni Polis, Bratislava, Luptak painted a picture of a future without governmental control.

Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) would replace traditional governance; the MakerDAO stablecoin could offer an alternative for bank loans, and even the legal system may be disrupted by a decentralized alternative, like Kleros.

In such a future, the role of politicians is completely displaced, Luptak argued, and crypto-anarchist communities can withdraw into shadow economies using anonymous cryptocurrencies like monero.

Still, anonymity infrastructure in cryptocurrency has a long way to go, a point noted by developer Frank Braun, who presented in Bratislava what he called the “cryptoanarchy technology pyramid.”

According to Braun, a full crypto-anarchy tech stack must start off with secure devices. From there, developers can build software that can support anonymous messaging, digital cash, pseudonym’s, darknet markets, and physical interfaces that form a link between the digital and the physical world, such as drones.

Frank Braun presents the “cryptoanarchy technology pyramid” at Paralelni Polis, Bratislava

“We want to build an unobservable and non-attributable economy from scratch,” Braun said.

Giving the example of the closure of darknet markets, Braun warned that “you cannot build a pyramid on quicksand.” Weaknesses in the underlying layers of the stack mean that anything built on top of it will come tumbling down.

“You have these layers, and then when you take out an entire layer it’s gone. So everything around that collapses,” Braun told CoinDesk.

Still, Braun ended with a note of optimism, urging that much of the academic work has been done in order to implement more robust, anonymous systems.

And it’s due to this technical basis that Luptak says crypto-anarchy is more than just an idea.

“For me, crypto-anarchy is a strategy. Some people consider it to be an ideology, but for me it’s a strategy, a practical way,” Luptak said, going on to add:

“Crypto-anarchy works right now. These crypto markets are working. It’s highly pragmatic.”

Crypto as defense

According to Braun, crypto-anarchy is “ultimately subversive” and involves the construction of a new space outside of society.

“If you want to create an alternative you have to be separate from the rest,” he told CoinDesk.

Because of this, Braun criticizes the emphasis that bitcoin supporters often place on mainstream adoption, arguing that many newcomers within the industry do not share the cryptocurrency’s underlying political ramifications.

“I’m not criticizing that more people use it per se, but they kind of water it down and then the whole revolutionary aspect gets lost,” Braun said.

And because crypto-anarchy situates itself at a distance from mainstream society – and often in antagonistic relationship to it – participants need to be able to protect themselves as well.

As such, Braun described such systems are fundamentally “defensive tech.”

“It’s not aggressive,” Braun said.

Still, for the Paralelni Polis to maintain a fully antagonistic relationship to the state isn’t an easy approach to take.

Police enter the building at Paralelni Polis, Bratislava

And that’s because while the formal stance of the institute is to reject the government, as a physical institute, it cannot completely disassociate from Czech Republic and Slovak state.

Currently, the centre is Bratislava is not completely legal, but the goal is to have it fully registered. The Paralelni Polis itself is a non-profit organization as is recognized by the government as such.

“We are a non-profit organization because we still have to interact with the existing fiscal world in some way,” Luptak explained.

And the struggle of actively boycotting the state – while at the same time being forced to work within its jurisdiction – was made all too clear at the after-party following the official opening in Bratislava.

Despite the institute’s stated ban on government officials entering the space, the police arrived and demanded that the music be turned down. And with a sigh of resignation, the barista’s at Paralelni Polis obliged.

“This was the first conflict with the police and we should definitely expect other ones in the future,” Luptak said, concluding:

“If you live in a physical world and have a physical place, you will be always vulnerable to the state power and its interactions.”

Photos by Rachel-Rose O’Leary for CoinDesk

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Tutorial: How to Use CoinDesk’s Crypto-Economics Explorer

Officially launched in beta this week, the CoinDesk Crypto-Economics Explorer (CEX) is the newest tool in our arsenal of data products, one that we believe is our most innovative and forward-looking to date.

Ambitious in scope, we know our tool takes a bit of getting used to.

Unlike our Bitcoin Price Index (BPI), the most widely cited indicator of the price of bitcoin, the CEX is a departure in that it brings together a wider range of data points – including social, network and developer data – in an attempt to measure the full scope of a crypto asset market.

With the CEX, we believe we’ve taken the first step down a path that offers the same visual power of a traditional price chart, while conveying more data about the health and maturity of a crypto asset market.

In short, it’s best thought of as a tool, one we hope to refine as the study of crypto-economics continues around the world.

Over the coming months and years, we’re hoping to continue building, adding new data points and crypto assets, until we can confidently say our product is able to measure the full scope of a crypto asset market.

We hope this video will help introduce you to our vision for a more complete crypto data tool and encourage you to get involved in testing and refining our methodologies.

In this video, you’ll learn:

  • How to compare crypto asset networks using the CEX
  • How to use each feature of the CEX, including our zoom feature, calendar and data table
  • The 6 unique benchmarks that comprise the CEX visualizer
  • The specific methodologies we’re using as a stepping stone in refining our tool.

Our video didn’t answer your specific question? Visit our glossary for a full and complete explanation.

Image via CoinDesk

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Ethereum Energy Project Now Powers 700 Households in 10 Cities

A little-known ethereum project called Lition is quietly helping real German citizens find cheaper energy.

Launched earlier this year, Lition is already a licensed energy supplier in Germany with clients in 12 major cities (including Berlin, Hamburg and Munich) who are now using its decentralized energy market. Built on top of the ethereum blockchain, the Lition market connects consumers directly with energy producers big and small.

In total, more than 700 households across Germany are now using the decentralized platform to buy their energy, according to the company.

In short, Lition is trying to change how global energy works with a concept very familiar to blockchain enthusiasts: “bypassing unnecessary middlemen,” saving its users money on energy.

In the case of the households, an energy supplier sells the solar or electric energy (or whatever type they’ve produced) to an intermediary, often a giant, multinational company. Customers then buy energy from that intermediary.

The problem is, in the eyes of Lition CEO Richard Lohwasser, these multinational intermediaries have too much influence and don’t give users enough choice in what type of energy they can buy.

So, Lition’s solution is to cut them out completely.

“Our energy exchange connects customers and producers directly. Producers put their energy on the exchange and then customers can buy it,” he told CoinDesk, adding:

“Usually buying directly from producers is limited to energy suppliers that are big corporations. We’re bringing the exchange to the consumer, so consumers can pay for the energy they want.”

Cutting out the giants

Slicing out the middlemen also cuts costs – and not by a minuscule amount either. According to Lition, this saves customers an average of 20 percent on their utility bills, and increases power plant revenue by up to 30 percent.

That’s even though Lition has a strong emphasis on “green energy,” which while better for the environment, is often more expensive. As the app demo shows, Lition users can choose from the categories of wind, solar or biomass, then choose which provider they like the best (which, Lohwasser said is usually just the cheapest option).

Once a user finds the energy they want to buy, they make a payment in euros to Lition. Behind the scenes, an ethereum smart contract detects this payment and automatically sends the customer their energy.

“Lition’s …. blockchain technology simplifies the process of buying energy directly from green producers of any scale by employing transparent smart contracts that allow consumers to circumvent all of the complexity of energy distribution brokers,” the Lition website explains.

For now, users need to be from Germany, where Lition is licensed to operate. Those who are interested in purchasing energy using Lition’s market can query on the Lition website, which also features a price estimator based on the user’s postal code.

But Lohwasser sees all this is a proof-of-concept for a bigger goal.

Maybe, one day, anyone will be able to buy energy directly in this decentralized fashion, perhaps even from tiny solar farms set up by hobbyists in a neighborhood nearby.

Blockchain struggles

The bad news is that, like some other companies, they’ve had problems with ethereum.

“Ethereum is not a good system,” Lohwasser put his opinion bluntly.

As much as he appreciates that the platform is open and “permissionless,” meaning anyone can use it without filing a permission slip, he rattled off a long list of problems Lition users have faced.

“It’s very slow. It takes 20 to 30 seconds to tell a customer whether they can buy energy or not,” he said, adding that as a company that’s trying to promote renewable energy, they began to feel uneasy about using a system that relies on mining, which is a rather energy-sucking process.

Realizing all the high costs associated with the platform put Lition in a bit of a bind. They started a hunt for something better, but looking at at least a dozen blockchains, they couldn’t find one that was both permissionless and scalable.

“They all have their drawbacks,” Lohwasser said. He seemed skeptical of private blockchains, different from its public cousin in that not just anyone can participate. “You might as well not have a blockchain,” he remarked.

So, they found partnering with one of the world’s largest software companies, SAP, to build their own system, a “hybrid” blockchain for enterprise, which combines what they believe are the best aspects of private and public blockchains. SAP is working on the smart contract layer, while Litiom tackles the consensus layer.

The company is quick to stress that they managed to create all this technology without funding via an initial coin offering (ICO). The new type of fundraising enabled by blockchain technology is exciting, but has also drawn quite a bit of skepticism, partly because dubious projects have been able to raise millions of dollars in this way.

In order to pursue their private-public blockchain, to be used for more than just energy use cases, Lition plans to launch their own ICO to get it off the ground later this year.

Solar panels image via Shutterstock

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