True Access Networks tracks the development of digital communication via blockchain technology.
This constantly evolving technology space is rapidly bringing together a wide range of people — from the open communication-centered idealist, to the security-conscious privacy-driven paranoid, to the money-driven venture capitalist.
As these seemingly competing ideas intersect, blockchain technology has come alive as a real solution to a range of problems.
Blockchain's ability to provide decentralized and secure data delivery promises to support the areas of:
For a short time, the fastest way to ensure you got the attention of a technology investor was to add blockchain to your prospectus... somewhere... anywhere.
The excitement over cryptocurrency and the potential of blockchain tech led to a miniature boom of companies receiving funding or even launching their own cryptocurrencies to support new product development.
The two major fields of blockchain technology are cryptocurrency — led by Bitcoin and many others — and enterprise blockchain that leverages the distributed nature of the technology to support secure communication and data verification.
Although there was plenty of excitement regarding the potential in enterprise, there hasn't been much action yet. Meanwhile, the crypto side of things illustrated the wide-ranging rise-and-fall potential of a speculative currency when the market is flooded by individual cryptocurrencies from so many sources.
As the speculation boom dies down, a few practical applications of the blockchain have shown the maturity to stand out. True Access Networks offers a quick look at some of the potential in bringing blockchain to decentralized digital communications below.
Everyone uses messaging applications or websites. From your grandmother, to your CEO, to your teenage son, it's all about worldwide communication.
Sending images, files, GIFs, videos, emojis — the list goes on — is a key element of communication everywhere. And everyone uses one of the major platforms: iMessage, GChat, Google Hangouts, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facetime, Blackberry Messenger, WhatsApp, Zoom, Discord, Kik, SMS. That list goes on too.
Most of those apps are free and everyone uses at least one of them. But what else do all of those applications and all of those people have in common? Everyone of those users, everyone of those messages and everyone of those apps lives on servers owned by a giant corporation.
They're free because the data is stored, analyzed, aggregated, and eventually sold. No matter how private, secure or anonymous they seem, all of these apps collect user data and likely monetize it for the benefit of a giant company.
Many users willingly sacrifice this level of privacy and willingly allow companies to sell their data simply because it makes their lives easier. Contacting someone directly over the internet would be much harder if you wanted to avoid dealing with a large corporation.
Blockchain promises to be an alternative to the central corporations that own our messaging. It's secure and decentralized so once it's in the wild, it can't be controlled by anyone.
The Blockchain and various development environments that utilize it assist with the development and distribution of Decentralized Applications, or "dApps". A communications dApp is one that no one controls and has no central source gathering, selling, censoring or otherwise affecting user data.
First, a quick primer on blockchain: Blockchain was developed mainly as a decentralized ledger for cryptocurrency.
Blocks store information. They also include a hash, or a code, to identify the block and its place in the chain. When a block is added to the blockchain, it is distributed and replicated on every computer connected to the chain. Therefore, if you were to edit a block, every other computer would notice immediately and your edit would not be accepted. This makes blockchain an effective way to record data that can't be changed later, such as a user's unique digital signature. For Bitcoin, this information is the key to a private wallet containing cryptocurrency. But it can now record just about anything of value in a permanent, decentralized, trustless system. It can also create self-executing smart contracts that facilitate dApps.
Blockchain is also serviced and supported by separate nodes run by different people, so there is very little risk of the entire system going offline.
The most immediate application remains in the financial sector, but other dApps and services are starting to deploy a token system similar to Bitcoin. Because the blockchain still requires a great deal of decentralized processing, the system offers an incentive in the form of tokens to anyone who processes part of the blockchain. These tokens can be exchanged for other cryptocurrencies or used to pay for service in the dApp.
This kind of dApp development is made possible by environments such as Ethereum, which offers a foundational layer and protocol for developers to create dApps.
In communications, blockchain would be used to securely verify the identity of the person you're communicating with. No matter how secure centralized messaging apps are, they are still vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, which is a form of cybercrime in which someone intercepts messages between two users and monitors them. Blockchain and dApps promise to make that more difficult, if not impossible because it provides a decentralized, independent source of verification for encryption keys and other important data.
A secure ecosystem of messaging services with uniform security expectations is made possible by the underlying technology. Blockchain works for this because it secures data across a decentralized network of nodes, which is a requirement for a distributed communication system.
With the desire for privacy and openness driving many adopters of blockchain communication, here are a few essential features of any digital messaging decentralized app:
Many users who desire to detach from the centralized services also prefer these additional features.
Currently it's just about impossible for most people to choose their own ISP. And in some remote parts of the world, internet access is so hard to come by and so expensive that it's just not readily available.
Blockchain technology may offer the key to bringing locally owned internet service to communities around the world. Technically speaking, anyone can buy wholesale internet bandwidth and set up an ISP. In fact, buying internet access in bulk is a lot cheaper than buying it from the cable company or phone company.
But the missing factor has been trust that the guy down the street offering internet access actually has your best interests at heart. He could be anyone with any agenda, so it's always been smarter to go with the large corporate offering instead.
Here's where blockchain comes in. Because a blockchain is independent and can be trusted to house accurate data, it can store all of the necessary data to support a decentralized ISP that can't be hacked or controlled by an individual.
When you combine this with advanced wireless technology, the idea of buying internet in bulk and reselling it in a trustworthy way to your neighbors becomes a reality. A company in Princeton, NJ, is demonstrating this with the Andrena Network which promises local broadband at a fraction of the competitor's pricing.
Meanwhile, a South African company called Blockmesh is trying to create a giant mesh network of individual cellular and WiFi devices to bring internet to under-served areas. By verifying and encrypting data with the block chain and using excess data capacity, Blockmesh can offer internet to people who couldn't normally afford it. The decentralization of the Blockmesh infrastructure not only makes it more secure and reliable, but also cheaper and more available compared to traditional internet service in Africa.
The decentralized and secure nature of the blockchain is also appealing to large corporations. Blockchain technology has the potential to replace large centralized applications and data warehouses with a more agile and decentralized data storage system. This will break down silos within large businesses and connect departments that are currently at odds over the stewardship of their traditional data sources.
Walmart recently started tracking its lettuce supplies with a blockchain. The speed of access of the blockchain allows the retail giant to trace the source of any contaminated produce in seconds instead of days. The public ledger of the blockchain is easy to access and impossible to modify.
Further application of the blockchain for speedy supply chain monitoring is just around the corner. The blockchain provides a consensus and record the ownership, origin and cost of an item, providing accurate insight into all levels of production and distribution.
True Access Networks is dedicated to exploring the incredible potential of blockchain technology to support and expand secure, trustworthy messaging. Whether you are protecting corporate secrets or attempting to exercise free speech under an oppressive regime, digital communication over the blockchain is the key to secure communication.
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