The first interview this year tackles blockchain, Big Data and IoT from the perspective of Harald Zapp, the CEO of Weeve. We’ve had the pleasure to talk to Harald about his company’s business model, data security, the relationship between blockchain and Big Data in the future, as well as their applicability, and much more. Read the whole interview below.
OCC: Tell us a bit more about your company’s business model, what problem are you solving and how?
Harald Zapp: We are providing an end-to-end security and authentication solution for the commercialization of IoT data. We are doing so through the offering of three primary products – the weeveOS, the Trusted IoT Oracle, and the Weeve Data Marketplace. Everything together forms a chain of trust, from the generation to the exploitation of the IoT data.
The weeveOS is a combination of our Testimony, MQTTS, and Blockchain Wallet, each of which serves the purpose of attesting the data produced by a device, enabling the secure communication of it to a cloud backend, and a payment system between devices. The weeveOS will be comprised of modular building blocks, each of which can act as standalones to be integrated into a diversity of pre-existing IoT operating systems. These modules can then be licensed individually, or as part of the weeveOS solution, under a subscription model that will include delivery, installation, and maintenance of the OS.
The Trusted IoT Oracle will serve as the validator of real-world events, ensuring that inputs into smart contracts of devices running Weeve software be guaranteed as fully secure. The Trusted IoT Oracle will be running the Weeve Testimony to ensure the security of this data, where this is of particular importance since the integrity of the data can only be guaranteed at the smart contract level, and not at the Oracle level. Our revenue model for this will be based on transaction fees which will depend on the basis of industry, information type, and the extent of market adoption. So value-based pricing.
Finally, the Weeve Data Marketplace will be the culmination of all of these products, where parties and their registered devices will come together to trade their data.
OCC: How do you ensure data security on the platform?
Harald Zapp: To provide full integrity of the data produced by IoT devices, we have developed an end-to-end security and authentication solution.
At the bottom of our technology stack, we build upon a hardware architecture, to ensure the secure loading of IoT devices.
The Testimony is then used to verify that the execution of particular programs that are involved in the harvesting of data produced by the IoT device satisfy cryptographic soundness.
We then make use of our patented secure communication protocol called MQTTS to establish an authentic and confidential connection between an IoT device and a broker, where we securely transport digital assets from the IoT device to the backend.
Finally, our Blockchain Wallet enables the management and authentication of smart-contract-based transactions, by storing pre-defined, standardized smart contract templates and the cryptographic credentials necessary to legitimate the contract.
OCC: Would you say that blockchain makes Big Data better? Could you name a few applications of blockchain in Big Data?
Harald Zapp: Traditional centralized databases have storage centralized at a single entity, leaving the system open to malicious actors who may wish to exploit vulnerabilities to compromise the integrity of the data.
Blockchain provides numerous opportunities to Big Data which have been lacking in traditional centralized databases including integrity, consistency, and immutability.
There are therefore numerous applications of this technology across a variety of industries that currently utilize big data to extract valuable industry insights.
The quantity of data produced by global internet users has grown rapidly over the past decades. This has quickly led to bottlenecks in the processing capabilities of centralized cloud services that attempt to extract useful insights from this data. Blockchain can enable computing in clusters, providing incentives to node participants in the network to contribute their processing power to the analysis of data, and thus provide a wealth of applications in big data processing.
Consistency can also be assured by the nature of the distributed storage of transactions across all participating network nodes, ensuring a robust and secure network in case a select number of nodes are compromised.
Finally, suitable storage solutions can be enabled by capitalizing on inexpensive commodity hardware to decentralised storage. As such, the large amounts of untapped capital in personal computers can be utilized to expand the overall storage capacity of data produced by users worldwide.
Each of these features has very immediate, practical use-cases in multiple domains and industries. In supply chain and logistics, integrity of transactions between parties involved in the supply chain can be guaranteed. Within insurance, accurate premium pricing can be guaranteed where risk of data inconsistency is no longer an issue.
OCC: What would you see as the next step for blockchain and Big Data?
Harald Zapp: Providing security solutions at the hardware level for IoT devices. There is currently a rush to secure all types of Big Data in a blockchain. This is, however, redundant unless security is guaranteed at every stage of the data value chain. This holds especially true for the very root of the chain, where the production of data by the device is susceptible to numerous vector attacks. A security vulnerability at the hardware level will render the value of the data, once it reaches the marketplace, worthless.
OCC: What do you think about the rising trend of STOs? Do you see potential in the underlined benefits of an STO?
Harald Zapp: There are contrasting opinions on the topic but no doubt we will see a more cautious approach to the proliferation of STOs in capital markets around the world.
The bear market of 2018 following regulatory sanctions was a lesson learned for many early-stage companies that were looking for a cash grab amongst the highly-liquid markets. Regulatory agencies will make sure that more stringent regulatory hurdles are enforced, and that investors go through KYC and AML requirements.
One of the biggest factors affecting capital movements across the world is regulatory landscapes. This will continue to be the case for how STOs emerge in various geographies around the world.
In the US, the SEC will most likely continue to consider ICOs as securities, imposing financial and legal penalties that require the refunding of the initial investment. In Asia, exchanges will continue to wait before listing securities on their platforms.
For the global ICO community, constantly changing regulatory landscapes will cause large amounts of uncertainty for exchanges. Projects and exchanges alike will have to wait for the go-ahead from financial regulators, before deciding to pursue financing for their projects and listings of tokens.
OCC: Please name three risks associated with ICOs nowadays.
Harald Zapp: For those running an ICO:
The risk that their project gets flagged as a security even though not declared as such by them.
There is no tangible product or service backing the offering.
The project can misuse funding if there is a lack of accountability by means of verified identity.
The fundamentals behind the ‘white paper’ are speculative at best and will likely not deliver.
OCC: How can companies who launch an ICO make sure that the tokens get listed on an exchange? More than 80 percent of all ICOs never list their tokens on an exchange.
Harald Zapp: (Produce a white paper that clearly details the technical fundamentals of the product and the token sale details.) That should actually be done before an ICO!
Have a working GitHub repository for developers available.
Have proof of awareness from a set of reputable partners and community.
Working on an ecosystem so that the (utility) token is used.
OCC: What other industries do you believe will be disrupted by blockchain in the years to come?
Harald Zapp: Any industry which demands transparency, contains a middleman, and requires security, is highly likely to attract the application of blockchain technology.
This has implications across a variety of industries including industrial manufacturing, mobility, and logistics. Within the manufacturing industry, sensor data can be time-stamped on the blockchain to prevent it from being manipulated. This can then enable the secure transaction of data between parties wishing to exchange data. Building on top of this, decentralized marketplaces can then be curated to enable autonomous exchanges between parties owning fleets of manufacturing devices.
Highly regulated industries like the airline industry, that have multiple political, legal, and jurisdictional limitations, and are high-risk industries involving the safety of customers, are unlikely to face disruption in the coming years. In a similar vein, the health industry, which similarly deals with the safety of patients, and the security of sensitive patient documents, are likely to take longer to adopt blockchain.
OCC: What is your preferred technology stack?
Harald Zapp: At the bottom of our technology stack we build upon a hardware architecture, supporting a Trusted Execution Environment. We rely on the ARM Trustzone security extension, although the extension is a standard module of ARM architectures supported by all major chip manufacturers.
To leverage the ARM Trustzone, we make use of a Trusted Execution Environment enabled Operating System (TEE-OS). The TEE-OS allows us to isolate the execution of programs, and enable a secure boot process whereby the IoT device is bootstrapped in a pre-configured way and the OS has not been tampered with.
OCC: Please share with our readers your company’s plans for the future? What is your roadmap?
Harald Zapp: Q1 of 2019 will focus on the ongoing product development of the MQTTS by working with the open-source community and a few selected partners to gather valuable bug reporting feedback. We will then make the MQTTS SDK and weeveOS available to selected companies for limited device registration on a free license.
Q2 of 2019 will then see the commercial licensing of the MQTTS to corporates and SMEs.
Q3 of 2019 will focus on the development of Weeve’s second technology, the Testimony.
Q4 of 2019 will see the finalization of the weeveOS which will include the Testimony, MQTTS, and Wallet.
Weeve provides an end-to-end security and authentication solution for the commercialization of IoT data, through the offering of three primary products – the weeveOS, the Trusted IoT Oracle, and the Weeve Data Marketplace. Powered by next-generation cryptography, open source hardware and secured by the blockchain, Weeve is the basis for the Economy of Things.