This time we’ll be interviewing John Gerryts and Hudson Jameson from Project Oaken about their recent success and progress on bringing the blockchain to the Internet of Things.
In the previous issue of this series we talked with Auryn Macmillan from FirstBlood about eSports and the blockchain.
You can find all the past issues of our Ethereum DApp Creators and Ethereum Contributors Series at https://blog.status.im.
This interview series is about the people who work hard to develop decentralized applications on top of Ethereum.
Hello Hudson and John! First of all, congratulations on winning the UAE GovHack hackathon, an amazing achievement! Your project has progressed by leaps and bounds since it’s inception; you now have two working ACORNS* running, you’ve won the biggest Hackathon in our industry to date, and your Tesla promotional video captivated the imagination of the community. Oaken was also one of the first DApps added as default contacts to Status, so we wanted to connect and learn more about what made your team so successful, and understand your plans for the months ahead. * ACORNS are IoT Machines with Autonomous Communication Over Redundant Node Systems
Hudson Jameson, John Gerryts & James Johnson from Oaken, winners of UAE GovHackPlease tell us, what is Project Oaken?
Project Oaken is a secure, autonomous, machine-to-machine platform built to provide the underlying infrastructure needed to power smart cities and secure IoT devices. This includes both a software and hardware solution that integrates into existing systems and processes.What is your role and what is it that you do in Oaken?
John: My role is as co-founder and CEO. At this early stage though co-founder is more descriptive of what I do than CEO as we still have the luxury of being able to truly tackle things as a team. In my mind this is what has allowed Oaken to be successful thus far and I see us striving to keep this environment moving forward as we grow.
Hudson: I am a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer. As a start-up there is a plethora of roles that bleed over into one another. I handle a lot of the back-end business side of things and create all of the Ethereum related infrastructure and Solidity code that we use. It’s a lot of fun!Could you describe your vision for Oaken and the goal you’re hoping to achieve with the project?
John: Our vision for Oaken is to be the first name that comes to mind when someone is thinking of a Blockchain & IoT solution. We are looking to position ourselves as such by continuing to build out revolutionary, innovative & reliable solutions that help to realize value by leveraging Blockchain in the IoT space.
Hudson: Project Oaken wants to be the go-to platform for IoT device infrastructure. We want to build innovative solutions that provide stability and security to IoT devices while showcasing the benefits of blockchain technology.
We want to build a robust layer of secure machine-to-machine value transfer that will allow for the vision of blockchain to be implemented on a massive scale.Tell us little about yourselves, what’s your background and how did you discover Ethereum?
John: I have been a technologist for over 20 years. I came into the crypto space, as most have, by way of Bitcoin. Being somewhat involved in the Toronto scene in late 2013 & early 2014 I was exposed to Ethereum early on, and to a certain degree I “got it”. I entered my first Ethereum Hackathon preceding the 2014 Bitcoin Expo, with Airlock, assembled a team the morning of the event, and we placed third at the “In Crypto We Trust” event.
I never looked back as my work on Airlock inspired me to continue to work with Ethereum. I was able to secure, and successfully deliver on, an Ethereum DevGrant, named EthEmbedded, in which I ported early versions of the Ethereum client (pre-light client) to ARM based devices. Oaken is a natural progression from there as a way to implement the technology I have been working with for years now.
Hudson: I have been interested in computers and security since I was a kid. Throughout high school I focused less on programming and more on computer security, specifically wireless protocol security and penetration testing.
In college I became familiar with Bitcoin which started my obsession that would last the next 6 years. During my last year of college I was exploring altcoins and had been very involved in the Darkcoin (now Dash) community. I saw articles discussing Ethereum and read the white paper. It instantly clicked for me that this was going to be different than the other coins I was looking at. The idea of adding programs and scripts on top of a blockchain has always been a really cool idea to me.
I invested in the crowdsale and started developing Dapps around the PoC8 release (early 2015). Since then I’ve enjoyed participating in the growth of Ethereum and all the friends I have made in the space.
The concept behind Oaken was really interesting because I had seen a lot of hype in the industry about blockchain + IoT, but not a lot of solid examples of implementing those ideas.
Hudson Jameson and the huge chequeWhat role does Ethereum play and help you in the development of Oaken? Any features you think which will bring even more benefits?
John: Our entire platform is currently built on Ethereum to essentially create an on ramp for IoT in order to leverage Ethereum smart contract functionality. Oaken simply may not exist were it not for Ethereum as progress of other blockchains in regards to development are a great deal behind.
Hudson: I believe a PoS solution will benefit Ethereum the most because of the security and stability behind it (when properly designed and implemented). CASPER is looking very promising.What kind of requirements are there for someone wanting to utilize Oaken? What about the average consumer?
Hudson: Oaken is currently being developed for the purpose of industrial IoT and smart city applications, so the requirements vary based on the use case. For those implementing ACORNs, a solid understanding of how Ethereum works is a must.
For the average consumer it should be as transparent as TCP/IP is for people accessing the Internet. Once widely implemented, the transparency of IoT transactions will benefit the consumer. Companies will have a much more difficult time overcharging customers.About the IoT industry, do you see Oaken as a disruptive force in that field? Which other industries do you see that it might affect?
Hudson: IoT is a nascent technology itself, so the standards for IoT are not set in stone. This provides a great opportunity for blockchain to show itself to be a valuable technology.
John: Whichever industry is bold enough to adopt the technology first. The applications for blockchain & IoT span industries and will begin to actually tear down the walls or silos that separate all the spaces. I have said it before, If you are still searching for use cases, you don’t understand blockchain. I think rather that the opposite is true: to pick just a few is very difficult indeed.What is it about IoT that got you working on this project?
John: For the most part it was what IoT seemed to be lacking that makes this project most interesting. It is in these shortcomings of IoT that we are able to see how perfect the union of Blockchain & IoT truly is. Identity, Security, & Payments are all problems within IoT that Blockchain provides solutions to.
It is also impossible to overlook the timing in innovation and continued development of these two technologies and how they not only compliment each other but are both now being realized as viable at such a crucial time in tech.
Hudson: Blockchain and IoT is match made in heaven. IoT devices require security, identity, and need to transfer value (whether that be data or money). Blockchain technology is the missing piece of the IoT infrastructure. There are a lot of exciting new fields that blockchain can contribute to, but this one will make the biggest industry impact.So how does blockchain technology make Oaken different from other traditional applications?
John: Bleeding Edge Innovation. I see most non-blockchain technology as just re-hashing (no pun intended) or improving the efficiency of existing tech. With blockchain we have the ability to truly innovate in a new space and build things no one else has built.What specifically can you do with your technology currently? What are your biggest challenges on scaling that?
Hudson: We have released a few demos that show how our technology can interact with things like water meters and Tesla automobiles in order to facilitate in the transparent, autonomous transactions blockchains provide. The biggest challenge we face is the current limitations of blockchain technology. Solutions like sharding that improve transaction throughput and data storage requirements will help us scale more in the future.
John: Currently the two main things we can do with our technology is to realize the value in implementing secure payments via blockchain and to also realize the value in utilizing smart contracts alongside distributed storage in lieu of traditional IT infrastructure. We can deploy this specifically on embedded devices in addition to traditional systems.
Our current proof of concepts are utility meters and self driving vehicle payments with regards to tolls & parking. Scaling is an issue that we all face in regards to blockchain, and we all see the dangers of this with the current situation within Bitcoin. This is why we are currently focused on Ethereum and EVM based chains as this is where we believe most of the successful development on scaling and other optimizations will occur. From the geth light client, to Status, to Raiden payment channels we are dependant on, and support fully, community efforts to discover valid solutions to problems.Are you looking to partner with other IoT companies in the future or do you prefer to keep production in-house?
John: In an effort to be efficient, we surveyed the existing off-the-shelf tech on the market in order to implement cryptographic tools on embedded devices but none of the offerings were able to support Ethereum (or other blockchain tech for that matter). We then set to work on developing our own HSM [Hardware Security Module] in order to generate, store and transact with Ethereum keys on-board embedded devices.
We have had a great connection with one partner in particular, and have discussed the possibility of further business in order to leverage what we are both good at. I think it will ultimately depend on each specific ACORN application whether we reach out to a partner or not. In summary, we are capable of doing it in house for now, but as we grow we are obviously not opposed to partnerships.
Hudson: We are open to collaborating with others.How are the ACORNS autonomous? And how does Ethereum relate to that?
Hudson: Our ACORNs are independent modules of Oaken that are able to interact with each other. Ethereum smart contracts enable autonomous transfers of value, which fit nicely into our models.
John: ACORNs are autonomous in that they allow for independant interaction and payments from Ethereum node to Ethereum node, or Ethereum node to Smart Contract without human confirmation or interaction.Are you now concentrating your work on polishing the existing ACORNs and getting them production ready or are you looking to widen the field with more ACORNs first?
Hudson: We are currently polishing and expanding the capabilities of our existing ACORNs while having discussions with parties interested in all kinds of ACORNs.
John: We built a great foundation during recent months, and we continue to strengthen that foundation in an effort to be prepared to adapt our ACORNs to many solutions we are currently discussing with numerous prospective partners.What are you looking forward to and how big do you see that the project might grow during 2017?
John: Development Partnerships and Growth. We have some short term goals we are focusing on, and some of these will allow us both work with Industry leading companies and also to add to our already amazing team.
The Project Oaken Team and friendsWhat do you see as the biggest hurdle in gaining a critical mass for Oaken?
Hudson: The biggest hurdle is the same hurdle that many groups in blockchains products face: communication. Being able to get people to understand the value and benefits of a new technology is the majority of the battle.Do you see Oaken possibly benefiting from a mobile user interface, like what you have with the Water Meter ACORN in Status?
John: Absolutely. Although some of our focus is on machine to machine transactions, there will always be some sort of UI required in order to leverage the systems that this machine to machine interaction facilitate. Ultimately increased efficiencies and utility for humankind is the end goal and mobile devices are the leading interface currently.
Hudson: A mobile interface for Dapps is instrumental in showcasing the value of Ethereum to all users. Even beyond demos, Status is one of the only tools an average user can use today to interact with Ethereum.So when do you think people can get their hands on Oaken products?
John: I see Oaken as an “Infrastructure First” platform. So basically when people can truly get their hands on Oaken, they may not even know they are using it.Which other Ethereum projects are you personally most excited about?
John: Oaken: Raiden for low cost micro transactions.
John: Definitely Status. The amount of time and effort that we DON’T need to invest in mobile development is fantastic.Any words for the readers, like what can they do to help Oaken?
John: Simply continue the awesome development on all the great Ethereum based services and help us help you. If there is anything we can do to contribute to the progress of the technologies built on the platform we are more than happy to discuss! We need you to all be successful for us to be successful!Thank you John and Hudson, looking forward to seeing what new ACORNs you develop next and all the best for your future endeavours!