Blog > 2017 > February

Scotland and Japan launch IOHK's research network

28 February 2017 Jeremy Wood 4 mins read

Scotland and Japan launch IOHKs research network - Input Output

L-R: Nikos Bentenitis, IOHK Chief Operating Officer; Aggelos Kiayias, IOHK Chief Scientist; Charles Hoskinson, IOHK Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder; Johanna Moore, Head of the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh; Jon Oberlander, Assistant Principal for Data Technology, University of Edinburgh Research is at the core of what IOHK does so I am extremely proud of the company’s achievement in launching blockchain research centres at two world-class universities in February. This is a recognition of the pioneering work that IOHK is doing in advancing the science of cryptocurrencies, producing research that will all be open source and patent-free and progress the industry as a whole.

We marked the launch of our [Blockchain Technology Laboratory at the University of Edinburgh’s](http://www.ed.ac.uk/informatics/news-events/recentnews/beyond-bitcoiniohk-and-university-of-edinburgh "IOHK and University of Edinburgh Blockchain Technology Lab") School of Informatics last week, which will be led by Professor Aggelos Kiayias, our Chief Scientist. It is Scotland’s first blockchain research partnership between academia and industry, and we are proud to open it at the UK’s leading university for computer science research. Starting immediately, the lab will train the next generation of cryptographers and computer scientists, from undergraduate to post doctoral and professor level. The lab will be interdisciplinary, bringing in experts from the fields that blockchain encompasses, from law to ethics, and from economics to distributed systems. The research centre will also serve as the headquarters for IOHK’s growing network of global university partnerships.

The lab will provide a direct connection between developers and researchers, helping to get projects live faster and will pursue outreach projects with entrepreneurs in Edinburgh’s vibrant local technology community. Recruiting and outreach will begin immediately, and the full facility will be operational from summer 2017, located in the School of Informatics’ newly refurbished Appleton Tower.

Professor Kiayias says: “We are very excited regarding this collaboration on blockchain technology between the School of Informatics and IOHK. Distributed ledgers is an upcoming disruptive technology that can scale information services to a global level. The academic and industry connection forged by this collaboration puts the Blockchain Technology Lab at Edinburgh at the forefront of innovation in blockchain systems.”

And it was only two weeks earlier that IOHK celebrated another significant deal, at [Tokyo Institute of Technology](http://www.titech.ac.jp/english/news/2017/037573.html "IOHK and Tokyo Institute of Technology blockchain partnership"), a prestigious Japanese university and a leader in technology. Our partnership with them in setting up a Cryptocurrency Collaborative Research Chair is the first time the university has done such a deal and we are honoured to receive this distinction.

Two of our top researchers, Mario Larangeira and Bernado David will be embedded into a team led by Professor Tanaka at Tokyo Tech’s main site, the Ookayama campus. The team, along with professors and graduate students, will tackle industry challenges in this rapidly developing area of research into cryptocurrencies and provide education for the Japanese market. The partnership also includes support for students and researchers to attend international conferences.

Charles Hoskinson and Yoshinao Mishima,
President of Tokyo Tech

Tokyo Tech President, Yoshinao Mishima, says: “This agreement is important because Tokyo Tech is seeking to enhance the collaboration with industries and universities in Japan and abroad by producing groundbreaking results in research and engineering which will be published in internationally renowned scientific journals and conferences.”

These launches are just the beginning of a global network of research centres that IOHK is building, to drive collaboration between the world’s best cryptographers and developers to create the cutting edge blockchain technology that will revolutionise the world’s financial services. Further centres are planned in the US, Europe and beyond. Expect more news this year and in 2018.

A Joint Statement on Ethereum Classic’s Monetary Policy

27 February 2017 Alan McSherry 3 mins read

A Joint Statement on Ethereum Classic’s Monetary Policy

I'd like to thank everyone from the Ethereum Classic community for their support. I'm really excited to present the following statement which is in reference to monetary policy for the ETC platform. The Ethereum Classic community has grown substantially since its inception in July of 2016. In order to further Ethereum Classic’s vision, the community needs to adopt a monetary policy that balances the long-term interests of investors, developers, and business operators.

This statement represents a collaborative show of support for the monetary policy proposed in ECIP 1017. As industry stakeholders, ETC community members, exchange operators, mining pool operators, miners, wallet providers, developers, the Distributed Autonomous Coalition Asia (DACA) and the China Ethereum Classic Consortium (ECC), and other industry participants; we are committed to jointly planning and implementing a road map to effect the future ETC monetary policy.

We have agreed on the following points:

  • We understand that a monetary policy has been proposed that establishes an upper bound on the total number of ETC that will ever be issued, and that this policy was the result of extensive discussions within the community. The policy also defines a method of reducing the block reward over time. It is available in English here and in Chinese here.

  • The new monetary policy sets a limit for the total ETC issuance. The block reward will be reduced by 20% at block number 5,000,000, and another 20% every 5,000,000 blocks thereafter. Uncle block rewards will also be reduced. Due to variations in the reward rate of ETC, we anticipate the total supply to be approximately 210 million ETC, not to exceed 230 million ETC.

  • We will continue to work with the Ethereum Classic protocol development community to develop, in public, a safe hard fork procedure based on the proposed monetary policy. ETCDEV Team will provide an implementation of the monetary policy for both the geth and parity clients after the hard fork procedure is agreed upon.

  • We will run consensus systems that are compatible with Ethereum Classic clients, which will eventually contain the ECIP 1017 monetary policy and the hard-fork, in production.

Based on the above points, the timeline will likely follow the below dates.

Development Estimates

  • Geth and Parity clients that include the updated monetary policy are expected to be released in June 2017.

  • If there is strong network-level support, the hard-fork activation will likely happen around Fall 2017.

  • If the hard fork is activated, the first reduction in block reward will happen around December 2017.

Our common goal is to make Ethereum Classic a success. We believe that the community can unite and work together to achieve a sustainable global platform.

Together, we are:

  • 白洪日, CEO, 币创网bichuang
  • 陈刚, CEO, ETCWin & 91pool
  • 顾颖(初夏虎) Eric Gu, CEO, ViewFin & szzc.com
  • 郭宏才 Chandler Guo, Miner & Investor
  • 韩锋博士, Chairman, DACA区块链协会
  • 黄天威, CEO, 比特时代BTC38
  • 胡洪杰, Vice Chairman, DACA区块链协会
  • 李大伟, CEO, CHBTC
  • 毛世行, CEO, F2Pool
  • 徐刚 博士, Developer
  • 许子敬 Ryan Xu, Miner & Investor
  • 张淞皓, CEO, BTC123
  • 赵千捷, Vice President, BTCC
  • 邹来辉Roy Zou, Chairman, 以太坊原链协会 (Ethereum Classic Consortium)
  • Igor Artamonov, CTO, ETCDEV Team
  • Charles Hoskinson, CEO, IOHK
  • Michael Moro, CEO, Genesis Global Trading
  • Yates Randall, CTO, epool.io
  • Barry Silbert, Founder & CEO, Digital Currency Group & Grayscale Investments
  • Cory Tselikis, Miner Investor and Pool Operator, etc.minerhub.io & bec.minerhub.io

Mission one – Destination St Petersburg and Warsaw

22 February 2017 Jeremy Wood 3 mins read

Mission one – Destination St Petersburg and Warsaw - Input Output

Mission one – Destination St Petersburg and Warsaw

One of my first priorities after coming onboard with the Grothendieck team to take forward Ethereum Classic was to get out and meet colleagues and IOHK’s developers, wherever they might be. That meant making a trip to St Petersburg and to Warsaw, which was an excellent opportunity to meet face-to-face, and all the more valuable given that we are usually spread out around the world and across timezones. When I arrived in St Petersburg at the end of January to see Alex Chepurnoy, IOHK Research Fellow and Scorex Team manager, the temperature outside was hovering below zero degrees celsius. Lunch involved Alex and I walking across a frozen lake, where a guy was fishing through the ice and another brave citizen in swimming trunks was going for a quick splash in the lake’s icy water. Later, Alex and I put our heads together to look at Scorex and whether it would be compatible for our Scala implementation of the Ethereum Client. We got into detailed discussions on how consensus is formed in ETC and the differences between it and Scorex, before going on to consider the network layer, and I also learnt from Alex about some of the potential future attacks on Ethereum. By the end of the trip we concluded that Scorex was not the right fit for use on the ETC client, because Ethereum is specified to a much greater degree of detail than Scorex was designed to accommodate. It was a useful discussion to have. We also shared thoughts on the philosophy of how blockchains work and IODB, which Jan Kotek at IOHK has developed specifically as a blockchain database and which supports versioning and key value pairs. All in all, it was a productive trip, rounded off with a visit to the State Russian museum, which I highly recommend.

In early February I visited Warsaw, to get to know the part of the Grothendieck team based in Poland. They normally work from home, so we hired a co-working space in Warsaw. True to the spirit of remote working, we set up a laptop and the Grothendieck team’s Argentine contingent – Alan Verbner and Nicolas Tallar – joined online from Buenos Aires. It was a fun variation from our usual daily call to keep up to date.

So with the Polish part of the team – Radek Tkaczyk, Adam Smolarek, Lukasz Gasior and Jan Ziniewicz – we set out a timeline for our work on ETC and walked through all the functionality filling in gaps in each other’s knowledge as we went along. It was a very useful session followed by a well deserved team dinner and a beer (Thank you Pawel Marzec for organising!) On the second day, with the help of the whiteboard, we went through gas calculation, the architectural layer and architectural layering and components in the codebase.

Next stop, Argentina!

Authenticated Dynamic Dictionaries, with Applications to Cryptocurrencies

20 February 2017 Alexander Chepurnoy 3 mins read

Our paper "Improving Authenticated Dynamic Dictionaries, with Applications to Cryptocurrencies" will appear at the Financial Cryptography 2017 conference in Malta in April. It was also presented at the Real World Crypto 2017 conference in New York and I highly recommend watching the impressive presentation from Leonid Reyzin, professor of computer science at Boston University and one of the four authors of the paper.

Some background. Previously I worked for the Nxt platform which has assets and many more cool features. The problem is, the blockchain processing becomes incredibly heavyweight (considering the pretty low number of transactions, in comparison with Bitcoin) with new features added. The same problem with Ethereum these days - after the attacks in autumn, it is nearly impossible to wait until processing being finished on an ordinary laptop.

The problem is in a state (e.g. UTXO set in Bitcoin) persistence. Once it hits a secondary storage (HDD or SSD), processing becomes very slow.

Thus two considerations behind our work on AVL+ trees and a proposed scheme for cryptocurrencies:

  • It should be feasible to run a full-node (maybe not a mining node) on commodity hardware

  • Initial blockchain processing, and then block processing must use RAM only

As commodity hardware is pretty limited in RAM, the idea is not to store the state for full-nodes at all. The scheme is as follows:

  1. The state is authenticated with the help of a 2-party dynamic authenticated dictionary.

  2. A mining node is storing the whole state. When packing transactions into a block, it generates proofs of the authenticated state transformations and announces a new root hash after the transformations being done in a blockheader. Proofs are to be included into the block.

  3. A full-node receiving the block checks that 1) Transactions are correct (format and signatures are correct etc) 2) State transformation operations derived from the transactions are corresponding to the proofs 3) Proofs are correct 4) Resulting roothash (a verifier is getting it just by processing proofs) is the same as the announced one. Thus the node is checking everything, but without holding the state (e.g. UTXO set).

Then the paper is about to find a most efficient structure out of many candidates (and the winner is custom-tailored authenticated AVL+ trees).

Not mentioned in the paper but worth mentioning is that proofs in a block could be authenticated themselves (with the help of a Merkle tree which is perfect for static data) with a root hash included in a blockheader. Then if node is holding the state it could skip downloading proofs from the network, also there is possibility to prune them in the future (this scheme reminds me of the SegWit proposal for Bitcoin).

Proofs are adding a significant burden regarding block size (actually a proof can be longer than the corresponding transaction), so decreased throughput is to be considered seriously.

The code had been released on GitHub during RealWorldCrypto – see the section on authenticated data structures. There are some possible further minor optimizations (possibly reducing proof size by few percent in total) we are now discussing.

A Proof-of-Stake lecture at Oxford university

16 February 2017 Jane Wild 3 mins read

A Proof-of-Stake lecture at Oxford university - Input Output

A Proof-of-Stake lecture at Oxford university

Mathematicians with a curiosity about the algorithms behind blockchain came to hear Aggelos Kiayias speak at Oxford university’s Mathematical Institute on Wednesday. Professor Kiayias, Chief Scientist at IOHK, had been invited to the university to give a talk on his work on Ouroboros, a provably secure Proof-of-Stake algorithm for blockchain.

It the first time such a cryptographic protocol has been devised and is significant because its use would enable blockchains to process many more transactions, giving the technology the muscle that would scale it up for far wider use than at present.

Aggelos Kiayias

“Bitcoin is slow,” he said in the presentation, in an outline of the problem. “The transactions per second of Visa are in the order of many thousands, for Paypal in the order of hundreds, and Bitcoin is far less than that – clearly that’s something that can’t scale to a global level.”

In addition to the much greater efficiency of Ouroboros, Prof Kiayias explained a novel reward mechanism for incentivising the protocol and used game theory to show why attacks such as selfish mining and block withholding would be neutralised.

A Nash equilibrium is a prescription of a strategy for each rational player, with the property that if other players follow it, it does not make sense for a rational player to deviate from it.

Prof Kiayias described how Ouroboros can be proven to be an approximate Nash equilibrium, thus distinguishing this blockchain system from Bitcoin, which is known to be not incentive compatible.

The Ouroboros paper was first published last December with Alexander Russel, Bernardo David and Roman Oliynykov and Prof Kiayias presented the work at the Alan Turing Institute in London last year.

A new version of the Ouroboros technical report will be available as early as next week, and will contain updated benchmarks that illustrate the performance benefits of the protocol.

Among the audience was Hayyu Imanda, whose desire to specialise in cryptography for her PhD studies brought her to hear the presentation. The 22-year-old is currently in a class of 26 students at Oxford university studying for an MSc in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science.

“I come from a pure maths background and I find cryptography very interesting, in that it was relatively recently founded and there is so much research happening,” she says. “I see it as a bridge from pure maths into real life, with many uses in terms of security, and it’s going to be a growing field.”

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