OriginTrail is a neutral, open-source protocol enabling trusted data sharing between companies, organizations, and blockchains. End-to-end information is shared and secured in a fully decentralized knowledge graph network, monitored with AI and oracles, providing valuable insights for businesses and consumers alike.
The OriginTrail protocol solves 3 major problems in business today:
- Poor interoperability of data within supply chains or business partners.
- Inefficiencies in storing and searching highly interconnected data between organizations.
- Reluctance to share sensitive data with partners in a secure manner.
At its core is a decentralized network of nodes that share or hold data for a specific length of time. The TRAC token is the glue between all entities and is used as both a stake (to keep data holders/creators honest and data immutable) and a payment (to compensate data holders for their time and resources). Data creators can set the data to be public or private, have the data expire after a certain number of weeks/years, or have that data (or parts of data) shared only with appropriate parties. Sensitive data is protected using zero-knowledge methods in a privacy-by-design approach.
The OriginTrail protocol uses globally recognized standards for sharing information and is currently working with GS1 Global to develop the next-generation EPCIS/CBV 2.0 supply chain standard. Numerous multi-national companies are currently using the network, which launched in 2018. The OriginTrail developers have also solved the problem of companies buying and utilizing cryptocurrency via enterprise suite and exchange integrations. This guide attempts to synthesize and organize information in a no-hype, sourced format. Please click through links to understand more.
What is OriginTrail and what problem does it solve?
OriginTrail is an open-source protocol that allows businesses to seamlessly exchange data with efficiency and integrity. One of the biggest problems in our “data as oil” age is that sharing proprietary or confidential information among parties with absolute trust is very difficult. For instance, take two businesses that are sharing trade secrets or confidential information (such as in supply chains or specific medical data). Both parties have it in their interest to share data with each other, but only the pieces that the other business needs to know about. Blockchain technology can go a long way in solving some of these challenges, but it also introduces a new challenge: trust.
Private permissioned blockchain solutions have their applications in business, especially inside individual companies. However, their utility breaks down when sharing data outside the organization. Permissioned blockchain solutions by their very nature force the company to give up some control to an untrusted central authority, which decides who can join the blockchain and how it operates. Private blockchain solutions will always be centralized, which gives the individual companies less freedom over how their intellectual property is managed.
Because of this, there have been some very high profile permissioned blockchain failures. Companies simply do not want to give up control of their data to a centralized authority. What is needed is a decentralized protocol to share data with integrity and trust.
OriginTrail is a neutral, open-source protocol enabling data sharing between companies and organizations. It utilizes decentralized nodes and an off-chain technology stack to interface with legacy systems as well as other blockchains (permissioned and permissionless). OriginTrail allows businesses to improve interoperability among systems and facilitate trusted data exchange.
Trust between parties is achieved using the OriginTrail Decentralized Network (ODN), which has been up and running since December 2018.
The OriginTrail Decentralized Network (ODN)
The permissionless OriginTrail Decentralized Network (ODN) relies on an off-chain technology stack consisting of several inter-related layers. At its core is a decentralized network of data providers, data creators, data holders, and data viewers.
Data enters the OriginTrail Decentralized Network through a Data Creator node. This data source could be from any number of business functions, including existing ERPs, blockchains (permissioned and permissionless), etc. A cryptographic data hash of the data is first fingerprinted to a blockchain to ensure data immutability. This data is then passed (via a bidding process) to 3+ Data Holder nodes that agree to hold the data for the terms of a contract. Data holder nodes are essentially decentralized, interconnected servers and provide that data upon demand to relevant parties.
The data can be treated exactly how the data creator wants. Data creators can set the data to be public or private, have the data expire after a certain number of weeks/years, or have that data (or parts of data) shared only with appropriate parties. Sensitive data is protected using zero-knowledge methods in a privacy-by-design approach. These data holding nodes also function as a vast, decentralized knowledge graph to connect data sets across companies and/or supply chain partners quickly and efficiently. This core feature of the ODN is one of the major selling points for protocol adoption, as searching for inter-related data between partners has not been possible before.
Data holding nodes were designed to be very decentralized. They are open to anyone with 3000+ TRAC, and if the data job meets your criteria (job length, data size, etc.) then your node could be randomly assigned the job. All data holding nodes are equal; having more TRAC per node only means you can accept additional jobs compared to others. There are currently 400+ data holding nodes as of July 2020.
The ERC-20 Trace Token (TRAC) is the glue between all entities and is used as both a stake (to keep data holders honest and data immutable) and a payment (to compensate data holders for their time and resources). More information on TRAC utility and economics is in the following section.
A comprehensive overview of the technical side of the OriginTrail protocol can be found on the official OriginTrail website, the Whitepaper, and in the official documentation. The knowledge graph and privacy aspects can be read about in detail here. There were also Technology office hours in July 2020 and September 2019. A Tech Discord exists for questions about node running.
The ODN Mainnet has been operating since December 2018 with actual enterprise “data jobs” being posted by data creator nodes and stored by data holding nodes (continue reading for examples). The OriginTrail protocol and the ODN has been built from the ground up with four core features:
- Interoperability and Data Integrity: OriginTrail has been built to take advantage of globally recognized GS1 and W3C standards. This allows for efficient alignment of data from multiple sources, including both legacy systems and newer blockchain-powered systems. This data could be anything: tracking and tracing data, Internet-of-Things (IoT) data, descriptive attributes, etc. Once data is aligned, consensus checks to verify datasets from different stakeholders can take place; additionally, auditing via compliance organizations can be authorized automatically. Due to the sensitive nature of many supply chain and business use cases, the ODN is designed to provide a “zero-knowledge” method to prove data validity.
- Data Immutability: A tamper-proof fingerprint (cryptographic hash) of the data is generated and placed on the Ethereum blockchain when first published to the ODN; this is then used to verify that data has not been modified in any way. Additional blockchain interactions are also supported, including a forthcoming ‘StarFleet Chain’ home-grown solution.
- Stability & Cost Efficiency: As the “heavy lifting” of interoperability and data integrity takes place off-chain, the OriginTrail graph database operates cheaply and efficiently. Its open-sourced nature enables easy deployment and does not “rip and replace” legacy systems as other blockchain-based supply chain solutions do.
- Network Incentivization via Token Staking: As detailed in the section below, the TRAC token is the means of compensation between data creators, data holders, and data consumers. It uses an innovative staking system to keep all parties honest; nodes are therefore incentivized for performing consensus checks and delivering data on demand.
For more information, there is also an official breakdown of network incentives and market forces.
TRAC Token Utility and Economics on the ODN
- 500 million total. Non-inflationary, all pre-mined and distributed during ICO
- Markets with liquidity: Kucoin, Bittrex International, Uniswap
- Token Sale Complete: January 17, 2018
- ICO price: $0.10 (0.00007968 ETH)
- Contract Address: 0xaa7a9ca87d3694b5755f213b5d04094b8d0f0a6f (18 decimal)
The Trace token (TRAC) is the utility token that drives the entire ODN. It is a pre-mined, non-inflationary token, and only 500 million will ever exist. Fractions of TRAC (out to 18 decimal places) can and have been used on the network, so supply will never be an issue. This means that the price of a data job (which is paid for in company fiat currency) can be relatively stable as the price of TRAC rises due to utility and adoption. For example, a data job in 2020 could cost 50 TRAC for $2.00 (in fiat) while 3 years later could cost 0.5 TRAC for the same $2.00 rate. TRAC is an ERC-20 token and there are no plans to change blockchains.
TRAC is utilized on the OriginTrail Decentralized Network (ODN) in four ways, and the network (and its decentralized nature) cannot function without it. These mechanisms are:
1. Engaging in the OriginTrail Ecosystem. Data creators and data holders must have TRAC staked in their nodes to take part in the ODN. More TRAC staked in nodes means more data jobs can be published or held.
2. Publishing data to the ODN. Data creators publish data jobs on the ODN using TRAC to compensate 3+ data holding nodes for their time and resources. The exact value of TRAC for each data job is dependent on market forces, but parameters like job length and data size affect it. This TRAC is locked in a smart contract until the job’s completion.
3. Collateralization by Data Holders. To prevent data tampering and as a promise to hold data for a set period of time, TRAC from a data holder’s stake is also locked via smart contract for the length of the data job. Failure to provide data on-demand leads to loss of this staked TRAC to the data creator. Upon completion of the terms of the job, the data holder earns back their original stake AND the TRAC staked by the data creator.
Note that data holding nodes are not like a typical crypto “masternode.” They actively accept and provide data and are more akin to servers; most (all?) people run them on VPS providers due to the potential to lose TRAC staked (by failing to provide data if there is downtime). Some knowledge of a Linux environment is essential.
4. ODN Data Marketplace and Tokenization of Data. The final usecase for TRAC is through a data marketplace that allows data creators to sell their data on the open market. For example, the recently announced EU-sponsored Food Safety Market aims to develop an industrial data platform for food certification in Europe by 2023. There are also Data Markets being built for both pharmaceuticals and satellite imagery; this has the potential to unlock valuable proprietary siloed data previously thought unsellable.
Given the four components of TRAC utility described above, the price of a TRAC token should be well-correlated to the usage of the OriginTrail Decentralized Network. TRAC token scarcity (via utility) is subject to a “triple effect” as described in the 2019 OriginTrail Vision Paper:
“When the TRAC token economics and all of the above utilities are put into practice, they create a triple effect. When data gets published on ODN, the publisher creates a certain demand for TRAC that is used to compensate the nodes in the network for holding the published data. At the same time, the same demand gets created for TRAC that is put as collateral for that particular job. While that collateral gets locked, it effectively also lowers the entire available supply of TRAC, thus creating the third effect.”
One could easily argue there is a fourth effect, based on investors/speculators locking tokens away from the ODN. This further reduces supply and would positively impact TRAC price. A very comprehensive look at market forces and incentives of the network was also released by the team and is worth reading to understand more.
Upward price pressure on TRAC will happen in two ways (beside speculation/investment):
- Token Lockup in Nodes and Data Jobs. Token utility (discussed above) locks up a lot of TRAC in the network (per job) for months and years at a time. Reducing effective supply should positively impact price. The team stated in a September 2020 AMA that they expect to have 10k-100k data jobs flowing over the network per day by 2023.
- Direct Exchange Integration. The developer-created Network Operating System (nOS) directly links existing enterprise software to the ODN. TRAC is automatically purchased with company fiat by directly market-buying TRAC on exchanges. This also solves the problem of mainstream companies needing to purchase and hold cryptocurrency. nOS is discussed in detail below.
Of the 500 million TRAC tokens, 358.6 million tokens have been distributed (CoinMarketCap has been a little slow to catch up). Founder and team tokens (75 million total) were fully distributed by January 2020 according to the two-year vesting schedule.
The following table shows the current TRAC token distribution. As described in the 2020 Q1 Report, all of the TRAC available in the “soft lock” column will be used in the protocol development fund for future improvements (132.5 million total).
The following is a bit of speculation from a long time TRAC holder and node runner.
As discussed above, the token economics model is incredibly well thought through, with TRAC serving as a true utility token. Data job length varies, but node runners have seen job lengths as little as 3 minutes and as long as 5 years (average is 6 months). Each data job requires a lot of TRAC to be locked in the smart contract for the duration of the job: some from each data holding node for collateral and an equal amount from the data creator node to compensate each of the data holders. It will not take much to reduce the supply of TRAC dramatically, and there are numerous paths to enterprise adoption as outlined in the section below.
It is also interesting to note that when configuring any node parameters, the notation is always in micro-TRAC units (mTRAC); this suggests that “fractions of TRAC” data jobs were planned from the beginning and will be a common feature of the network. This would imply massive utility and enormous price potential.
Path to Enterprise Adoption
The OriginTrail Decentralized Network has been fully up and running since late 2018, and current job offers can be seen on the community-built network explorer, OT Hub. Since OriginTrail was developed as an open-sourced protocol for data sharing and supply chains, anyone can run nodes to create or hold data. The OriginTrail/TraceLabs team confirmed in the June 2020 Office Hours that there are jobs running on the ODN that even they do not know what they are. This shows that the network is being used as intended: a trustless, permissionless system to exchange data.
Nevertheless, there are a number of features and initiatives that will encourage adoption of the OriginTrail protocol:
TraceLabs is the for-profit entity started by the same team that developed OriginTrail and serves as the core developers of the protocol. They are catalyzing the adoption of the OriginTrail Decentralized Network by developing custom solutions for companies (some examples of which can be seen below). The TraceLabs team has consistently stated over the past 1.5 years that they have ample funding to continue development and are incredibly busy. As of July 2020, there are 21 members on the TraceLabs team (not including contractors and advisors). Their website currently shows 10 open positions. TraceLabs has a goal of connecting 100,000+ organizations to the ODN by 2023, as shown in a recent conference presentation. In a recent September 2020 AMA, they stated they hope to have 10k-100k data jobs flowing over the network by 2023.
Network Operating System (nOS)
The biggest catalyst for ODN adoption is the development of the TraceLabs-built Network Operating System (nOS). This is a custom software solution for businesses that directly connects the OriginTrail Decentralized Network to their legacy system and other permissionless and permissioned blockchains (including HyperLedger). It easily allows for existing ERP integrations, consensus checks for data discrepancies among partners, supply chain/track-and-trace applications, and data/sourcing provenance. TraceLabs estimates that nOS decreases implementation time and deployment costs by 10-fold. Demo pictures can be seen on the TraceLabs website.
nOS is already integrated into several legacy enterprise suites, including Oracle Cloud, Salesforce, SAP, and Microsoft Navision. This enables 10,000+ businesses ready access to nOS functionality with a single click.
Further, and perhaps most importantly for adoption, nOS enables the spending of credits purchased with company fiat to directly purchase TRAC via Uniswap and other exchanges; TRAC is only utilized in the background, is directly purchased when needed, and used in nodes immediately (see this writeup for details). As cryptocurrency never touches the company’s accounting books, it solves the problem of mainstream companies needing to purchase and hold cryptocurrency to use the protocol. Because of this consistent buying pressure, it should create upward pressure on TRAC price over time.
Oracle and TraceLabs have had a partnership since late 2018, and nOS has been listed on the Oracle Cloud Marketplace since early 2019. The Oracle partnership also brought increased support for Hyperledger integration.
Open Standards (GS1 EPCIS/CBV and W3C integration)
The entire global supply chain runs on standards developed by the GS1 organization. Systems to identify, capture, and share information among supply chain partners (including the ubiquitous bar code), were all developed over the past 45 years by GS1. These standards allow for interoperability between different systems and supply chain architectures across the globe. Any blockchain-based solution to improve traceability should integrate with these legacy systems, and the OriginTrail protocol was designed from the ground up to do this.
The OriginTrail protocol fully supports the GS1 EPCIS 1.2 and CBV standards in the protocol data structure. This ensures full compliance and integration with legacy systems. In July 2020, TraceLabs confirmed that they joined the 54 company working group to develop the next generation EPCIS/CBV 2.0 standards, to be ratified soon. This puts OriginTrail in an incredible position to shape next-generation intelligent supply chain interactions.
In August 2020, TraceLabs announced an integration of the ODN and the upcoming GS1 Digital Link standard.
The OriginTrail protocol also supports the Web of Things (W3C) recommended standard. This will ensure wide compatibility with IoT devices and has already been utilized for a number of European Union-wide use cases and pilots (see below).
OriginTrail/TraceLabs has been a member of GS1 since 2018, which gives them access to the development of supply chain standards and their implementation. OriginTrail/TraceLabs co-founder Žiga Drev was invited to speak at several local and global GS1 conferences, including the GS1 Global Forums in 2019 and 2020. OriginTrail was also featured in a 2018 GS1 position paper on blockchain technology. GS1 members are intimately aware of the protocol through these endeavors.
OriginTrail’s standards-based approach also caught the attention of the World Economic Forum (WEF), who detailed OriginTrail as one of the top blockchain-based supply chain solutions in their 2020 Blockchain Deployment Toolkit report.
Lastly, the German Federal Office for Information Security praised OriginTrail as one of two future leaders in blockchain-assisted supply chain management.
The Trace Alliance is a global network of 100+ business enterprises, service providers, developers, and research institutions that share knowledge gained using the OriginTrail protocol. They have direct access to OriginTrail knowledge resources, use cases, and the latest technology releases/solutions. The goal is to aid in the adoption of the OriginTrail protocol for the benefit of all members. Members include Deloitte, OneAgrix, TE-Foods, Oregon Tilth, and TMA Solutions. A full list can be seen here.
Current and Near-Future Adoption of the ODN
The OriginTrail Mainnet has been up and running since December 2018. The following is a sampling of organizations that have used the technology on either the mainnet or testnets. It is not meant to be a complete list.
BSI (British Standards Institute)
The British Standards Institute (BSI) is the national standards body of the United Kingdom and has 86,000 clients in 190 countries. They produce and update hundreds of thousands of standards and certifications per year. OriginTrail and BSI have had a partnership since January 2019, and certification data from BSI is already flowing over the OriginTrail Decentralized Network (see example here).
In June 2020, BSI released a whitepaper detailing how the SCAN initiative (led by BSI) will utilize the OriginTrail Decentralized Network to monitor and audit factories servicing major United States brands in their Trusted Factory Blockchain Program. SCAN members (including Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, and Walt Disney) have over 18,000 factories that will be part of this initiative. This official writeup and the whitepaper are highly recommended reading.
In addition, BSI also trains and certifies 200,000 students per year on topics from business improvements to environmental management. The BSI white paper (and team confirmation in the June 2020 Office Hours) indicate that these certifications will be verified using the ODN over time.
EVRYTHNG is an internet of things software company performing supply chain logistics for a number of global brands. These include Coca Cola, Ralph Lauren, Puma, and Avery Dennison, among others. EVRYTHNG has made a big push over two years for blockchain integration for their brands. OriginTrail has had a partnership with EVRYTHNG since May 2018 and a number of pilots by EVRYTHNG have made use of OriginTrail technology and testnets. These include:
- May, 2018: EVRYTHNG partnered with OriginTrail and created an IoT/provenance connected “Barry the Bear” stuffed animal in advance of the GS1 Global Forum conference.
- June, 2019: EVRYTHNG upgraded their partnership and used OriginTrail and IOTA to create a traceability solution using Avery Dennison IoT products and fashion brand 1017 ALYX 9SM.
EVRYTHNG recently streamlined its blockchain integration hub in May 2020, with OriginTrail still being seen as an essential partner for blockchain connectivity. In January 2020, CTO of EVRYTHNG Dominique Guinard also confirmed by a tweet that future use cases for EVRYTHNG blockchain integrations will be on the ODN mainnet.
European Union Consortia/Blockchain Accelerators
The European Union might be the biggest supporter of blockchain integration on the planet; details of which can be read about in this 2019 EU report. OriginTrail/TraceLabs is involved in at least eight EU initiatives and pilot programs in the supply chain space. Over time, this will encourage the adoption of the protocol by individual companies.
TraceLabs received funding from the EU to build the Open Provenance Knowledge Graph (OpenPKG). It will help organizations automate their GDPR compliance and have a transparent way of handling personal data; a use-case is currently being rolled out with the British Standards Institute.
Other initiatives include:
- Food Safety Market: Announced in June 2020, this project aims to develop an industrial data platform for food safety certification in Europe. This consortium is also part of the Trace Alliance.
- SmartAgriHubs: A consortium of 160 partners in the European agriculture space to aid in the adoption of 80 new digital solutions. OriginTrail is part of a flagship integration experiment, and is using both blockchain oracles and their Oracle partnership to improve the milk supply chain in Europe. A demo can be viewed here.
- DEMETER: A project that is building an interoperable, data-driven, and sustainable European agri-food sector using IoT technology.
- LEDGER: TraceLabs is part of an initiative to create a Food Data Market for sustainable food production and data distribution. TraceLabs is one of only 16 companies selected out of 300 applicants. The Food Data Market has also gone global with the EU Commission’s NGI Atlantic initiative.
- Blockchers: TraceLabs is part of a program for automation and incentivizing sustainable farmers using public blockchain-based technology.
- Block.IS: TraceLabs is developing a laboratory data market as part of the Blockchain Innovation Space initiative, helping to contribute to lab and pharmaceutical safety and trust. They are one of 10 finalists entering the commercial phase.
- PARSEC Accelerator: TraceLabs is developing a verifiable sustainability scheme for food supply chains based on satellite data. It will be part of its data market solution.
- EIP-EKOPAKT: TraceLabs is part of a consortium developing a farm-to-fork traceability system. The first pilot will take place in Slovenia with the goal of other countries in Europe following thereafter.
Additional project information on these EU-funded endeavors can be found here.
Individual Companies (selection)
Perutnina Ptuj is the largest poultry producer in Southeastern Europe and has had a six-year partnership with OriginTrail/Tracelabs. They recently introduced a QR code-based IoT scanning platform to track poultry provenance on the OriginTrail Decentralized Network. A demo video can be seen here.
OneAgrix is a Singapore-based online marketplace for Halal products. Two billion people in the world consume halal food products, and blockchain is increasingly a part of the certification. TraceLabs and OneAgrix have partnered to allow for halal certification on the OriginTrail Decentralized Network. Data has already been moving over the ODN and a live demo can be seen here.
Essential Resources to Learn More…
- OriginTrail Whitepaper. Released in October 2017 and still largely up to date. A revised whitepaper reflecting the improvements to the protocol is coming in 2020.
- OriginTrail Vision Paper. Released in March 2019, and still a very comprehensive overview of the OriginTrail ecosystem. Highly recommended to understand how the pieces all fit together.
- Technology Overview from the OriginTrail website.
- Recent News Summaries: Q2 2020 Summary; Q1 2020 Summary
- Network Mechanisms, Incentives, & Market Forces. A look at how TRAC serves as a true utility token on the OriginTrail Decentralized Network.
- Roadmap and Achievements covering the team’s entire existence (2013-present).
- Video breakdown on the problems OriginTrail overcomes by community member @guinnessstache.
- Mind Map of OriginTrail Ecosystem by community member @bottomshorter.
- OT Hub, a community-built network explorer showing new ODN Mainnet data jobs. There are currently about 400 nodes on the network posting and bidding for data jobs.
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