China’s ambitious national blockchain infrastructure project has enlisted two partners to help with two of the biggest challenges with this technology.
SmartContract, the company behind the Chainlink oracle network, will help the state-backed Blockchain-Based Service Network (BSN) with sourcing of reliable information about the real world. Meanwhile, Iris Foundation Ltd., an “inter-chain” services firm that integrates businesses with the Cosmos network, will assist BSN with interoperability, or allowing different systems to work in conjunction with each other.
BSN previously disclosed the two firms’ involvement but it detailed their exact roles Tuesday. Each firm will lend its respective expertise to the buildout of a “service hub” that would underpin an envisioned “internet of blockchains.”
For example, a Hyperledger-based distributed app (dapp) that tracks logistics in real time could send data to the hub, where another dapp based on Ethereum would be authorized to access the information. As it stands, these systems are largely siloed off from each other.
“Our users will be able to obtain outside data such as stock prices and financial transactions through Chainlink while getting cross-chain services between blockchains adapted in the network with Irisnet based on Tendermint,” said Yifan He, CEO of Beijing Red Date Technology, a key player in the BSN project. (Tendermint is the consensus protocol powering Cosmos;)
“With the partnership between BSN and Chainlink, users can have the access to have outside data from many Chinese companies, such as financial transaction information from China Union Pay, which would be otherwise difficult to obtain and analyze in the first place,” He said.
Chain of chains
Backed by the State Information Center, state-owned tech conglomerate China Mobile and China Union Pay, and Red Date, BSN aspires to be a blockchain infrastructure that offers cheaper and accessible services on any chain for users around the world.
”We have been on-boarding two to three public chains every month on average, while adapting consortium chains at a slower pace since it usually takes longer to integrate them with the network,” He said.
Industry pros pointed out BSN could be one of the very few organizations that can pull off such an inclusive interconnected network of both Chinese and international blockchains and potentially achieve economies of scale for interchain services due to its connections with the government.
BSN’s pitch to companies and software developers is that they can use it to build blockchain applications cheaply and efficiently by choosing the components from a broad menu of integrated systems, rather than starting from scratch.
However, some experts have shared their concerns about how developers can protect their data if they join BSN despite the network’s promises of absolute privacy in its latest technical white paper.
BSN aims to deliver a demonstration of its cross-chain services as early as September. The project will work with more cross-chain tech firms to expand the interchain service hub and the network is in early talks with three such firms, including the team behind Polkadot, regarding a potential partnership.
“We plan to have at least four different interchain service technical frameworks developers can choose from in the hub,” He said. “The interchain service hub is one of the three critical parts for the national blockchain infrastructure’s development in the near future” and the other two are adapting enterprise and public blockchains into the network.
BSN announced plans to adapt Ethereum and EOS public blockchains into the BSN system in April.
Signals from above
Chainlink’s specialty is oracles, trusted providers of off-chain information to determine the outcomes of on-chain smart contracts. An oracle might tell a contract who won the U.S. presidential election, triggering payouts to users who bet on the victorious candidate, for example.
In the tie-up with BSN, “Chainlink provides the blockchain abstraction layer or secure blockchain middleware that enable dapp developers to create universally connected smart contracts.” said Sergey Nazarov, co-founder of Chainlink and CEO of SmartContract.
“What BSN really cares about, much like the people we’ve worked with from Google, is this type of contract that allows blockchains to access external off-chain data,” he said, referring to his outfit’s collaboration with Google Cloud.
Blockchains can not be directly connected to application programming interfaces (APIs) and the universally connected smart contracts can make that connection and enable the blockchains to use the off-chain data, Nazarov explained.
For the smart contracts that can be used for a global trade agreement, financial product or insurance, the contracts need to obtain external data and make sure the goods and services are delivered, which requires the universally connected contracts, Nazarov said.
Chainlink’s technology suits BSN’s vision because the network includes multiple chains that are also supported by Nazarov’s team, he said.
William Foxley contributed reporting to this report.