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What is Tierion? An In-depth Review of the Blockchain Proof & Verification Engine

Tierion is one enchanting blockchain project that is taking on an area unique from others. They are working on data verification but on a massive scale.

More notably, the team has taken the idea of notarization and the safekeeping of documents, and has shifted it to the protection of digital data. Their endeavor entails making the process of this verification simple and most importantly, cheap.

Be that as it may, can such a grand vision be realistically achieved?

In this review of the Tierion project we will give you everything that you need to know about the project. We will take a look at their technology, development (product and traction), the project’s team members, economics, and market. We will additionally analyze the potential for the TNT token to secure more adoption in the long term.

Project Summary

Introduction

Businesses safeguard and notarize crucial documents such as property titles and contracts to ensure anyone can prove their veracity. Surprisingly, there isn’t a universal equivalent for safeguarding digital data. Much of the world’s important information is stored digitally and is susceptible to modification by system administrators or hackers. When data is sent over the Internet, the recipient often can’t verify when the data was created or if it has been modified from its original state. Problems with data integrity and digital record-keeping are particularly severe in regulated industries such as healthcare, insurance, and financial services where data corruption or tampering has significant legal and reputational consequences.

Tierion is building a universal platform for data verification. Tierion works by creating a proof that links data to a transaction on a blockchain. This is called anchoring. Anyone with this proof can verify the data’s integrity and timestamp without relying on a trusted authority.

Tierion launched in 2015 and has become the most widely used platform for anchoring data to the blockchain. Tierion’s key innovation was making it simple to anchor a virtually unlimited amount of data to a single blockchain transaction. Tierion’s launch also marked the introduction of the Chainpoint protocol, the first standard proof format for anchoring data to a blockchain.

Several open source projects and multiple vendors have adopted the Chainpoint protocol. In July 2016, Chainpoint 2.0 was published. It featured several improvements, including the use of JSON-LD and anchoring into multiple blockchains. Tierion formed the Chainpoint W3C Community in September 2016. Chainpoint is the first technology of its kind to receive public support from a major Internet standards organization.

The team mentioned that to continue their mission as regards securing the world’s data, they are launching the Tierion Network. Chainpoint has been upgraded to version 3.0 and now runs as a service on the Tierion Network. Together, they provide a universal platform for data verification that operates at massive scale.

Microsoft is joining Tierion in running a core part of the network infrastructure. Anyone can join the Tierion Network by running a node. Each node improves the network’s scalability and reliability. Along with this new distributed architecture, a token is being introduced. The Tierion Network Token (TNT) provides an economic incentive to secure the network infrastructure, and additionally serves as a method of settlement between parties to access network resources.

Each Node serves as a mini-Tierion. Node operators can provide users with services using conventional payment and delivery models.

History

Using the Bitcoin blockchain to notarize documents was popularized by Manuel Aráoz with the creation of Proof of Existence in 2012. This system, and others like it, publishes a hash of a document in a Bitcoin transaction. Hashes allow computers to compare arbitrarily complex data and determine if they are identical. By comparing the hash of a document with the hash published in the blockchain, it is possible to prove the document existed before the timestamp of the block containing that Bitcoin transaction.

  • Why use Bitcoin?

Bitcoin’s security model is enforced by the entire network instead of a trusted central authority. Once a transaction is confirmed, it becomes part of an immutable ledger that is distributed across a global network of nodes. It is practically impossible for a malicious agent to alter data on the blockchain.

  • Shortcomings

These early systems had several shortcomings and as such never achieved significant commercial adoption:

  • Not Scalable:

One document hash was published per Bitcoin transaction. Bitcoin’s current network throughput is approximately three transactions per second. This is far too low to support the world’s applications.

  • Cost:

In June 2015, the cost of anchoring data into Bitcoin was approximately $0.03 USD. In June of 2017, that cost had increased by over 100 times to $3.40 USD.

  • Inaccurate:

Bitcoin’s block time accuracy is ± 2 hours. This means the timestamp of the block could be an hour before a transaction was published. Time travel violates the laws of physics.

These limitations made it impractical and cost prohibitive to anchor large volumes of data in the Bitcoin blockchain.

Tierion overcame these obstacles and made it simple to link a virtually unlimited amount of data to a single transaction on the blockchain. For the first time, developers had an easy-to-use and affordable service for anchoring data at scale. Chainpoint provided a standard proof format and open source tools for the creation and verification of Chainpoint proofs.

What is Tierion?

Complete verification of data and documents is without doubt quite a challenging affair. While there are standard procedures for doing this, these are sometimes dated and have not kept up with the pace at which technology moves. Tierion is trying to make use of immutable blockchain technology to verify this data.

Figure1: An Overview of the Tierion Protocol. Image via Angel.co

Other companies have tried to do something similar by anchoring data to blockchains, but every one of them ran into the challenge of scalability and were as such unable to get past this hurdle. These early attempts used the Bitcoin blockchain and published just one document hash alongside each Bitcoin transaction. The problem is Bitcoin doesn’t have nearly enough network throughput to accommodate all the document hashes that needed to be recorded.

What’s more, using the Bitcoin network and blockchain became prohibitively expensive, with the cost of each document rising to more than $3 USD as of 2017. As if all this wasn’t enough, the delayed block time from Bitcoin meant the timestamp on the documents weren’t accurate. Tierion’s team has found a way to get past all of these hurdles.

Tierion Market & Use Cases

There are various industries that will be able to benefit massively from a blockchain solution that is capable of verifying and securing data. Healthcare, financial services and insurance are just a few of the industries that spend tens of millions of dollars to authenticate and securely store data every year. Tierion could both simplify the process and make it far less expensive. And by transferring all this data to the blockchain, it becomes immutable as well.

Tierion was on the right path long before it’s ICO in the summer of 2017. In the short two years of its existence to that point it had already formed a collaboration with Microsoft on data integrity. In addition to that, it has as well done Internet of Things data work with Phillips, as well as credential verification and auditing work with other companies.

A number of the use cases:

  • Audit Trail for a Business Process:

It keeps an immutable history of business processes.

  • IoT Data Integrity and Provenance:

Guarantee the integrity and timestamp of data collected from Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

  • Document Timestamping:

Add a blockchain timestamp proof to digital documents and data.

  • Blockchain Verifiable credentials:

Issue blockchain verifiable credentials from education credits to awards

  • Data Integrity for Accounting Records:

Prove the existence and accuracy of accounting records.

  • Regulatory Compliance:

Prove to regulators that your data and documents haven’t been altered.

In truth, when you consider the scope of data integrity, data verification, auditing and credential verification, the range of what Tierion can be used for become nearly limitless. Various companies and industries will be able to use it for notarization, for verifying credentials, to provide proof of process, and to timestamp transactions.

Moreover, there are a number of different industries that could make use of the Tierion protocol. They can provide cryptographic proof of order, integrity and timestamp of numerous business processes. These include the likes of supply chains, financial transactions, insurance claims, medical records and KYC (Know Your Customer) procedures.

Opportunities

  • Partnership with Microsoft and Philips proofs that Tierion is a legitimate company.
  • Tierion’s services are used by over a thousand companies, an indication that Tierion is proven to provide valuable services to its customers.
  • Tierion has been around for 2 years with a working product that is in the third iteration, which makes this ICO a lot less risky than those with shorter track record.
  • Tierion won the 2015 Consensus Makathon, which shows the competency of the team.
  • Blockchain is integral to the services provided by Tierion, so it makes more sense to raise money from ICO.
  • Factomis yet another solution that tackles the same problems that Tierion is trying to solve. But according to CEO of Tierion, Factom can only manage 47 transactions per second while Tierion’s capacity is virtually unlimited.

How Tierion Works – The Technology

Tierion uses the Chainpoint technology to create what the team has termed as the “proof engine”. Through this use of Chainpoint, the Tierion team says it can use blockchain technology to verify data. That includes everything from medical records to financial trades and legal contracts. Their ultimate goal is to simplify the process while making trust less expensive.

Tierion works by anchoring data to a transaction on the blockchain using the proof engine. This gives room for anyone, at any time to verify the integrity and timestamp of the data simply by looking it up on the trustless blockchain. This removes the need for third party trusted sources such as notaries. At the moment Tierion provides this ability for both the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains.

Figure 2: The Chainpoint proof generation process

Chainpoint is the open standard that can be used by any developer for linking data with a blockchain to create a timestamp and proof. Chainpoint comprises of several developer tools, and has been used by hundreds of companies to create applications that utilize data linking. Chainpoint is also the foundation of the Tierion Network.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the Tierion Network is its Proof application that is expected to launch in early 2019. The Proof application runs on Chainpoint, which will allow it to scale to millions of daily proofs. A proof is where a business verifies the integrity of data and timestamp without using a third party trusted source. Businesses will be able to get started in just a few mouse clicks, and data verification will be quick, simple and inexpensive.

For each industry specific use case, Tierion delivers three core capabilities, as discussed below:

  1. Trust anchor:

In cryptographic systems, a trust anchor is an authoritative entity for which trust is assumed and not derived. The Bitcoin blockchain is particularly well suited to serve as a trust anchor as no authority controls the Bitcoin blockchain. Once a transaction is confirmed, it becomes part of an immutable ledger that is distributed across a global network of nodes. Erasing or modifying this data is virtually impossible. Tierion provides a scalable means to use multiple blockchains as a trust anchor.

  1. Data integrity:

Data Integrity is the assurance of the accuracy and consistency of data. Organizations with sensitive data need to prove it hasn’t been corrupted or manipulated by insider threats or external hackers. Tierion provides a global mechanism for verifying data integrity.

  1. Timestamp:

Public blockchains make poor timestamp authorities because of their low time accuracy. For instance, Bitcoin’s block time accuracy is approximately ±2 hours. Trusted timestamps are accurate, yet require users to trust the time provided by an authority. Anchors to a public blockchain provide a low accuracy but trustless timestamp. Chainpoint solves this dilemma by including multiple trusted timestamps and multiple trust anchors in each proof. This allows Chainpoint proofs to simultaneously possess accurate and trustless time attestations.

The Tierion Network

Developers get started using the current version of Tierion by visiting the website and signing up for a free account. This gives them access to tools for collecting data, creating and verifying Chainpoint proofs, and integrating data with more than 500 popular software applications.

With this next step, Tierion is evolving into a distributed network that offers services that utilize the blockchain as a trust anchor.

Figure 3: Current Tierion vs. New Tierion Network

Chainpoint is the first service on the Tierion Network and serves as the technical foundation for future services. Chainpoint provides a global utility for anchoring data to the blockchain and a universal platform for data verification.

Future additions to the Tierion Network may include services for securing and sharing verifiable data, document notary and archival, and attestations related to blockchain verifiable identities.

The Tierion Network Token (TNT) serves two primary functions, namely:

  1. A method of settlement between parties to access network resources
  2. An incentive for network participants to operate and secure the network.

Anyone is able to join the Tierion Network and earn TNT. End users will not require a token to use the network. See the “Tierion Network Token” section of this document for more details.

Chainpoint Service

The Chainpoint Service is a global utility for creating and verifying Chainpoint proofs that runs on the Tierion Network. This section provides a detailed technical overview of Chainpoint 3.0. It is organized into four sub-sections:

  • Benefits:

This sub-section will shed light on the benefits of the new Chainpoint 3.0 service.

  • Chainpoint Proofs:

This sub-section provides an overview of the elements of a Chainpoint proof.

  • Proof Generation Process:

This sub-section will look into how Chainpoint proofs are created.

  • Chainpoint Infrastructure:

This sub-section gives a description of Chainpoint’s global network infrastructure.

Benefits

Chainpoint’s new distributed architecture provides several significant advantages, as discussed below:

  • Scalability:

Chainpoint uses a highly scalable architecture that is designed to generate millions of proofs per second.

  • Accuracy:

Chainpoint includes time data from Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with anchors to the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains, allowing Chainpoint proofs to simultaneously possess accurate and trustless time attestations.

  • Responsive:

Chainpoint responds immediately when a hash is submitted. Proofs are automatically upgraded as they are anchored to the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains.

  • Trust:

Chainpoint periodically anchors into the decentralized Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains. This allows the Chainpoint proofs to inherit the security properties of multiple blockchains.

  • Cost Effectiveness:

Chainpoint’s scalability makes it cost-effective for the world to anchor data to a secure public blockchain. This is particularly relevant as Bitcoin transaction fees have increased more than 100 times in the past two years and are likely to continue to rise.

  • Global Calendar:

Chainpoint servers work in consensus to generate a global, publicly auditable blockchain referred to as the Chainpoint Calendar. This makes it easier to verify Chainpoint proofs and audit the network.

Chainpoint Proofs

Each Chainpoint proof contains a set of operations that cryptographically link a hash to multiple blockchains. These links are known as anchors. Chainpoint proofs are verified by replaying the operations and checking each anchor for an expected value.

The new proof format has the flexibility to support the inclusion of external data, multiple hash types, and branches. Chainpoint proofs can be verified with any Chainpoint compatible verification tool.

Figure 4: Conceptual depiction of the structure of a Chainpoint 3.0 proof.

 

Sample Chainpoint Proof

{

                  “@context” : “https://w3id.org/chainpoint/v3” ,

                  “type” : “Chainpoint” ,

                  “hash” : “52da1abc1608bf37a204f3d9664541fad88dbd91014cd3e5f0542b98c00b787c” ,

                  “hash_id” : “8853b190-6061-11e7-9322-45354847e629” ,

                  “hash_submitted_at” : “2017-07-04T02:36:07Z” ,

                  “branches” : [

                                    {

                                    “label” : “cal_anchor_branch” ,

                                    “ops” : [

                                                      {

                                                      “l” : “8853b190-6061-11e7-9322-45354847e629”

                                                      },

                                                      {

                                                      “op” : “sha-256”

                                                      },

                                                      {

                                                      “l” :

                                                      “1499135760:889036cac6f4d9dbfc13693da2a558f65fc2468d26ef3f3934b8d5e19e86d7616793e4d24de

                                                      bccdf2674d175f66724cdcf5198406c1967d83a35b9a00d3f12cb”

                                                      },

                                                      {

                                                      “op” : “sha-256”

                                                      },

                                                      {

                                                      “l” : “1407:1499135771727:1:a.chainpoint.org:cal:1407”

                                                      },

                                                      {

                                                      “r” : “e61eebbe297ed276d20005dcd146805c1846a4b709066c40a176903f84464ace”

                                                      },

                                                      {

                                                      “op” : “sha-256”

                                                      },

                                                      {

                                                                        “anchors” : [

                                                                                          {

                                                                                          “type” : “cal” ,

                                                                                          “anchor_id” : “1407” ,

                                                                                          “uris” : [

                                                                                                            “http://a.chainpoint.org/calendar/1407/hash”,

                                                                                                            ]

                                                                                          }

                                                                        ]

                                                      }

                                    ]

                                    }

                  ]

}

Chainpoint Proof Overview

This section provides an overview of the Chainpoint proof elements in Figure 4.

  • hash

The hash element of a Chainpoint proof represents some data that you want to prove is anchored to the blockchain.

A hash is a cryptographic digest of any data. Hash functions always produce the same hash given identical input. Hash functions output a fixed length string regardless of the size or type of input.

Input Size Hash (SHA256)
text string 10 bytes ef7797e13d3a75526946a3bcf00daec9fc9c9c4d51ddc7cc5df888f74dd434d1
image 400MB 5161bc058e63d8db009b21decba2fc455f8e4cfe8536e9aa110ee7dd914ca68a
database 56GB 3d22b7e4a3ed8883d9395f6e5064cbeb7d27d696228026acb58091678484005e

Hashes allow computers to compare data. If hashes match, the source data must be identical. Hash functions cannot be reversed to discover anything about the input. This makes hashes useful for proving the existence and integrity of data while keeping the source confidential.

  • hash_id & NTP timestamp

Chainpoint uses Network Time Protocol (NTP) to keep time synchronized with a worldwide network of atomic clocks. Chainpoint generates a unique identifier for each hash it receives.

This hash_id is an RFC 4122 Version 1 UUID which contains a high precision timestamp that reflects the NTP time. A hash_id is included in the cryptographic operations, thus the exact time Chainpoint received the hash is embedded in each proof.

  • branches

Chainpoint proofs are organized into a tree. The hash serves as the root. Each branch contains a list of operations which terminates in an anchor; a claim that a value is published in an external system. Figure 4 contains three branches, calendar, ethereum, and bitcoin.

  • operations (ops)

Operations are performed in sequence to verify a proof. Operations include left concatenate, right concatenate, and a set of hashing functions. Chainpoint can be extended to include additional operations.

The hash field of a Chainpoint proof is used as the starting value when performing operations. The result of each operation is used as the input for the next operation. Consider the following example which begins with an empty string (instead of a hash) as the starting value:

{

“l” : “chain”

},

{

“r” : “point”

},

{

“op” : “sha-256”

},

The above sample translates to: SHA256 (‘chain’ | ‘point’) resulting in c8c60e9c3c1e693e0b4ac9cd2da89c67df1b83d4a5a27be7baa841c11cfc7b09

Operations replay the calculations made when a hash goes through the proof generation process. A proof can be verified by executing the operations and checking each anchor for an expected hash value.

  • NIST Randomness Beacon

In the movies, kidnappers provide “proof of life” by taking a photo of the victim holding a current newspaper. This proves the photo was taken after the newspaper was printed. The project’s team collaborated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create an analogous technique to prove a Chainpoint proof was created after the hash_id is generated.

The NIST Randomness Beacon project, led by Dr. Rene Peralta, continues work started by Haber and Stornetta at AT&T Bell Labs in the 90’s. Each minute, the Randomness Beacon publishes a value created by a network of random number generators. Beacon values are generated by specialized hardware that ‘uses quantum effects to generate a sequence of truly random values, guaranteed to be unpredictable, even if an attacker has access to the random source.

Figure 5: A space-time diagram illustrating a locality-loophole-free Bell test

NIST Beacon data is included in every Chainpoint 3.0 proof. Since the random values are unknowable before they are published, we can assert that each Chainpoint proof:

  • Should have a NIST timestamp earlier or equal to when a hash was received
  • The NIST time should generally be within one minute of when a hash was received

This is the first time publicly verifiable data is being used to improve the accuracy of a blockchain timestamp proof.

  • Calendar Anchor

The Chainpoint Calendar is similar to a hash calendar; it is a blockchain that is created and maintained by the participants of the Chainpoint Network. Each Chainpoint proof is anchored to this global calendar within seconds of hash submission. Once anchored to the global calendar, Chainpoint generates a partial proof, eliminating the need to wait for Bitcoin and Ethereum transactions to confirm.

{

“anchors” : [{

“type” : “cal” ,

“anchor_id” : “1027” ,

“uris” : [ “http://a.chainpoint.org/calendar/1027/hash” ]

}]

}

The Calendar also contains data for verifying Chainpoint proofs. Calendar data is mirrored by a distributed network of Chainpoint Nodes.

  • Ethereum Anchor

The anchor hash is published in an Ethereum transaction in the data field. The ETH address is included in the Chainpoint proof.

{

“anchors” : [{

“type” : “eth” ,

“anchor_id” : “d3e7ec84c3dbe86f7d9a8ea68ae4ded6c0b012be519f433a07f15bd612fb47a9” ,

“uris” : [ “http://a.chainpoint.org/calendar/1048/data” ]

}]

}

  • Bitcoin Anchor

The anchoring hash is included in OP_RETURN of a Bitcoin transaction. As a consequence, this value is included in the raw transaction body, allowing the transaction ID and the Merkle path from that transaction to the Bitcoin block’s Merkle root to be calculated.

Chainpoint waits for six confirmations after publishing an anchoring transaction, determines the Merkle path from the transaction id to the block’s Merkle root, and appends this data to the Chainpoint proof. This ensures proofs can be verified if OP_RETURN is pruned, or if a verifier has dataset that only contains block header data.

{

“anchors” : [{

“type” : “btc” ,

“anchor_id” : “434702” ,

“uris” : [ “http://a.chainpoint.org/calendar/1056/data” ]

}]

}

Chainpoint Proof Elements

The table below shows a complete list of Chainpoint 3.0 proof elements.

Name Description
@context

string, required

the JSON-LD context for the proof
type

string, required

the JSON-LD type definition
hash

string, required

hash value between 40 and 128 hex characters. Must be even length.
hash_id

string, required

a Version 1 UUID with embedded timestamp. Random number used as MAC input. Timestamp represents server time (UTC) of hash submission.
hash_submitted_at

string, required

Human readable ISO 8601 timestamp extracted from time embedded in the hash_id
branches – an array of branch objects. Branches can be nested without limit and MUST be traversed only after executing ‘ops’. (required only at root)
label

string, optional

text string representing the branch name
ops

array, optional

an array of operations objects. Operations are performed in sequence to arrive at an intermediate hash prior to entering a nested branch.
branches

array, optional

nested array of branch objects. Each branch contains ops; labels and additional nested branches are optional.
ops – an array of operation objects (required under every ‘branches’ object)
l

string, optional

left concatenate a value. If the value is a hexadecimal string, it will be read as a hexadecimal byte array, otherwise the string will be converted to its byte value assuming UTF-8 encoding.
r

string, optional

right concatenate a value. If the value is a hexadecimal string, it will be read as a hexadecimal byte array, otherwise the string will be converted to its byte value assuming UTF-8 encoding.
op

string, optional

an operation to perform on the current value combined with a previous ‘l’ or ‘r’ operation. Current operations: ‘sha-224’, ‘sha-256’, ‘sha-384’, ‘sha-512’, ‘sha3-224’, ‘sha3-256’, ‘sha3-384’, ‘sha3-512’, or the special purpose ‘sha-256-x2’ which applies ‘sha-256’ twice.
anchors – an array of anchor objects (required under every ‘ops’ object).
type

string, required

 

one of ‘cal’ (Calendar), ‘btc’ (Bitcoin), or ‘eth’ (Ethereum) anchor types
anchor_id

string, required

an identifier used to look up embedded anchor data. e.g. a Bitcoin transaction or block ID.
uris

array, optional

an array of special purpose string URI’s, each of which can be used to look up and retrieve the exact hash resource required to validate this anchor. The URI MUST return only a Hexadecimal hash value as a string. The URI MUST also contain the ‘anchor_id’ value to lookup the URI resource. This strict requirement is to allow automated clients to retrieve and validate intermediate hashes when verifying a proof. The body value returned by the URI MUST be of even length and match the regex [a-fA-F0-9].

JSON-LD & Binary Formats

Chainpoint proofs are commonly used in their JSON-LD format, as seen in the many examples used throughout this document. The JSON-LD format makes proofs human readable and easy to integrate into other JSON-LD documents.

Chainpoint proofs can be converted to a binary format. The binary format uses MessagePack and zlib to substantially reduce the proof size. For example, a 5,098 byte JSON formatted proof is reduced by 72% to 1,442 bytes when converted to binary format.

Information on the Chainpoint binary format can be found at https://github.com/chainpoint/chainpoint-binary/.

Chainpoint Proof Generation

The following description approximates how each element interacts throughout the proof generation process.

Figure 6: Chainpoint proof generation process

Hash Submission

Submit a hash to a Chainpoint service. Each submission may contain 1 – 1,000 hashes. Hashes can be hex strings between 40 and 128 characters. This allows submission of common hash types such as SHA-1, SHA-256, and SHA-512. SHA-256 is encouraged. Chainpoint immediately returns a RFC 4122 Version 1 UUID with an embedded NTP timestamp that uniquely identifies each hash.

Hash Processing

The submitted hash is combined with the UUID to create a new hash. This mixing of data acts as a cryptographic nonce and ensures that Chainpoint processes unique hashes even when duplicate hashes are submitted.

Next, the hash is combined with the NIST Beacon data to create another new hash. This makes it possible to prove that the hash was submitted after the NIST Beacon values were published.

Hashes are then sent to an aggregation service.

Aggregation

Chainpoint periodically aggregates hashes into number of parallel Merkle trees. This hierarchical aggregation allows for handling of massive numbers of hashes. The Merkle root from each tree is periodically sent to the Chainpoint Calendar. A Merkle inclusion proof is generated for each hash and stored. These partial proofs are continually appended with new data throughout the proof generation process.

Calendar Consensus

The Calendar is a blockchain that is kept in consensus between multiple Chainpoint Servers. This ensures that a single global calendar blockchain can be used to verify Chainpoint proofs. Calendar data is organized into blocks. These blocks are stored as records in a distributed cluster of CockroachDB databases. Writes to the calendar are enforced by a leader election using a cluster of Consul servers.

Calendar Blocks

The Chainpoint Calendar periodically aggregates Merkle roots into a new Merkle tree. A new set of Merkle inclusion proofs is generated and appended to the existing partial proofs. The root of this Merkle tree is written to a calendar block.

Anchor Blocks

Calendar blocks are periodically anchored to the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchain. This is done by publishing a transaction that commits an anchor block hash to a transaction on the blockchain.

Confirmation Blocks

Chainpoint monitors the blockchain. In the event each anchoring transaction receives a sufficient number of confirmations, a confirmation block is added to the Calendar. Each confirmation block contains the data needed to finalize each Chainpoint proof.

Proof Completion

After a confirmation block is written, Chainpoint appends partial proofs with the final data.

Worth noting is the fact that complete Chainpoint proofs are now available for retrieval.

Chainpoint Service Infrastructure

The Chainpoint Service is designed to run as a global network that operates at massive scale. The network involves the interaction of several classes of participants.

  • Core:

Core is a network of partners that run the full Chainpoint Service stack, maintain the global calendar, and anchor data to the blockchain.

  • Nodes:

Nodes provide additional scaling, mirror the global calendar, and audit Core. Each node that joins the network improves scalability and reliability. Anyone can become part of this distributed network by downloading the software and running a Node.

Chainpoint Clients

Clients can connect to a Node, or directly to Chainpoint Core via an API.

Figure 7: Chainpoint Service architecture diagram

Chainpoint Service Design Goals

  • Scalable:

Chainpoint is designed for virtually unlimited scale. In contrast to other blockchain based systems, throughput increases as nodes are added to the network.

  • Reliable:

Chainpoint is designed to have zero downtime and consistently return proofs in a predictable timeframe. Chainpoint Core is distributed across independent data centers and geographic regions to ensure availability and redundancy. Chainpoint Nodes form a decentralized network to create and verify Chainpoint proofs.

  • Secure:

Anchoring allows Chainpoint to inherit the security properties of multiple blockchains. Modifying the Bitcoin or Ethereum blockchain would cost an attacker millions of dollars and becomes increasingly difficult over time.

  • Economic Efficiency:

Chainpoint is designed to be inexpensive or free for most network participants. Increases in network throughput scale independently of blockchain transaction costs.

  • Open:

Anyone can join the network by running a Chainpoint Node. Nodes mirror a copy of the calendar data and can independently verify the full chain.

  • Chainpoint Core

Chainpoint Core is a network of partners that run the full Chainpoint Service stack to create and verify proofs, read and write to the global calendar, and perform anchoring operations. Each Core Member operates one or more clusters of servers. Each cluster is called a service cluster.

Figure 8: Chainpoint Core Member diagram

Core Members have the resources to run scalable systems with high availability and near zero downtime. The first three service clusters will be available at Chainpoint.org. Microsoft is first organization to join Core and will be hosting a service cluster.

Global Calendar

The Chainpoint Calendar is a blockchain that is created by Core and audited by Nodes. The calendar provides several benefits including:

  • Reduced Costs:

One Core Partner anchors for everyone on the Chainpoint Network. A single transaction can be used to anchor millions of proofs. This makes Chainpoint inexpensive or free for most network participants.

  • Faster Response:

The full proof generation process can sometimes exceed an hour due to variations in the time it takes to mine Bitcoin blocks. Each Chainpoint proof is anchored to the calendar within seconds of hash submission. Chainpoint then returns a partial proof that is automatically updated throughout the proof generation process. This eliminates the need to wait for Bitcoin and Ethereum transactions to confirm.

  • Proof Verification:

The calendar provides a single source of data for verifying Chainpoint proofs. Anyone with the calendar data can fully verify every Chainpoint proof without having to run a Bitcoin or Ethereum node. You don’t have to worry about servers going offline and parts of your proof becoming impossible to verify. Those with advanced security requirements can cross check the calendar data with their own Bitcoin or Ethereum nodes.

  • Auditability:

A global calendar makes it possible for anyone to audit Core and independently verify the validity and integrity of the chain. Each block is signed with a provider specific public key, and the chain is periodically anchored to Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Chainpoint Nodes

Each additional Node increases the total capacity of the network to create and verify proofs. Nodes are able to receive and process hashes, pass hashes up to Core, receive partial proofs from Core, and generate final proofs. Additionally, Nodes mirror a copy of the calendar and continually audit the chain.

  • Node Operators

Anyone can join the Chainpoint Network by running a Chainpoint Node.

  • Proof Generation

Each Node provides an HTTP API that is a subset of the Core API. Hashes submitted through this API are aggregated into their own Merkle tree at regular intervals. The Merkle root of that tree is submitted to Core. Each hash sent to Core may be used to generate thousands of proofs per Node. As such, each Node significantly increases the network’s capacity to generate proofs.

  • Verification

Nodes store a local mirror of the global calendar in real time. This allows Nodes to provide the same proof verification API as Core. Every Chainpoint Node can fully verify every Chainpoint proof.

  • Real-time Calendar Audit

Nodes mirror the calendar data in real-time. Nodes validate that each block in the chain is internally consistent, and signed with the public key of the Core Partner. Periodically, Nodes verify that the entire chain is valid all the way back to the genesis block and report these results to the network.

Economics

When Tierion was first released in June 2015, the cost of anchoring data into the Bitcoin blockchain was approximately $0.03 USD. By June of 2017, the cost of Tierion had increased by more than 100 times to $3.40 USD. Ethereum transaction fees are following a similar pattern.

Figure 9: Bitcoin and Ethereum transaction fees in $USD.

Rising transaction fees have made it too expensive for individual developers and most businesses to anchor data. Based on current market prices, anchoring one transaction every ten minutes to the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains costs $181,332 per year. These costs are projected to continue to rise.

The Tierion Network makes anchoring data economically viable for all. The Chainpoint Service scales to anchor a virtually unlimited amount of data with a minimal footprint on the blockchain.

Team & Investors

When taking a look at the viability of a project, it is really important to dig into the background of the core team members. The Tierion team seems to be quite an impressive mix of business and engineering experience. Tierion was co-founded by Wayne Vaughn, the organization’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Jason Bukowksi, who is the Lead Developer.

Vaughn started his career in the mid-90s with a digital marketing agency and was responsible for creating one of the first SaaS marketing automation platforms. He is as well on the Advisory Board of Blockchain Capital.

Figure 10: The main team members of Tierion

Bukowski has been primarily involved in developing highly scalable software. He developed one of the very first real-time web analytics platforms and now serves as the Lead Developer for Chainpoint. The two are joined by VP of Engineering, Glenn Rempe, who is the principle architect of Tierion, as well as VP of Business Development Pierre Wolff and Head of Marketing Adam Evers.

There are as well a number of high profile companies in the blockchain space that have invested in Tierion. These are inclusive of the likes of blockchain capital, the Digital Currency Group, and Fenbushi Capital. The Digital Currency Group was founded by Barry Silbert and they are the owners of Coindesk, the largest media business in the crypto space.

Tierion Community

For a project that began in 2015 I wouldn’t call the Tierion community either large or strong. Probably that’s because Tierion never focused on building a community as they are more interested in selling their solution to other businesses. In any case, the Tierion blog hasn’t been updated in over a month, and on Twitter, where there are 17k followers of Tierion, there are gaps of 7-10 days between tweets.

The Tierion Reddit boasts just over 2,500 readers. The largest active group is on Telegram, where the team is also mist active, and there are currently 4,319 members of the Telegram group.

The TNT Token

The Tierion Network Token (TNT) incentivizes network participants to operate and secure the network infrastructure. Chainpoint is the first service available on the Tierion Network. The team plans for future services that will be built on top of Chainpoint and will announce these services in the future.

 

Tierion conducted its ICO in July 2017, with a hard cap of $25 million USD. That was a pretty ambitious figure at the time, but it took just 1 day to meet the $25 million USD hard cap, with 350 million of the total supply of 1 billion TNT tokens sold for $0.0710 USD each. An additional 350 million were kept as future incentives to the ecosystem, 290 million were retained by Tierion, and 10 million were used to cover the cost of the token sale.

Anyone can earn TNT tokens by running a node. These node operators receive TNT as a reward for securing the network and improving its scale and reliability. TNT tokens will additionally be used to access network services such as Chainpoint and the upcoming Proof.

TNT tokens rallied immediately following the ICO, with the price nearly reaching $0.23 USD by late August 2017. The price then dropped all the way to $0.047 USD by October and November, which was surely disappointing for the ICO investors. They got a second chance, however, when TNT rocketed higher in December along with the broader cryptocurrency markets.

The token hit its all-time high of $0.445170 USD on January 8, 2018 and has since headed steadily lower until the beginning of February 2019, where it trades at just $0.014759 and is ranked #303 by market cap on Coinmarketcap.com.

If you aren’t interested in running a node but still want to hold some TNT tokens you can buy them on several exchanges. Binance is by far the largest, and controls nearly all the trading volume in TNT. There is also a very small trading volume on Huobi Global, and the token is listed on quite a number of other exchanges, but there is no trading volume to speak of at these smaller exchanges.

TNT is an ERC-20 compatible token, so any wallet that supports ERC-20 tokens can be used for storing TNT, i.e., MyEtherWallet, MyCrypto, Mist and MetaMask.

Core Members

Core Members incur significant costs to operate server clusters. TNT provides a method to recoup these costs. Core Partners earn TNT for anchoring data into the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains. Periodically, Core’s consensus algorithm elects a leader that can create an anchor block, which requires them to spend BTC or ETH to publish a transaction. The Core Member that creates the anchor block receives a block reward, as well as the tokens paid to Core for that anchor block.

Nodes

Nodes earn TNT by mirroring a copy of the calendar and publishing an API endpoint for proof creation and verification. Nodes are periodically audited to prove they have a current copy of the calendar that can be used to verify a Chainpoint proof. Nodes that pass the audit have a chance to win the reward for that period.

Periodically, nodes spend TNT to send data to Core for anchoring. Each node has a local mechanism for constructing Merkle trees and generating proofs. By sending a Merkle root upstream, each node can create thousands of Chainpoint proofs using a single anchoring transaction.

Nodes may charge for generating and verifying proofs. Node operators can additionally build services and charge at a price that is independent of the value of TNT.

A fixed supply of TNT will be created during a token sale using the ERC20 standard. The token sale and the organization’s partner commitments guarantee that for the first year, users will be able to send limited amounts of data to Core at zero cost.

Tierion Product & Traction

To get a sense of just how much work is being done on a project it immensely helps to take a look into their GitHub. Notably, this is generally a rough reflection of how much code is being pushed and committed by the developers.

In the case of Tierion, there are two GitHub pages of interest. These are the Tierion project and that of Chainpoint. Taking a deeper look at the code commits, it is quite clear that the Chainpoint one has had the most activity of the two. Below are the commits of the most active Chainpoint repositories.

Figure 11: Code Commits over past 12 months for most active repos

While this is a good sign that the project is still working on their protocols, there is way less activity than in other projects that we have seen in the space. For example, the project currently ranks at 297th in code tracking sites.

Needless to say, there could be other reasons for the relatively low levels of activity. Perhaps the protocols are already well developed and are just being maintained. The Tierion team is also busy working on other projects like the Proof application.

This application is due to be launched sometime in the next few months so it will be interesting to see exactly what the technology entails and whether it can really entice enterprise and business clients.

Roadmap

The original version of Tierion has a nearly two year track record and has been used by thousands of organizations. The application will continue to operate. Current customers will be able to migrate to a new version of Tierion.

The Tierion Network and Chainpoint Service have been operating in private beta with the organization’s partners. An open beta is planned to launch in August, which marks the two year anniversary of Tierion’s launch. Microsoft’s infrastructure is planned to come online shortly thereafter.

Concerns

  • The hard cap of $25 million is relatively high in today’s market environment.
  • Right now, one of Tierion’s key advantages is the low cost compared to other solutions with costs correlated with transaction fees on public Blockchain (for example, Bitcoin). With the Bitcoin scaling debate finally getting over, it is anticipated that Bitcoin transaction fees will decline, at least in the short-term after the upgrade. This may make Tierion’s solutions less attractive.

Conclusion

With several years under its belt and key partnerships with several global technology companies, it looks like Tierion is positioned well for the future. Tierion was the first company to make it possible to anchor data to the blockchain in a scalable fashion, which should lead to applications across a wide variety of industries.

While the community behind Tierion doesn’t seem too active and remains small, it isn’t a large community that the company is after. Rather it has focused on partnering with companies who can use the technology, and plans on growth by that route.

While some people might be concerned about the drop in price for the TNT token, it is worth noting that the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem has been in a year-long bear market. Once the bear market dissipates and the Tierion ecosystem grows larger, we should see a commensurate rise in the price of TNT.

Overall, it looks like a solid project that has been able to deliver and is ready to move into the future as a supporting blockchain across nearly every industry.

For Short-term Holding:

Good. Taking into keen consideration Tierion’s partners and advisors, it shouldn’t be difficult for the ICO to reach hard cap quickly. From the Telegram channel, it looks like the presale is already over-subscribed. Fenbushi Capital has as well announced that it will participate in the token sale.

It is ambiguous when the tokens will be distributed, but according to this blog post, it shouldn’t be too long.

For Long-term Holding:

Good. As mentioned above, Tierion is a growing startup with a 2-year track record. The close partnerships with Microsoft and Philips would improve significantly the odds that Tierion will be successful.

Tierion Rating

Tech - 9.3
Economics - 9.3
Team - 8.9
Market Opportunities - 8.8
Product - 8.4

8.9

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