XYO Network is a new proposition from Ength Degree LLC, an established American company dating from 2013 which specialises in the provision of GPS-based and Bluetooth-based tracking and location-finding devices.
The outfit has already sold over one million of these devices, and it is now looking to extend its business operations by solving a practical problem for which no solution currently exists: how can any such device provide details of its physical location in a foolproof, reliable and entirely trustworthy manner?
Today, any device of this kind which provides details in relation to its location can be tampered with, spoofed or otherwise in some way manipulated in order to falsify the information it provides. As we know, there are a lot of bad actors out there who enjoy hacking into systems and creating havoc.
This is a problem that currently has no known existing solution. However, the XYO Network project team have drawn up a white-paper which outlines the creation of a blockchain-based protocol that claims to provide such a solution and whose token sale will be the means by which they finance the construction of the platform which offers up this capability.
If the project team do manage to build a successful product solving the problem outlined, its applications to business, commerce and beyond are potentially limitless.
Concept and White-Paper
The white-paper outlines the solution, but the language is technical and the description abstract. It is probably best to outline the proposition through a concrete example, albeit one that necessarily will have to be invented.
Let’s imagine the example of a fictional National Traffic Observation Centre (NTOC), which provides real-time updates of road traffic to drivers across the whole of the UK.
This National Traffic Observation Centre collects its data in real-time from two sources: firstly, users on the road that have installed an app that is integrated into the dashboard camera of the vehicles concerned. We’ll assume that there are quite a few million users that have activated this app, which provides excellent coverage of most of the UK’s road network.
However, since users cannot be expected to provide comprehensive coverage of all roads at all times, the NTOC also invests in a smaller network of road-side observation towers that watch over the UK’s most commonly used rural roads, for example.
The question now is how can the NTOC now provide drivers with information of road traffic conditions in real-time whose accuracy can be guaranteed? The answer is that they exploit the XYO Network which will be constituted from the following components which perform the following roles within a kind of node hierarchy.
Sentinels – the Data Gatherer nodes, sitting at the bottom
Sentinels gather the raw data. For our example above, it is the driving conditions provided by vehicle cameras and roadside observation towers.
In more general terms, sentinels are essentially the GPS devices, Bluetooth devices or any other general location-specifying device that reports on location. They are rewarded with XYO token for the raw data that they provide.
So, in the example of our vehicle cameras, car owners will be able to monetise their dashboard cameras by installing the XYO Network app into the camera itself.
Sentinels may not store deep history, but they will likely be expected to store very recent history for anyone who requests access to the data that they capture.
Bridges – The Data Relayers
These are the nodes in the network that simply pass on the data. In other words, they are responsible for transferring the raw data from its source (the sentinels) over to the nodes that will be storing the data (Archivists – which we discuss in the next sub-section).
In our NTOC example above, we may have, for instance, one hundred drivers travelling on the same stretch of motorway. It would simply be redundant for all of these drivers to be collecting raw data. So the app installed in the camera may therefore decide that it will better serve the network by acting as a data relay node – a service for which it will get paid.
The platform, according to the white-paper, will implement a reputation-type system whereby the more reliable bridges (those with a deeper history of reporting data that is similar to their neighbours – and therefore, by extension, a much more reliable source of data) will be better rewarded.
In other words, should any bridge node try to cheat or confound the network by relaying data that is identified as aberrant when compared to other nodes in its local vicinity, it will be penalised.
Archivists – The Storage Nodes
Archivists are essentially the nodes which are responsible for collating and storing the data relayed to them by the bridge nodes. However, they also perform one further function – they assess bridge nodes for their reliability by comparing their behaviour – and data – with their neighbours to ensure that bridges are not relaying aberrant data.
Archivists also perform one other major function which is to serve up the data requested by Diviners (which we discuss in the next section).
In our fictional NOTC example above, let’s just assume that the archivist function is performed by nearby homes (or perhaps dedicated satellites which have been designed to perform this function) which house the data long-term. Once again, these storage nodes are paid by the network in XYO token for their contribution to the network’s overall data storage requirements.
Diviners, XYMainChain and SmartContracts
Going back to our NTOC example, let’s now assume that there are a series of smart contracts (which, as it happens sit at the very top of our hierarchy) which are responsible for sending out the original data requests – i.e. they send out queries to the network such as “Please find me a report of road traffic time-stamped within the last ten minutes for Commercial Road in London.”
That query is sent down the line to the XYMainChain – the XYO Network’s proprietary blockchain which stores all of the data that is served up to the end users, e.g. local radio stations which pay NTOC for access to a dashboard that provides real-time reports on road traffic conditions in the UK.
If that data exists on the XYMainChain, it is simply relayed back to the smart contract which originally made the request. If, on the other hand, this data for road traffic that has been time-stamped within the last ten minutes for Commercial Road in London is non-existent, the chain will pass on the request to a Diviner node.
The Diviner’s role is two-fold: firstly, it determines if the request coming from the smart contract can be handled by the network / is valid. Secondly, it also aggregates the original data sent up to it from the Archivists into something more meaningful (if applicable) before committing this data to the XYMainChain.
The white-paper makes mention of possible applications of the proposed XYO Network – parcel delivery services, for example, which no longer require a signature from the receiver as the package itself will be able to report in real-time its own geo-location in a manner that cannot be manipulated.
The general attraction of the entire concept is the likely unlimited use cases which it offers up – provided that the project team are indeed able to implement a bona-fide, working platform that performs this role.
The project roadmap is defined in what are essentially six-month blocks – the major milestones outlined include:
2018 S1: Token creation; roll-out of initial test network with sentinels.
2018 S2: XYMainChain roll-out; smart contract API completion (presumably for the Ethereum blockchain initially with other major blockchain platform APIs to follow later); creation of a XY-Sticker to allow eCommerce retailer to track all of their dispatched goods in real-time.
2019: Growth of the network to expand the number of sentinels, bridges and archivists in operation in the real world, likely dependent on the ability of the project team to sign new partnerships with business with global reach.
The most interesting milestone of them all, arguably, is the mention made of low Earth-orbit satellites to act as principal bridge / archivists nodes. This milestone alone appears to be the reason for which the project’s hard cap is undefined.
The two headline figures leading up the project, Arie Trouw and Scott Scheper, are both successful entrepreneurs with strong histories.
Arie Trouw is the Managing Director of Ength Degree LLC, the entity behind XYFindit.com, and therefore the effective head of the entire XYO Network initiative. Of South African origin but now residing in the US, he has a background in programming and game theory, and brings with him over 25 years of professional experience to the equation, 10 of which have been as either CEO and / or start-up entrepreneur.
Scheper is another techie with a successful business of his own under his belt and brings considerable marketing talent which helped him build a business that generated just under $12 million USD in just under twelve months, back in 2013/2014.
The rest of the team cover skillsets ranging from engineering through to marketing, AI and blockchain consultancy. All team members listed on the website are accompanied with links to their corresponding LinkedIn profiles. However, as a projet which is piggy-backing on a successful, pre-established business, this is one of the rare breed of animals in ICO land to require a credibility check.
For this kind of project, as mentioned previously, success hinges on the ability to achieve a network effect. In the case of XYO, they already have one – a client-base to which they have already rolled out over one million geo-location devices, a subset of which should serve as a trampoline for wider expansion.
With one of its founders having demonstrated a creative knack for growth hacking, and a pre-existing user base at its disposal, there appears to be excellent potential for bringing the message to a wider audience. At the time of writing (early March 2018), however, the project’s presence on the leading social media channels is modest – although this is likely to be due to the fact that they may only have recently begun their campaign.
Whilst the scope of the project is ambitious and, frankly, risky given its dependency on the success of achieving a network effect (in the literal sense of the term), what gives the project credibility is the fact that it is driven by a team with a successful of history of building a successful business model that operates at the outer boundaries of innovative technology.
The tokenomics of the project – incentivising each actor on the network – in combination with the business model’s sheer malleability for finding use cases that could be potentially of benefit to a wide range of as-yet unidentified applications, are what gives the project its best hope of achieving mass adoption.
Whether the undertaking achieves eventual success or not, however, is not something that will likely be determined in the shorter term. The sheer ambition of it all implies a long term commitment.