Blockchain technology has the capacity to revolutionize nearly every industry on earth. While cryptocurrency was the first application of blockchain technology — revolutionizing the financial sector of the economy — research conducted by computer giant IBM says that blockchain technology can fundamentally change everything from supply chain management to government, telecom, travel, insurance, entertainment, and more. Blockchain technology’s fundamental design is as an immutable store of data, which can be used for a wide array of transactions.
We’ve just established that blockchain technology is useful for storing data of all types. What if the data stored in a block is computer code? Congratulations, you now understand smart contracts!
Let’s dive a little deeper.
Smart contracts are self-executing contracts, whose terms between parties are directly written in code — which is stored on the blockchain. As such, these contracts are completely immutable, completely transparent, and free of any middlemen. The terms of such contracts are stored on a distributed blockchain network and are controlled solely by the code therein. All transactions conducted by smart contracts are irreversible, as is the nature of any transaction on a blockchain.
Smart contracts tend to streamline processes that involve data, making them particularly useful with financial transactions, insurance applications, and supply chain applications. Many applications using smart contracts have already been built to service these industries! Developers can build applications using smart contracts (or combinations of smart contracts) by adding a front-end to them for users to interact with.
Crypto start-up Etherisc has already used smart contracts to build flight insurance programs, and are also piloting a crop insurance program used by farmers in Kenya. Nexus Mutual has prototyped their Smart Contract cover insurance, backing DeFi investors in the event of a hack or loss of funds. IBM and other tech giants are currently deploying smart contract solutions, powered by blockchain, which will revolutionize the supply chain and manufacturing industries as we know it.
Smart contract technology has only existed for a relatively short time. Already, the few numbers of dApps (decentralized applications) built using this technology have clogged the decentralized networks that currently exist. As they currently exist, these decentralized networks cannot service their growing demand. This begs the question: how will this technology ever be adopted en masse without better protocols?
We are glad you asked.
Smart Contract Platforms
Smart contract platforms are the fabrics upon which decentralized applications are built. These platforms are decentralized and have built-in virtual machines — allowing them to both store and run smart contract code. Here are some of the most commonly used platforms:
Ethereum was the first smart contract platform and is attempting to be the ultimate software platform in the years to come. Currently, Ethereum has the most dApps built. It incorporates a simple and powerful virtual machine, powering all of the dApps on its platform. The EVM is Turing complete, meaning it can solve any problem given enough time and computing power. Each transaction run on the Ethereum network requires a fee to be paid, referred to as “Gas”. Fees are dependent on the amount of code required to run. Gas prices are set by the Ethereum network congestion and have recently risen to levels that render the entire network almost unusable. Basic transactions such as sending coins have cost over $10 — Large fees deter smaller investors and users and are a major roadblock to smart contract adoption, and limit their feasibility.
EOS is also attempting to become a decentralized application network of smart contracts, and it claims to have a better capacity to scale transactions. Also, the EOS network has plans to remove fees from its network entirely. Rather than pay for an individual transaction, the EOS network allocates resources to users and developers based on their stake in EOS coins. Essentially, users are entitled to a certain bandwidth based on the number of EOS coins they own.
EOS uses what is called “Delegated Proof of Stake” (DPOS) technology, which allows token holders to vote on which nodes produce EOS blocks. This method of consensus is more democratic and scalable, and block times are as little as 3 seconds (as opposed to Ethereum’s 15 second block time).
Tron has been called a clone of Ethereum, but in reality, its method of designating network resources is more similar to EOS. Tron’s protocol distributes its resources among TRX holders, similarly to EOS, and has its virtual machine that executes programs on its network of public Tron nodes. Tron’s self-declared goal of “decentralizing the internet” still has a long way to go, but they have a 5 stage plan in the works. The Tron Network is steadily growing, but negative headlines have hampered its success
Tron operates as a kind of hybrid between EOS and Ethereum, using the same contract language as the latter, Solidity. However, transactions on the Tron network have zero fees and are much faster at 2,000 transactions per second.
Graphene is a brand new blockchain architecture built with sharding technology and the CASPER consensus protocol. Its key feature is its lightning-fast execution and massive throughput of up to 100,000 transactions per second — making it the scalable solution that the industry needs to grow and meet its potential. Graphene was written “Go” — a minimalistic, high-performance language that executes code at a superior rate to alternatives like Java or Python.
Graphene’s sharding protocol is a conglomeration of different blockchains that work in tandem to expedite transactions. Traditional blockchains have several data types on the chain, but Graphene utilizes what is called “sharding” technology. A “shard” is essentially a mini-blockchain with a certain data type. This also allows GFN developers to dynamically adjust the protocol, adding shards and data types as needed. Multiple shards per data type, adding shards to scale throughput as necessary.
The Graphene network will incorporate a virtual machine capable of executing Turing-complete smart contracts, providing the framework for complex decentralized applications and scaling to meet network demands. Businesses will be able to create custom shards to cater to their needs, developing decentralized applications on their dedicated shard. These shards can be optimized to perform for their various use cases.
Furthermore, Graphene’s sharding architecture will be able to bridge across various smart contract platforms, acting as the “glue” that holds a fragmented DeFi sector together. Graphene smart contracts will use eWASM — an adaptation of the WASM programming language — but will also support other LLVM programming languages such as C++, Rust, etc. making GFN the most inclusive platform available by far. With the possibility that additional shards could be added to support even more languages.
CASPER is the consensus protocol of choice for Graphene to mint new blocks. This protocol utilizes “validator nodes” to place security deposits (in the form of GFN tokens) to have the right to produce new blocks on the GFN blockchain. Validators are incentivized to produce correct blocks because if an “invalid” block is incorrectly deemed valid by a validator, the security deposit is lost and that node loses its privilege to participate and is banned from the network. This roots out bad actors from the network via a free market, economic incentive.
The powerful combination of technology makes Graphene superior to all competitors. It aims to finish what Ethereum started, building on, and adapting to smart contract technology to meet the industry’s growing demands. Perhaps the best part about Graphene is that the protocol itself is composable — meaning that its developers can dynamically adjust to the market, adding and removing features as necessary via sharding technology. This ensures that Graphene will always be relevant, and makes it much more appealing to businesses and institutions who wish to “smarten up” their systems, as Graphene can custom tailor blockchain solutions to fit their needs. Graphene can do it all. It is the smart contract solution of the future and will be the backbone for mass adoption.