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Hundreds attend the IOHK Summit 2019 in Miami

New products, Cardano progress and industry issues in focus at event

29 April 2019 Amy Reeve 7 mins read

Hundreds attend the IOHK Summit 2019 in Miami

Government ministers, industry professionals, and Cardano fans were at the IOHK Summit 2019 in Miami this month, excited to hear IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson outline the future for Cardano and launch Atala, the company’s enterprise offering for business. Hosted at the Miami Beach Convention Center, the summit saw renowned speakers such as computer scientist Stephen Wolfram and cyberpunk author Rudy Rucker alongside government representatives, entrepreneurs, and enthusiastic community members. The summit reflected the broad appeal – and potential – of both blockchain technology and IOHK’s research. In total, the event had over 700 attendees, including IOHK staff: a rare and enjoyable opportunity for our decentralized company to meet and collaborate in person.

IOHK Team 2019
IOHK has grown from fewer than 20 people in 2016 to almost 200 today

IOHK Summit 2019

To kick off the summit, IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson discussed the goals and philosophy of IOHK: ‘we're not just building a decentralized system, we're building a decentralized infrastructure’ to invite billions of people – thus far ignored and unserved by legacy finance – into a new and flourishing economy.

IOHK holds a summit every year, but this was the first year that the event was open to the public. Attendees gathered between talks to network and discuss all aspects of blockchain and cryptocurrency, with stands from Emurgo, the Cardano Foundation, the Cardano Effect podcast and more lining the walls for attendees to visit.

IOHK Team 2019
IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson during his keynote speech

Atala: our enterprise product

Atala, the new Cardano enterprise offering, was a major piece of news from the summit. The enterprise-grade product will blend blockchain with new and existing technologies, providing a holistic, best-in-class offering for those with large and potentially complex use cases. Like everything else we do, Atala will be underpinned by IOHK's world-leading research. During his presentation, IOHK director of engineering Bruno Woltzenlogel Paleo outlined the fundamental vision for Atala: ‘to do for all data what bitcoin did for money’.

To celebrate the launch of Atala - named after a butterfly - one hundred live native butterflies were released outside the convention center
To celebrate the launch of Atala
- named after a butterfly - one hundred
live native butterflies were released
outside the convention center.

Cardano development

With the formal specifications for Shelley released just days before the summit, progress on Cardano development was in the spotlight too. There were talks from senior Cardano development team members Duncan Coutts, Philipp Kant, and Bruno Woltzenlogel Paleo, as well as open panel discussions about how blockchain – and Cardano, of course – will interact with future law and monetary policy. IOHK engineers have been working hard on the development of Shelley, and Charles took the opportunity to reiterate that the ultimate goal of Cardano isn’t just to ship a technology product, but to create a means of improving quality of life for millions of people around the world.

Government engagement

Other exciting news from the event included the first public announcement of an MoU between IOHK and the Ethiopian government, with IOHK set to design and create a cryptocurrency for Ethiopian citizens. John O'Connor, IOHK director of African operations, announced the joint venture during his presentation about IOHK's recent success running a Haskell course in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Meanwhile Lars Brünjes, IOHK’s director of education, discussed the human impact of the initiative: not only is it a huge step forward for the industry to be engaged with government organizations, but leveraging blockchain technology in the developing world will improve the everyday lives of millions of people.

It isn’t just the Ethiopian government that IOHK is engaging with either: also at the summit were Caitlin Long and Tyler Lindholm, both members of the Wyoming legislature, discussing how the state is making huge strides to become a haven for the emerging markets of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Delegates from the Mongolian government were at the summit as well, including the minister of foreign affairs, along with CEO and entrepreneur Gerelmaa Batchuluun, explaining how ‘Mongolia is the next destination for the blockchain revolution’.

Community projects

The summit was also an opportunity for members of our dedicated community to meet and collaborate directly with IOHK, and one of the most popular workshop sessions was run by two community members who only met a few months ago at the inaugural PlutusFest event in Edinburgh, UK. In their talk, Cardano on the rocks, Markus Gufler and Robert Kornacki presented undeniable evidence of the potential reach of Cardano. They demonstrated how a full Cardano node can run on low-cost open-source hardware using less than ten watts of power, potentially provided by a solar panel, opening up the world of Cardano to anyone, anywhere. Not only that, but Markus and Robert run a free, community-driven education portal, Clio.1, where they’ll soon be sharing the details of their work for everyone to benefit from.

Robert Kornacki and Markus Gufler
Robert Kornacki and Markus Gufler, two Cardano community members, at the summit with their open-source hardware solution for Cardano

That’s not all

Also at the summit was the Symphony of Blockchains project, beginning its much-anticipated world tour in Miami. The full virtual reality blockchain experience was available for attendees to explore, with augmented reality posters scattered around the summit, waiting to be discovered. Visitors to the exhibition described being ‘blown away’ by the simulated blockchain.

In addition to the talks, stands, workshops, and exhibits, summit attendees also had the option to take part in a cryptopuzzle with a $10,000 USD prize - won by a team of three community members working together - as well as a collaborative hackathon providing Plutus and Marlowe training.

Internal summit

Before the public event, IOHK staff also took part in two days of internal presentations. As a decentralized company, the annual summit is a unique opportunity for IOHK employees to meet each other in person. Many IOHK employees arrived early to enjoy the beautiful Miami weather, spending time together on the beach and taking a trip to the Everglades before getting down to business.

IOHK employees enjoyed a few days of well-earned rest on beautiful Miami Beach
IOHK employees enjoyed a few days of well-earned rest on beautiful Miami Beach

‘As a company,’ IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson began his internal address, ‘we've touched and tackled every fundamental problem in the cryptocurrency space’. He spoke of the company's history, and its unprecedented growth from just a dozen employees in 2016 to almost two hundred now in 2019. As the blockchain industry matures, and IOHK with it, Charles discussed the challenges of 'being able to keep your principles while embracing pragmatism'.

Other internal talks covered everything from IOHK's educational efforts in Africa to the latest updates from the engineering team. Throughout the two company-only days, groups of IOHK employees could be seen all around the Loews Hotel location, hunched over laptops, deep in discussion. The mood was passionate and enthusiastic, no one wanting to waste the chance to collaborate, and meetings continued into the evening, spilling out into local bars and restaurants.

The IOHK Summit 2019 was an incredible event, not just for IOHK but for the industry, bringing together members of the blockchain community with politicians, legislators, and thinkers, all poised to define the future of this revolutionary technology. The event made it clear just how far IOHK has come - and how much further we're going to go.

The Symphony of Blockchains project comes to Bristol

The groundbreaking immersive blockchain experience was presented at the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol

20 February 2019 Amy Reeve 3 mins read

The Symphony of Blockchains project comes to Bristol

The Symphony of Blockchains project had its public debut last week at a packed event in Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery. Over a hundred visitors took the chance to explore the bitcoin blockchain in full virtual reality (VR), at a joint presentation from IOHK creative partners Kuva and IOHK's creative team. The Symphony project is an educational initiative, with the goal of creating new and innovative ways to teach people about blockchain technology. Andy Buchan, founder and creative director of Kuva, described the project as ‘an unprecedented opportunity to visualize new technology, and to establish a vocabulary for the blockchain industry,’ while IOHK creative director Richard Wild spoke of how the project had 'enabled creatives to engage with hard concepts in new ways.’

The exhibition itself spanned two rooms: one with a large, towering monolith in the centre and two VR headsets, and a second room with rows of augmented reality posters and a projector attached to a VR setup.

Symphony Monolith, Bristol The large, imposing monolith which occupied one room of the exhibition

In the first room, visitors queued to put on VR headsets and watch the monolith come to life, while a voiceover explains the fundamentals of blockchain technology. As you listen, bright streaks of light — transactions happening on bitcoin's blockchain in real time — shoot past, gravitating towards the heart of the monolith. There they blend into a glowing ball, a melting pot of transactions that viewers can manipulate, expanding the data into the room around them to explore in 3D.

In a second room, another VR experience — single-handedly created by IOHK creative coder Scott Darby — saw visitors dive deeper into the raw, living data of the bitcoin blockchain. Here you can traverse the intricate structure of Merkle trees, surrounded by bitcoin transaction crystals which glow and hum as you explore. A more in-depth experience, this part of the VR exhibition allowed visitors to travel all the way back to the bitcoin genesis block, generating dynamic audio in real-time as users explored the virtual space.

A visitor exploring the blockchain A visitor exploring the blockchain

Creating the Symphony project isn't just a stunning visual achievement for IOHK and Kuva, but a technical one too. Running the VR simulations requires simultaneously managing and syncing multiple data streams, from the audiovisual cues for the headsets to the lidar mapping the room — and of course, live data from the bitcoin blockchain itself.

Augmented Reality Poster
Augmented reality posters in action

Everyone who attended the event seemed impressed, describing the experience as ‘mind-blowing.’ The opportunity to explore the constructs underpinning bitcoin in a tactile, physical way allowed even those with no blockchain experience to grasp fundamental concepts quickly, and visitors as young as twelve expressed a greater understanding of blockchain as a result.

The event in Bristol was just the start for the Symphony project: there'll be an even bigger exhibit at the IOHK Summit in Miami next month, before Symphony goes on tour to educate people around the world about blockchain technology.

Launching Plutus and Marlowe at the inaugural PlutusFest

IOHK’s new smart contract tools for developers and financiers

17 December 2018 Amy Reeve 3 mins read

Launching Plutus and Marlowe at the inaugural PlutusFest - Input Output

Last week IOHK hosted the inaugural PlutusFest at the University of Edinburgh. Members of the IOHK team flew in from around the world, with interested academics, developers, financiers, and members of the press also in attendance.

Professor Philip Wadler reprises his role
as Lambda Man, PlutusFest style.

IOHK research fellow Philip Wadler opened the event - and his shirt, in traditional Lambda Man style - followed by a keynote from CEO and co-founder Charles Hoskinson, discussing the social nature of money, and why IOHK’s rigorous formal verification methods are even more important in the face of increasing decentralization.

Professor Aggelos Kiayias also spoke about the work of the Edinburgh Blockchain Technology Lab (BTL), and how they are working in tandem with IOHK to accelerate the transition of new ideas from academia to real-world applications. During 2017 - 2018, 21 academic papers have been published or co-authored by IOHK and BTL researchers, with a further 20 already submitted and awaiting peer review.

IOHK’s language architect Manuel Chakravarty introduced Plutus itself, a general-purpose Haskell-based functional programming language, designed for simplicity and longevity. It can be used to write both on- and off-chain applications, improving data transfer, code re-use, and developer experience when writing smart contracts, and minimizing the need for hard forks in the future.

Like all functional programming languages, Plutus ensures secure, high assurance code by its very nature. During the design process, it was decided that the core semantics of Plutus should be concise and elegant enough to fit on a napkin - and sure enough, all attendees of PlutusFest received a limited edition Plutus napkin, along with Plutus t-shirts (and optional capes).

Proof that the core semantics of Plutus fit on a (very fancy) napkin.

Professor Simon Thompson of the University of Kent also presented on IOHK’s Marlowe, a new user-focused domain-specific language designed to enable non-technical financiers to easily write on-chain smart contracts. The Marlowe research team have been working with business analysts to design smart contract templates, opening up the use of Cardano smart contracts directly to non-programmers in banks and other businesses, who will be able to automate financial transactions using cryptocurrency technology to save time and reduce costs.

Plutus and Marlowe are being launched now to allow interested developers and financiers to experiment ahead of the Cardano Shelley release in 2019. You can try out Plutus in the Plutus Playground, a lightweight, web-based emulator for writing and executing smart contracts in Plutus. For Marlowe, there is the Meadow emulator to try out as well, find out more here.

Other talks during the event included a discussion of formal verification from IOHK’s director of engineering Duncan Coutts, as well as a series of academic talks covering System F-Omega and using Agda to formalize Plutus metatheory.

The event also provided an opportunity for the IOHK team, who are based all around the world, to meet and work together in person. The Plutus and Marlowe teams spent some time discussing future development directions - and in some cases, meeting each other for the first time - while the broader IOHK team took the chance to talk strategy, planning, and goals for 2019.

From left, Grigore Rosu of Runtime Verification, Stewart Mackenzie of Fractalide, community member Robert Kornacki, and IOHK’s Lars Brünjes hard at work before PlutusFest.

If you’re interested in hearing the presentations from PlutusFest, subscribe to the IOHK YouTube channel where high quality, re-recorded versions of the talks will be posted soon. A more in-depth recap is also available on the Cardano forum.