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The latest on digital identity and layer two solutions take the stage at D.FINE alongside ConsenSys, SKALE Labs, and Codefi

by Riley Kim, ConsenSys Asia-Pacific PR Lead.

Until earlier this year, I had never stepped foot in South Korea. In between the economically roaring, peninsula-tipping nation being the first to roll out 5G cellular networks, behemoth pop group BTS breaking scores of worldwide chart sales records, and the apparent assuagement of looming apocalyptic threats from across the border — Oh man, was I missing out on a place where the world happens.

My first trip to Seoul was in April of 2019 to attend Deconomy Forum, during which ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin presented a keynote. Organized by Ash Han and Jeff Paik of Peer, Deconomy gathered over 2,000 attendees with names like Vitalik Buterin, Michael Arrington, CZ of Binance, and Emin Gun Sirer occupying the headlines.

In the blockchain industry — where developments move at lightspeed — Joe’s keynote both highlighted the unsustainable state of our financial systems, while forecasting the oncoming of a DeFi (decentralized finance) evolution. Scores of media outlets covered the address, with at least one publishing his speech in full. For a seminar examination of how fragmented platforms and walled gardens oblige us to pursue a truly global settlement layer that can reduce cross-border inefficiencies, it rendered a lot of main-er stream buzz.

It seems notions of decentralization have infiltrate every sector in the world, with finance one of a few leading the pack. A little plug then, but a wholly appropriate one considering the context: ConsenSys just announced Codefi (ConsenSys Decentralized Finance), our latest suite of modular products, and also the first complete DeFi product suite on the market.

More on that in a moment…

[Joe Lubin at Deconomy Forum, April 2019. Joe did an interview with blockchain venture fund Hashed, for a deeper dive of his presentation. Watch the video here]

Flash forward six months later, we are at Korea Blockchain Week’s flagship conference D.FINE. The two-day conference was themed ‘The Real and the Virtual’ and Simon Kim, CEO of Hashed, referenced Thanos (as one does) in illustrating how our real physical world interacts and integrates with our virtual online world that is catalysed by the protocol economy.

[Integration of the real world and the virtual world created by the protocol economy, Simon Kim, Hashed CEO. Right image: massive room for bitcoin and ethereum adoption to grow]

A panel explored this theme through discussing Decentralized Identity (DID) — a hot topic no doubt, given the pivotal role data and privacy have played in the global and political economic order recently, as evidenced by the notoriety of companies like Cambridge Analytica.

Perhaps apt then, that the panel included Brittany Kaiser, who ran business development at the aforementioned boogieman political consulting firm, and now is the founder of DATA (the Digital Asset Trade Association). Kaiser made the point that it must first be acknowledged that most of us will never get our privacy back. Our data is already being packaged and sold in ways we didn’t even know possible. To her, it’s about the future of privacy. From here on it’s about the consent we give.

This progressed discussion towards education as a necessity for society. Xan Ditkoff, production partner of decentralized network Blockstack, emphasizes that the social aspects — which includes education — are more significant than the technological factor. Ditkoff says it’s about how we let users take control of their data by giving them options and abstracting the complexity. This is important as users must be able to see value in ways they have never before, like monetization of (their own) data. This too affects enterprises — the hack of credit bureau Equifax in late 2017 showed corporations that whilst data holds value, it also is a liability.

In a new decentralized world, not only would users have more equitable returns on their own data, it also becomes exponentially harder for malicious hackers — as opposed to hacking a centralized entity, bad actors have to attack each and every individual account.

Xan doesn’t necessarily sees it as simply throwing away the architecture infrastructure we have built up over decades, but giving users choices about how they can give permission to their identity and data across the whole internet. He returned to the theme of Real and Virtue to illustrate his point. In the physical offline world, we have an identity that is ours, and there are legal protection afforded to us. This is still lacking in the online world — a system of identity needs to exist, for users to have protection for their online identities and assets.

To that effect, he also points out that identity shouldn’t always be thought of as a singular construct. A person may have identities for different uses and each ID could be anonymous or pseudo-anonymous, adjusted according to the levels of privacy the person consented to. It’s a recognition that people have different tolerance for friction and will always have different capabilities and preference for managing their own identity — solutions that want to be mass adopted must understand that contextuality.

[Brittany Kaiser, DATA, co-founder; Xan Ditkoff, BlockStack, Production Partner; Justin Park CEO of Metadium moderated; Caroline Malcolm OECD, Head of Blockchain Policy Centre]

Advancing Ethereum Layer 2 Scaling

On the subject of solutions, but to a whole different set of problems: SKALE Labs. CEO Jack O’Holleran took to the stage to introduce the exciting work the company does in solving the challenge of scaling for Ethereum, specifically Layer 2 computation that will increase the functionality of dApps and smart contract transactions.

Simply put, a blockchain relies on a consensus mechanism, and the more participating nodes there are, the more robust the blockchain becomes. However, a large network can quickly become expensive to run. As Jack puts it, […] with decentralised applications, you can’t do that if friction is greater than value.”

SKALE tackles this by deploying Randomness Rotation Incentives to prevent collusion through rotation. The team combines the best in practice cryptography to create an elastic blockchain SKALE Network, a permissionless peer-to-peer and open source network that will help scale Ethereum.

These guys must be doing something right, as SKALE also announced their latest fundraising round, bringing on investors including ConsenSys Labs, Hashed, Recruit Holdings and Winklevoss Capital. In a statement, Joe Lubin remarked, “Over the last year or so, various scalability technologies have brought thousands of decentralized transactions per second to layer 2, anchored into or bridged into the base Ethereum trust layer. SKALE is presently the state of the art and represents a quantum leap in scalability for the Ethereum ecosystem.”

Jack’s session ran short so to make up for it, here’s a nice shot of SKALE Labs CEO Jack with a few of our guys from Codefi, and some reading on their fundraise and interest in the South Korea market.

[Ejaaz Amahadeen, Global Lead — Token Design, ConsenSys Codefi; Mara Schmiedt, Strategy and Partnerships, ConsenSys Codefi; Jack O’Holleran, SKALE Labs CEO; Collin Myers, Global DeFi Product Strategy, ConsenSys Codei.

Also meet our colleagues from Enterprise Solutions & Smart City covering San Francisco to Seoul. Shan Zhong, Product Manager; Dami An, Korea Business Manager; and yours truly

Fun Facts

Did you know BTS accounts for $4.65 billion of South Korea’s GDP? The boy band plays in the league of giants such as Samsung and Hyundai.

South Korea President Moon Jae-In became the country’s first leader to visit all 10 ASEAN countries, with a six-day trip to Laos, Myanmar and Thailand last month. Observers noted he has been active in cultivating deeper ties and economic relations with Southeast Asia nations, starting with a pledge to to establish stronger ties with the 10-nation bloc when he first visited Indonesia two years ago.

The country traditionally focused on its relations with China, Japan, Russia and the US, but recent trade and geopolitical challenges have made his vision a necessity that is also prescient. The immense popularity of K-pop could help Korean electronic and consumer goods be welcomed by ASEAN’s population of 600 million and rising middle class.

Random Rumblings

I’ve just discovered a YouTube gem — two Brits in Seoul with highly enviable fluency of Korean interviewing the likes of Chris Hemsworth and Taron Edgerton as well as Olympic athletes over local food and beverages.

[Norwegian Olympic skier Bastian Juell disagreeing with a local beverage. YouTube]

Thanks to them, I found out salted-egg chips and fish skin are popular in South Korea, so I lugged a bunch up to trade for crypto as treats for some friends in the community. If you’re in Seoul and would like some the next time I’m here, ping me or say Annyeonghaseyo when you see me.

[Not a sponsored post, but it should be. I took way too much overhead bin space]

See you next at Japan Blockchain Week ~waves ~

Check out the first edition of ETH East: Ethereum’s Growth in Asia and Singapore


ETH East: Seoul Searching at Korea Blockchain Week 2019 was originally published in ConsenSys Media on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.