Blog > 2022

Learn how to create low-code, low-cost financial smart contracts in the Marlowe Pioneers Program

Join our new Marlowe training program to discover how to easily build financial smart contacts using drag and drop

11 May 2022 Niamh Ahern 4 mins read

Learn how to create low-code, low-cost financial smart contracts in the Marlowe Pioneers Program

Do you want to learn how to write low-cost smart contracts for finance with an easy-to-use visual tool? Then sign up for our new Marlowe Pioneers training program kicking off on May 19th. Marlowe is a web-based platform where you can build, simulate, analyze, and run financial smart contracts visually, without needing deep programming knowledge.

Next week sees the launch of the first Marlowe Pioneer training program, where participants can learn the fundamentals of Marlowe and help to test the code before the official release. This program is designed to train developers and anyone interested in decentralized finance products to write financial smart contracts (such as loans, swaps, CFDs, and so on) using the Marlowe product suite.

Since we announced this new course on April's Cardano360 show, we have had strong interest from both our developer community and individuals who work in finance and are interested in learning Marlowe.

Over the next few days we will contact everyone who registered to get a better idea of their experience and expertise. Those of you who have been selected for the first round of this program will hear from us very soon. If you don’t receive an invitation at this stage, don’t worry, as we will be running several rounds of this program, so please do stay in touch!

Course structure

The first iteration of the new program starts next week on May 19th and will run for eight weeks. The cohort joining this program will be true pioneers for Marlowe and will have early access to a set of learning modules. Your feedback will help us develop and iterate the overall learning experience and make it better for those who take the course in the future.

The course will teach you the core principles of Marlowe and how to write smart contracts for the financial world. The course modules will cover the building blocks of the language, using the Marlowe CLI tool, the Marlowe Playground, as well as some case studies and practical exercises.

The course will follow a modular approach and will be highly interactive. Each week we will be releasing new teaching videos from both our Marlowe product and development team and director of education, Lars Brünjes, along with a set of practical exercises to complete during the week as part of each module. We will also be holding regular interactive Q&A sessions. In addition, you will have access to a dedicated community channel on Discord, created especially to help you to connect with other course participants as you learn.

Outside the exercises and videos, students will be encouraged to learn at a pace that is right for them and to collaborate with each other. We recommend all students invest a minimum of 8-10 hours of their time per week. As with all learning experiences, the more you put in, the more you will get out! We encourage all participants to engage with each other and work collaboratively to answer questions and solve problems.

We will have a small team of moderators who will check in from time to time to help facilitate and assist. They can also help triage issues or questions that may come up in your learning during the week. At the close of each week, we will engage directly with the group to resolve more complex technical questions and provide feedback on the subject matter covered that week.

Prior experience

As Marlowe is a low code solution, it is not necessary to have programming experience to join this course. However, some knowledge of Haskell and JavaScript would be beneficial, as well as a general understanding of blockchain technology and financial products. You should be as keen to learn as to help us; while we have run a number of successful Pioneer Programs already for both Plutus and Atala, this is the first time we have challenged ourselves to teach Marlowe at this scale. So be prepared for road bumps along the way as we learn and improve, too!

When does the course start?

The course starts next week on May 19th and will run concurrently for eight weeks through late July. It will involve approximately ten hours of your time and effort each week.

Ready to learn?

We are excited to have so much interest from developers within our ecosystem who are ready to get started and learn Marlowe. You’ll not only be learning yourselves, but acting as a pioneer to help us determine the best way to teach and deliver this course – truly helping pave the way for future cohorts who enroll! We look forward to bringing you on this learning journey before we launch Marlowe to the world!

Please join us on the Marlowe Discord channel to engage in discussions, ask questions, and hear the latest Marlowe news.

Project Catalyst - A virtuous cycle of Cardano ecosystem development

Project Catalyst is Cardano’s turbo-charged innovation engine and one of the largest decentralized innovation funds in the world. It is a focal point for ecosystem development and innovation, driven by the Cardano community

10 May 2022 Tim Richmond 4 mins read

Project Catalyst - A virtuous cycle of Cardano ecosystem development

Project Catalyst aims to build systems that enable the Cardano blockchain to become self-sustaining by creating an ecosystem of growth and development. At the heart of this is the concept of decentralized governance, whereby the Cardano community selects shared ideas and priorities for funding, forming a cycle of sustainable and virtuous growth.

Every three months, Project Catalyst produces a fresh pipeline of technical, business, creative, and community-focused projects - funded to deliver their proposed ideas that have been voted for by the Cardano/Catalyst community.

With each funding round, the community presents challenges across a range of Cardano-related projects. These challenges are then answered by the community who present plans defining clear solutions. The community votes on the proposals and selects projects to receive funding.

Catalyst enables people to realize and implement great ideas, but funding is only part of the journey towards success. Other factors, including education, mentorship, collaborations, and product roadmap development are also needed to nurture projects and help them formalize a business plan and an effective go-to-market strategy.

Reinvesting the fees raised from ada transactions into the development of projects that have a positive effect on both Cardano adoption and out in the wider world, while rewarding those that create, build, and maintain the ecosystem, accordingly boosting momentum, and feeding back into the blockchain's overall sustainability.

Progress

Research is a process of learning and exploring what is possible and pushing the boundaries of progression. Project Catalyst encourages people to experiment and take full advantage of the collaborative and iterative nature of the project, presenting their ideas for feedback and review.

To date, Catalyst has grown from a fund size of $250k in fund 1 to over $16m in fund 8, smashing all previous participation records combined. Across all funds hitherto, Catalyst has received and processed more than 3.5k proposals and cast over 1 million votes. The active Catalyst community currently stands at over 52k members across 91 countries!

At the time of writing, a total of 60 Catalyst-funded projects are operational within the Cardano ecosystem. This number increases every week.

You can follow the progress of each fund and the projects that have realized their proposals here.

Pushing the boundaries and learning what does and doesn’t work is key to the foundation of both knowledge and success.

A culture of inclusion and acceptance of new ideas and concepts that may contravene one's own opinions is critical to the success of the project, where innovation, respect, and collaboration are at the forefront of the community spirit.

‘Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. I have not failed. I've just found ten thousand ways that won't work.’ - Thomas Edison

Decentralized Democracy and Transparency

Project Catalyst aims to democratize decision-making by enabling the Cardano community to vote on both challenges they wish to see being solved and the proposals that solve them.

The Cardano community remains at the heart of the project, enabling them to collectively navigate and decide upon the future direction of both blockchain development and ecosystem growth- enabling anyone from anywhere to present their ideas while potentially providing the means to realize them.

Governance is a key issue, not just in the context of blockchain, but in the world. There is a fantastic opportunity to learn what has worked well and not so well and offer a decentralized decision-making process that sidesteps many of the pitfalls of traditional centralized governmental systems.

An important aspect to foster Project Catalyst's trust and integrity is transparency. Encouraging openness among the community to further accelerate collaboration on their ideas.

All results and data relating to each and every funding round are published here, along with a detailed breakdown of votes and financials. There are weekly sessions for the entire community, where plans are communicated to enable ada holders to voice their opinions and offer solutions to any perceived obstacles. Every voice is heard and counted.

How to get involved?

There are many ways to get involved with Project Catalyst. As an innovator, voter, commenter, proposer, proposal reviewer, community advisor, or even a mentor. The first step is creating an account on the Catalyst collaboration platform, Ideascale. Another way is to join the Project Catalyst community every Wednesday at TownHall, which is live-streamed on the Project Catalyst YouTube Channel. If you have an idea or are just curious to explore what’s going on at the heart of Cardano, join the TownHall and become part of the Project Catalyst community.

To learn more about Project Catalyst, or to take part and answer challenges posted by others through Project Catalyst, please subscribe to the Catalyst mailing list and join the Discord and Telegram communities.

Atala SCAN: Blockchain-based product authentication

How a smart microchip can work with an advanced blockchain to defeat product counterfeiters

4 May 2022 Neil Burgess 6 mins read

Atala SCAN: Blockchain-based product authentication

You’ve paid a premium price for that collectible bottle of premium spirits, but there’s that nagging doubt. Do you trust the retailer and all the actors in the supply chain to act with complete integrity?

You buy an expensive drug from an online pharmacy. Are you sure you are getting what you paid for? Atala SCAN – IOG’s product authentication system – can answer your questions without the need to trust the retailer or anyone in the supply chain.

Part of the solution for bottles of spirits is a smart seal that knows if it has been tampered with. Atala adds to this an encrypted, auditable link between the seal and the full manufacturing history of the specific bottle to which the seal is attached. You can check the history using a free app on your phone that can instantly verify a product’s authenticity.

Atala SCAN is built on the third-generation blockchain technology of Cardano. Blockchain software combined with ‘touch-chip’ technology offers real advantages over traditional security methods like cap seals, holograms, and fancy packaging – the history of a product can be checked instantly by the customer.

The problem and solution

The need for improved security on products such as premium spirits, cosmetics, fashion goods, and prescription medication is being driven by the battle against ever-more sophisticated counterfeiters. The United Nations agency that is coordinating the fight against transnational organized crime groups describes the problem: ‘The production and sale of counterfeit goods is a global, multi-billion dollar problem and one that has serious economic and health ramifications for governments, businesses and consumers.’

The size of the international counterfeit market doubled from US$200bn in 2008 to US$509bn in 2019 – equivalent to 2.5% of world trade, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office. Counterfeiting at such a scale costs jobs in manufacturing, endangers the lives of food and pharmacy customers, and deprives innovators of due rewards for their efforts.

IOG’s solution to counterfeiting crime is an integrated system comprising a smart seal based on a ‘chip with wings’ that can be linked at the touch of a smartphone to the production records of the item. The records are held in secure storage that cannot be changed. Purchasers can check the provenance quickly, easily, and at no charge.

The smart seal

The smart seal is at the heart of the system. It is a wafer-thin label incorporating a near-field communication (NFC) chip. It is small enough to be glued to a product, incorporated in a card, or embedded in a product or its packaging. For example, it can be part of a special bottle cap or stitched into a handbag. You may have seen the NFC logo on a bank card. The technology allows devices to exchange information simply by touching or placing them next to one another. Like the microchips used for pet dogs, the smart seal consumes no power and silently waits for a signal from a reader. The signal induces an electric current in the chip’s antenna, and that is enough power for the chip to transmit its stored data.

Modern smartphones incorporate a bi-directional NFC device as a standard feature so that a phone can operate both as a reader and a tag. The Nexus S was the first Android device to include it. That was in 2010. Apple added NFC to the iPhone in 2014 – it has been built into every iPhone since the 6.

Most tamper-evident NFC tags are designed to stop working if disturbed. All NFC tags need an antenna to work, and if the antenna is fragile enough, any tampering will stop the tag from working. The NTAG product used in Atala SCAN applications takes this one step further. The chip in the tag has two antennas, only one of which is designed to break. If the tag is disturbed, it continues to work but transmits a modified signal as evidence of the tampering.

Atala SCAN is implemented at the first point in the supply chain that delivers the finished product to the brand owner. The brand owner’s records can include product images and a full history, including tracing each component back to its point of origin. The brand owner decides what information is disclosed to the end customer through the embedded smart chip. It might be basic tracking data or part of a global consumer marketing campaign. This information is linked to the unique identifier of each tag. Atala SCAN engineers can help with setting up this linkage. The tag is then attached to, or associated in some way with, each product item.

The blockchain

Cardano is a blockchain platform for changemakers, innovators, and visionaries. It uses the Ouroboros proof of stake protocol to achieve consensus so that it is provably secure while consuming only a fraction of the resources required by older blockchains. With Atala, every item is associated with a unique entry on Cardano. That entry cannot be altered, but can be read easily, and can be used as part of an auditing system. Each entry comprises the cryptographic hash of the tag’s identifier and links to the product metadata. The metadata, including images, is stored off-chain.

Juan Ignacio Sierra, the Atala SCAN project manager, says: ‘Working with blockchain ensures the immutability of the product information, but if there’s no mechanism in place to securely link the information to the product itself, fake products can take advantage of the same blockchain information as the originals do. In Atala SCAN we use high security cryptographic hardware in the seal to ensure the security of the link between the blockchain information and the physical product.’

Scan on your smartphone

If you have a smartphone, you will be able to download the free Atala SCAN app from the relevant online store. This application uses a phone’s NFC reader to read the chip and look up the product information on Cardano. Simply touch the phone to the product, and know at once if the product is genuine and learn about its history.

IOG is talking to several companies about launching the system.

‘Atala SCAN has been in gestation for some time and it’s exciting now that we can start to bring the proposition to market’, says Juan Sierra. ‘We’re in discussions with a number of potential clients. We will have more to share soon!’

If you are interested in product authentication for any reason, please get in touch with IOG through the Atala SCAN website, and we will be delighted to answer your questions.

Thanks to Anthony Quinn and Rachel Epstein for their indispensable contributions to this post.

Interoperability is key to blockchain growth

Bridges, sidechains, and the AGIX ERC20 converter are providing solutions for Cardano cross-chain development

28 April 2022 Olga Hryniuk 8 mins read

Interoperability is key to blockchain growth

Cardano is steadily expanding a broad community of developers and blockchain enthusiasts. According to Cardano blockchain insights, there are over 4.5 million native tokens, over 5,000 NFT projects, and more than 900 projects overall building on Cardano to date.

To support this growth, the community is now working on Cardano's wider adoption. The ability to work with other blockchains – interoperability – is key to this.

In this post, Input Output Global (IOG) takes a look at blockchain bridges, sidechains, and the role of the AGIX ERC20 converter. These are the core elements that enable communication between blockchains to ensure greater scalability, technology adoption, and ease of use.

Interoperability

Today, there are thousands of blockchains – Bitcoin, Ethereum, Algorand, Solana, and so on. They employ a range of programming languages and have their own systems and rules. Interoperability is the ability of different blockchain networks to connect in order to exchange and leverage data between one another and to move unique types of digital assets.

The value held in blockchains is increasing exponentially. However, to evolve the industry, each network cannot be limited to its own ‘silo’, functioning in its own ecosystem. As the volume of transactions increases, users tend to switch to other networks because each blockchain handles specific tasks that others may not address. The desire to switch networks can also relate to fees, speed of transaction processing, security, or incentives.

Interoperability is essential for blockchain technologies to succeed – users need to have the ability to transact with each other without being limited to a certain network. Developers should be able to write smart contracts that are compatible with many blockchains. And, of course, users should be able to transact with all types of tokens without limitations.

Sidechains and blockchain bridges are two technologies that enable interoperability by allowing users to interact with each other simultaneously across multiple blockchains.

Blockchain bridges

Back in 2017, during his Cardano whiteboard presentation, Charles Hoskinson said:

The idea of interoperability is that there won’t be one single token to rule them all.

Blockchain bridges enable a token native to one blockchain, to be used on a different blockchain. A bridge allows tokens to be moved from one blockchain to another, where they can be used for payments or to interact with decentralized applications (DApps).

There are three types of blockchain bridges:

  • Centralized: these bridges are owned and fully controlled by a single party (ie. a company) that validates all bridge operations.
  • Permissioned (federated): these bridges are more decentralized as they are operated by multiple parties. However, a person or entity willing to become a validator needs permission from the federation that maintains the bridge to set up and run a node that helps validate bridge operations.
  • Permissionless (trustless): these bridges work like a fully decentralized system. Anyone can join this bridge to help maintain the validity of its operations.

Generally, bridge operators act as network validators. Operators accept the tokens that are undergoing migration and store them in a special smart contract. Then, using smart contracts, operators can issue the equivalent of those tokens on another network. Some bridges can only move tokens in one direction, others can make transfers in both directions. For example, unidirectional bridges can move tokens from Ethereum to Cardano for users to interact with DApps on Cardano. If a bridge is bidirectional, then users will be able to move tokens back from Cardano to Ethereum. The bridge mechanism depends on the type of smart contracts used within the networks.

What is the AGIX ERC20 converter?

Through a collaborative effort, IOG and SingularityNET embarked on a mission to build a solution to drive greater adoption for Cardano – creating a bridge for Ethereum developers to leverage the inherent benefits of the network, including a more predictable and cost-efficient way to host their applications.

SingularityNET has recently launched the AGIX-ERC20 converter on mainnet. This bridge is centralized meaning that the validity of its operations and token transfer success will be managed exclusively by SingularityNET.

While SingularityNET can now support the AGIX-ERC20 converter independently, IOG continues to explore the possibility of other solutions. This will bring a greater degree of choice to the Cardano ecosystem – empowering developers to select tools that fit their specific needs. IOG’s commercial team is also available for developers, DApps, and enterprises alike to inquire about potential collaborations regarding future converters – or any other initiative – and can be reached using the contact form.

Sidechains

Now let’s talk about sidechains. The main benefit of sidechains is their ability to introduce new features to the network without causing security risks to the mainnet. Sidechains expand blockchain’s scalability because they take the burden of processing complex logic off the main chain, thereby increasing the speed (and decreasing the cost) of transaction processing. Sidechains can also act as a two-way mechanism for transferring tokens between the main and additional chains, which in turn greatly increases blockchain interoperability.

Simply put, a sidechain is a separate blockchain that is connected to the mainnet. The mainnet acts as a parent blockchain, but since sidechains are separate ledgers, they are not affected by the overall traffic. Organizations can set up their own sidechains to process transactions, execute smart contracts, and move tokens faster. These operations are not only more efficient, but also much cheaper than on the main chain, which benefits everyone.

Sidechains can also inherit some (or all) features of the parent chain, such as the ledger model and consensus mechanism. However, they can also adopt a different model depending on the organization’s goals. For example, a sidechain can combine different security protocols, consensus algorithms, or governance models to create a new sidechain that interoperates with other networks.

Cardano sidechains

By adding a sidechain to Cardano, it is possible to create opportunities for developers using the Solidity language on Ethereum. For instance, using the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), developers can easily build DApps on top of Cardano.

Milkomeda is a sidechain protocol that was launched recently to support Cardano. It allows EVM-compatible smart contracts to be executed on the Milkomeda C1 sidechain, which is connected to the Cardano main chain. Currently, Milkomeda does not use Cardano’s security model, but this is being addressed to ensure the highest level of security. Milkomeda provides a broad selection of DApps by allowing developers to port over existing projects from Ethereum and also enables the latest innovations in zero-knowledge technology to be implemented as L3+ solutions on top of its protocol. Additionally, Milkomeda aims to provide interoperability between Cardano and other blockchains such as Solana by the end of 2022.

Earlier this week, Wanchain announced new decentralized, non-custodial, bi-directional cross-chain bridges connecting Cardano to other layer 1 blockchains. Wanchain is both a sustainable layer 1 proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain and a decentralized interoperability solution. The Wanchain layer 1 PoS blockchain is a full Ethereum-like environment that works with industry-standard Ethereum tools, DApps, and protocols. Importantly, it shares some common ground with Cardano. Wanchain uses a PoS consensus algorithm called Galaxy Consensus that leverages a variety of cryptographic schemes including distributed secret sharing and threshold signatures to improve random number generation and block production mechanisms. Galaxy Consensus, developed by world-class researchers and academics, is a continuation of Cardano’s own Ouroboros.

Dr. Ben Goertzel, SingularityNET’s CEO, has also recently announced that his pioneering AI project is introducing the HyperCycle sidechain. It is being designed as a lightweight layer 2 architecture to enable inexpensive, high-speed, large-scale on-chain execution of microservices. This project is specifically designed to optimize AI-related processes, and will have profound implications for many domains beyond AI that require efficient and scalable sidechain solutions.

Orbis is an additional scalability solution being developed within the Cardano ecosystem. Orbis will act as a ZK (zero-knowledge) rollup layer 2 protocol, moving computation off-chain to scale Cardano's throughput.

Last but not least, IOG is planning to release a new permissionless EVM sidechain this year. This sidechain will allow developers to write Solidity smart contracts on Cardano, create EVM compatible DApps, and ERC20-compatible tokens (and in time, their own sidechains) while gaining many of the benefits of Cardano. That means users will benefit from far lower fees and faster settlement times on a more environmentally sustainable blockchain. The key features of the EVM sidechain will be full compatibility with Ethereum upgrades and tools, Web3 wallet compatibility, the use of the proof-of-stake Ouroboros Byzantine Fault Tolerance consensus protocol, and, of course, its ability to inherit security from the Cardano main chain.

April’s Cardano360 show will feature updates from Milkomeda, Wanchain, Orbis and IOG’s own EVM sidechain teams. Make sure you join to find out more.

Guest blog: collaborating on Cardano interoperability

Today we’re announcing new interoperability solutions between Cardano and EVM blockchains

27 April 2022 Temujin Louie 2 mins read

Guest blog: collaborating on Cardano interoperability

At Wanchain, we believe in the importance of decentralization and have a clear vision of a future where the global blockchain landscape behaves as a beautiful, singular, interoperable network. We’re particularly excited to take another important step in this direction, and today we can share the news that we are enabling interoperability between the Cardano mainnet, Cardano sidechains, and other blockchain networks.

These efforts will see the deployment of decentralized, non-custodial, bi-directional cross-chain bridges connecting Cardano to other layer 1 blockchains. Wanchain bridge nodes will be upgraded to further secure Cardano’s cross-chain bridges and transactions and Wanchain will become an EVM-compatible sidechain to Cardano.

Wanchain is both a sustainable layer 1 proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain and a decentralized interoperability solution. The Wanchain layer 1 PoS blockchain is a full Ethereum-like environment that works with industry standard Ethereum tools, DApps and protocols. Importantly, it shares some common ground with Cardano. Wanchain uses a proof-of-stake consensus algorithm called Galaxy Consensus that leverages a variety of cryptographic schemes, including distributed secret sharing and threshold signatures to improve random number generation and block production mechanisms. Galaxy Consensus, developed by world-class researchers and academics, is a continuation of Cardano’s own Ouroboros.

Meanwhile, Wanchain bridges are decentralized, direct, non-custodial bridges that connect both EVM and non-EVM networks without requiring any relay chains or intermediary networks. These bridges use a combination of Secure Multiparty Computation (sMPC) and Shamir's Secret Sharing (SSS) to secure cross-chain assets. Currently, more than fifteen layer 1 and layer 2 networks (and counting!) are connected by Wanchain’s network of blockchains.

By turning Wanchain into an EVM-compatible sidechain to Cardano, Cardano DApp developers and users will gain access to more coding languages, frameworks and integrated developer environments. Furthermore, not only does this novel approach maximize the security of Cardano’s interoperability solution, it also doubles as a scalability solution. Transactions can now safely be moved off Cardano, recording only the vital information on the layer 1 blockchain to ensure security and immutability.

This sidechain approach heralds a new era for Cardano, as it begins to transition into a fully-fledged multi-chain ecosystem with greater security and scalability.

Hopefully this is just the beginning of a longer term collaboration between Wanchain and Input Output and we look forward to sharing more updates soon.

Learn more about Wanchain and the project on April’s Cardano360 show, where Wanchain’s VP of Engineering Dr Weijia Zhang will be appearing as a special guest.