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Harmony Protocol Review: Enabling Decentralisation at Scale

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Harmony (ONE) is one of the latest projects that is trying to tackle the issue of blockchain scalability. They have built their platform from the ground up with optimisation in mind.

Using a “full-stack” approach, Harmony is developing a sharding based blockchain that is not only scalable but provably secure, and energy efficient. They are also the latest project to be raising funds on the Binance Launchpad. This after completing a large private seed sale back in May of 2018.

So, should you consider it?

In this Harmony review I will give you everything you need to know to make that decision. I will dig into their technology, team and development. I will also analyse the long term adoption potential of their ONE token.

What is Harmony?

Harmony provides a high-throughput, low-latency and low-fee consensus platform designed to power the decentralized economy of the future. They plan to address the issues faced in other blockchain ecosystems through the use of the best research and engineering practices in an optimally tuned system.

The technical focus of the project is on resharding and secure staking with decentralized randomness. Harmony also implements optimal cross-shard routing and fast block propagation.

In practice, Harmony helps businesses to build marketplaces for fungible token usage (such as loyalty points or energy credits) and non-fungible assets (such as in-game digital assets). Harmony also uses its zero-knowledge proofs to enable data sharing with consumer privacy.

Benefits of Harmony One
Benefits of the Harmony Protocol. Image via Harmony.one

This incentivizes users and could be used for credit ratings, ad exchanges, and other data sharing that’s traditionally seen centralized platforms profiting and users being left with nothing.

After launching its mainnet in June 2019 Harmony has seen excellent growth, and as of June 2020 there are more than 1,000 nodes helping to decentralize the network. The project has also been able to migrate from the ERC-20 and BEP-2 tokens originally issued to its own native tokens.

Finally, the project has implemented a staking system based on Effective Proof of Stake (EPoS). It’s been a busy year at Harmony, so let’s dig in and explore some of the details of the progress being made.

The Harmony Technology Stack

In order to achieve the goals of scalability the Harmony built the entire technology stack from the ground up with a focus on optimisation. They have built in a number of important innovations into their Consensus Protocol, internal systems and network engineering.

By implementing these innovations, Harmony will provide a platform for Decentralised Applications (dApps) which were not feasible on other blockchains. These include dApps such as decentralised exchanges, high-throughput payment systems and Internet-of-Things transactions.

Consensus Protocol

Blockchains are goverened by consensus and the type of protocol used can drastically impact on the speed with which decentralised consensus is achieved. Currently, blockchains such as Bitcoin’s, use Proof-of-Work consensus protocols which have become inherently expensive and slow.

Other protocols such as Proof-of-Stake use different incentive mechanisms that overcome some of these challenges. Indeed the Ethereum protocol is trying to move to their Casper PoS consensus to address their scalability issues. However, PoS has its own unique challenges.

Network Communication Harmony
Network Communication in a round of Consensus. Source: Whitepaper

The Harmony consensus protocol, which they call Effective Proof of Stake, uses the latest design principles such as sharding and pipelining. This allows the network to process numerous different transactions in parallel. This means that there is no single bottleneck to the confirmations for all of the transactions.

Essentially, with the Harmony approach, connection latency is greatly reduced and the transaction throughput can scale as the network grows.

Network Infrastructure

Harmony is implementing networking techniques that can improve the speed of message propagation and achieve consensus faster. As stated in their whitepaper, Harmony uses RaptorQ fountain code which allows the network to propagate blocks quickly or within shards. Not only does Harmony shard its network nodes, it also shards blockchain states, which allows for linear scaling in all three aspects of storage, transactions, and machines.

They also adopt Kademlia routing which is able to achieve these cross-shard transactions which can scale logarithmically with the number of shards in the network. This entire implementation allows Harmony to run a highly concurrent protocol.

The infrastructure has also been decentralized to avoid single shard attacks. Eventually the network is built to contain shards of 1,000 nodes in order to provide cryptographic randomness and to re-shard regularly, however currently Harmony is using four shards of 250 nodes each.

This gives the network a strong security against Byzantine behaviors. In addition the network uses a Verifiable Random Function for unpredictable and unbiased shard membership.

The ONE Token Ecosystem

The Harmony platform is powered by the native ONE token, which allows users to participate in the ecosystem and serves as a payment mechanism for various actions. By using the Harmony blockchain developers and businesses are able to create alignment in the goals and incentives of various stakeholders.

In addition, the upcoming zero-knowledge proof implementation will make Harmony a data sharing platform that is capable of overcoming the common problem of many data markets; that is the mistrust that participants have for sharing data, even as they have a strong desire to acquire the data of others.

Harmony Token Ecosystem
“Open Consensus for 10 billion people”. Image via Harmony

The Harmony ONE token is designed to have the following three functions within the protocol:

  1. The token is used as a stake for the EPoS consensus model, allowing staking holders to earn block rewards and transaction fees.
  2. The token will pay for transaction fees, gas fees and storage fees.
  3. The token will be used in the governance of the protocol by allowing token holders voting rights for on-chain governance.

In January 2020 Harmony kicked off the migration of the ONE token from the Ethereum and Biannce chains to its own blockchain. This was needed to realize the plans for staking and on-chain governance. Users are required to swap their ERC-20 (Ethereum) and BEP-2 (Binance) tokens for native ONE tokens if they wish to participate in staking, governance or any other network activities.

As of June 2020 the harmony team has not announced a deadline for the swap to the native ONE coins. Holders should know there is no way to manually swap the tokens to mainnet coins. The process is done automatically on any exchange that is participating with a bridge to Harmony.

That includes BitMax, Binance, KuCoin, Gate.io and the staking service HonestMining. To make the swap simply deposit any ERC-20 or BEP-2 ONE tokens on a participating exchange and when withdrawn the native ONE tokens will be delivered.

Staking Harmony ONE Token

Harmony made history on May 16, 2020 when it launched staking, making it the very first sharded blockchain to offer staking. According to the Harmony team staking was necessary in order to create trust for network participants without knowing them.

This will allow for much greater decentralization as it opens up the protocol to the public. Now that staking has been made available 320 of the 1,000 nodes are being run by the public rather than by Harmony or one of its trusted partners.

Harmony One Validators
List of Some of the Validators Staking Harmony. Image via Harmony

Staking launched with 16 staking partners who can be used by anyone to easily stake coins. These partners include Staked, Stake.fish, Blockdaemon, Everstake, and InfStones among others. Several exchanges also provide staking, such as BitMax and Binance. The current reward for staking is just north of 10%, although any of the staking services will keep a small portion. You can see a full list of current staking services here.

It isn’t required to use a staking service though, and the Harmony team encourages standalone staking because of the decentralization benefits. Running a validator requires 10,000 ONE tokens (currently worth $43) as well as a computer with a minimum of two cores, 2GB of memory, and 30GB of storage.

However due to the current limit of 320 public nodes the actual minimum required to run a node is roughly $20,000 worth of ONE tokens. Eventually there will be slots for 1,000 public validators.

The Harmony Team

The team behind Harmony is combined of experts in building lasting companies, engineering, and academic research. They come from the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and a number of successful startups. And they’ve worked on some of the largest systems in the world such as the AWS infrastructure, Apple’s Siri, and Google Maps.

While the team remains small, with just 20 full-time members and an additional 4 collaborators, they bring to the table experience in software development, machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and blockchain technology.

The CEO and leader of the team is Stephen Tse, an avid coder who has spent his life studying and working on compilers and security protocols. He graduated with a doctoral degree in security protocols and compiler verification from the University of Pennsylvania.

Harmony Protocol Team
Some of the Harmony Team members

He then went on as a researcher at Microsoft Research, a senior infrastructure engineer at Google, and a principal engineer for search ranking at Apple. Later he founded the mobile search Spotsetter with institutional venture capital; Apple later acquired the startup.

There are four additional co-founders, most of whom are artificial intelligence experts, and one who is a Harvard MBA.

The Harmony team completed a private seed sale of tokens back in May of 2018. In this sale, they were able to raise about $18m in exchange for 22.4% of the total token supply (price of c. $0.0065). There were a number of blockchain focused VC funds that took part in this. The full list can be seen on the Harmony website.

The Harmony Community

Harmony has pursued a blend of offline and online community building. Since 2017 the Harmony team has held a weekly 4-hour meetup in San Francisco to increase interest in the project and to increase its community of partners.

The online community building has led to a smallish group, but one that appears to be extremely well engaged and excited about the potential for the Harmony protocol. For example, the Harmony subreddit has just 1,300 readers, but there are multiple daily posts and a number of comments on each post. The subreddit has only been in existence for 3 months.

Other social media accounts are equally small, but with equally engaged communities. The Twitter account has just over 6,000 followers, but an outsized number of shares and comments on its tweets. The Telegram channel is the largest community, with over 11,700 members.

Overall the Harmony community is a positive and encouraging sign. It may be small, but the members are very engaged and excited about the possibilities of the protocol.

The ONE Token

As noted above the ERC-20 and BEP-2 ONE tokens have been deprecated and the official coin is now the native ONE coin. Users holding the Ethereum or Binance chain versions can easily swap them by depositing them at an exchange that has a bridge to Harmony, such as Binance, Gate.io, BitMax, and others. Once deposited the deprecated tokens are automatically converted to native ONE tokens.

Binance ONE
Register at Binance and Swap ERC-20/BEP-2 Tokens for Native ONE Coins

As a staking token ONE is expected to gain in value, and in fact it has doubled since hitting a mid-April low of $0.002109. The real gains began after Harmony announced staking, with the token jumping from a value of $0.002684 before the announcement of live staking, to $0.004310 just one month later. It should be noted that this is slightly below the $0.004730 value of ONE on January 1, 2020 but the upward momentum is promising.

As far as storing your ONE tokens, the Ledger is your best choice. There’s no native staking wallet yet for ONE, but it is in development. In the meantime the multi-currency Guarda, Trust Wallet, and math Wallet all support storing ONE coins.

Harmony Development & Roadmap

The Harmony project has been working on their protocol for over two years already and has made significant progress. Determining exactly how much work has been done can sometimes be tough. However, one of the best estimates is to take a look at the coding activity in their public repositories.

Hence, I decided to jump into the Harmony Protocol GitHub to check out what the developers have been pushing since the project launch. Below are the code commits for three of their most active pinned repos.

Harmony Project GitHub Commits
Code commits to select repositories over past 12 months

As you can see, there has been quite a lot of activity and commits to these repos over the past year. It is also worth noting that there are another 16 repositories in their GitHub – some of which that also have significant activity. There may also be other work that is taking place in private repos that have not being published yet.

This is indeed quite encouraging and is a far departure from the previous ICO status quo. Projects would raise millions of dollars with nothing more than a whitepaper. In fact, the level of development that I see here is more than I have seen with other projects which ICOed 1-2 years ago.

All of this development does make sense when you take a look at the milestones the team has met over the past year. There is also much more to look forward to in their roadmap for the rest of 2020:

  • Q1 & Q2 2020: Open staking implemented, EPoS mechanism added, token swap to native ONE token implemented, stablecoins added, and HRC-721 added for branded assets. SEED becomes the very first HRC-721 token, and Harmony becomes the very first sharded blockchain to implement staking.
  • Q3 2020: Improvement to 3-second finality, and the addition of DeFi middlewares. Creation of staking wallet and an Ethereum bridge, as well as global fiat gateways.
  • Q4 2020: Auditable privacy and cross-border finance. 100% decentralized nodes and community governance.

If you would like to keep up to date with the latest from the developments from the project then you can always head on over to their official blog.

Conclusion

Given the active community behind the Harmony project it should come as no surprise that the project has been seeing increased adoption and a rise in the price of its token now that ONE is both native and Harmony is an EPoS blockchain that rewards those holding ONE tokens.

The project was able to launch its mainnet in June 2019, which is just over a year after beginning development. And despite the rapid evolution of the project it has held up well, showing the strength of its design. The token suffered alongside the entire cryptocurrency markets through 2018 and 2019, but has been coming on strongly in 2020 as demand for the token and the blockchain is seen to be increasing.

The team behind Harmony is a strong one, with a great deal of expertise in many areas that are useful for this type of project. So far the team has been able to hit its roadmap deadlines, and that’s a big positive.

The days where investors were willing to forgive late commits has passed, and these blockchain projects need to deliver what they said when they said it will be ready. Harmony has been able to do this successfully.

The largest threat to the project at this point is competition. Harmony will need to remain ahead of existing competitors such as Zilliqa (ZIL) as well as keeping ahead of any potential future competitors. So far it seems to be doing that easily, taking advantage of the rapid development cycles to add new functionality and improved scalability and speed.

Featured Image via Fotolia

Disclaimer: These are the writer’s opinions and should not be considered investment advice. Readers should do their own research.


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Source: https://www.coinbureau.com/review/harmony-one/

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‘Overlooked’ Part of Senate Infrastructure Bill Renews Worries From Crypto Lobby

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The $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which passed in the Senate in early August and is expected to be approved by the House, is the gift that keeps on giving.

At first, it was about roads, bridges, and clean water. Then a pay-for provision promised to give American crypto users new tax reporting requirements. And now there’s a new twist.

A report published today by the Proof of Stake Alliance (POSA), an advocacy group that counts Coinbase Custody and Solana as members, details an “overlooked” amendment to the tax code within the 2,700-page bill that will make it a felony to incorrectly report receiving cryptocurrencies, NFTs, or other digital assets.

Writing in his role as an advisor to the POSA, law professor Abraham Sutherland details how the infrastructure bill amends Section 6050I of the tax code. The amended section 6045 that caused so much consternation when it made it through the Senate changed the definition of “broker” to cover those handling cryptocurrencies. 

Industry lobbyists and cryptocurrency advocates such as the think tank Coin Center argued that the bill as written would force Bitcoin miners and validators on other networks to file 1099 forms for the people whose transactions they were processing—even though they lacked the personal information needed to do so.   

Section 6050I, on the other hand, deals with the tax reporting requirements of those who ultimately receive the cryptocurrencies. While Americans must already report their crypto gains to the IRS just as they would with other investments, Sutherland says the amended provision goes much further: They must tell the government who sent it, including reporting social security numbers, when the value of the digital assets is more than $10,000. Not doing so within 15 days constitutes a felony.

This raises at least two issues. First, as Sutherland notes, it’s just as unwieldy as the section 6045 amendment: “This provision demands the impossible because the digital assets might not be ‘received’ from a person whose personally identifiable information can be verified and reported—including cases where the digital assets are not ‘received’ from a person or entity with a tax ID number, period.”

Second, as Sutherland alludes to and as Coin Center Research Director Peter Van Valkenburgh hammered home in a blog post, it might just be unconstitutional. The tax code currently mandates that people report such information to the IRS when they receive $10,000 in cash. That passes Constitutional muster because the bank acts as a third party; otherwise, authorities would need a warrant under the Fourth Amendment. But in cryptocurrency, a peer-to-peer transaction doesn’t have a third party

Writes Van Valkenburgh: “One person to a two person transaction is obligated to collect a load of sensitive information from her counterparty and hand that to government officials without any warrant or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.”

Though he writes that Coin Center usually doesn’t “object to equal treatment of cash and cryptocurrencies,” in this case the “provision is a draconian surveillance rule that should have been ruled unconstitutional long ago. Extending it to cryptocurrency transactions would further erode the privacy of law-abiding Americans.”

Sutherland also calls into question the process by which the amended IRS code will become law—via a bill on completely unrelated topics. “A statute creating felony crimes for users of digital assets should be debated openly, not quietly inserted into a spending bill,” he wrote.

Source: https://decrypt.co/81236/overlooked-part-senate-infrastructure-bill-renews-worries-crypto-lobby

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Avalanche (AVAX) bumps to near $70 after reveal of $230 million fundraise

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High-speed blockchain Avalanche jumped to highs of $68.30 today after several influential crypto investors revealed the close of a private funding round involving $230 million worth of AVAX tokens in June, CryptoSlate learned in a release.

The Avalanche Foundation, a non-profit that oversees the development of the Avalanche blockchain, disclosed participants in the multimillion-dollar funding round were led by PolyChain Capital and Three Arrows Capital, and included R/Crypto Fund, Dragonfly, CMS Holdings, Collab+Currency, and Lvna Capital.

What happens to Avalanche now?

Proceeds from the private sale will be used to support the burgeoning Avalanche ecosystem—one that has been positioned as a top contender against Ethereum for its high speed and low fees. 

Part of the funds will be funneled to support DeFi (decentralized finance) projects on Avalanche as well as enterprise applications through grants, token purchases, and other forms of investments.

Avalanche’s smart contract is able to execute Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) contracts, making it possible for developers to ‘reuse’ their codebase if they have a working/testnet product on the Ethereum blockchain.

Converting assets on-chain using a ‘bridge’—a way for two separate blockchain to communicate with and transfer value between each other—are also simple as applications querying the Ethereum network can be adapted to support Avalanche by changing API endpoints and adding support for a new network. 

Meanwhile, the news caused a surge in AVAX prices last night. The token jumped 30% to over $68.30 to set a new all-time high, reaching a $14 billion marketcap and becoming the 12th-most-valuable cryptocurrency by that metric.

At press time, AVAX continues to trade above its 34-period exponential moving average, a metric used by traders that determines asset trends using historic prices. It has been been in a gradual uptrend since breaking the $15 mark in late-July, and has returned several multiples to investors in the past three months alone.

Image: AVAX/USD via TradingView.

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Source: https://cryptoslate.com/avalanche-avax-bumps-to-near-70-after-reveal-of-230-million-fundraise/

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Can NFTs impact the economic livelihood of artists in developing nations?

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TL;DR Breakdown

  • Aversano deployed the first NFT portrait photography.
  • The total sales volume of NFTs in the art segment rose from $64 million to $774 million.
  • NFTs ensure an artist is paid royalty whenever their art is used.

As of July 2021, the NFT industry had garnered an estimated $2.5 billion worth of sales compared to only $13.7 million during Q1 and Q2 of 2020. 

Aversano, an artist known for deploying the first-ever NFT portrait photography, says he sold more than 100 NFT portraits between February and June. He said the sales earned approximately $130,000 within five months. The Twin collection in which he sold the 100 portraits are photographs of twins, which he says are in memory of his fraternal twin.

What are NFTs?

NFTs are non-fungible tokens which are real-life assets that are sold on digital platforms. The viability of NFTs depends on the uniqueness and the utility of possession. This means that tokens can only be relevant to an owner if he can prove ownership of the token. The tokens can range from unique pieces of art from artists to current assets like cars. The digital platform gives an easy and availed proof of ownership.

Non-fugitive assets are made more desirable by the fact that they are unique and one of a kind. This makes them very valuable.

According to Statista, the total sales volume of NFTs in the art segment rose from $64 million to $774 million within a record period of 30-days (August 15 – September 15, 2021). The chart below shows the fluctuation of NFT sales per 30-days period between April and August. 

NFTs sales
NFT sales volume between Apr-Sept by Statista

How can NFTs make artists’ lives better?

As the digital world takes significant steps ahead, more investors try to get a niche to explore the same fruits. When Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet at $2.9m, it started a buzz on and around NFTs. Not only for the amount of money fetched but the ‘absurdity’ of buying a tweet when there are millions of them already. However, there is much more to it. It brought about the concept of owning a one-of-a-kind piece of art which for sure is an advantage to artists.

First, NFTs guarantee immutability to the artist. There is uniqueness where the artist has complete copyrights on his art. This is enabled by the ID or metadata issued to an artist to prove possession of the art. It is offered to give essential data about the piece of art. 

Second, there are no intermediaries during the trading of art on cryptocurrency platforms. Once there is an interested party, they are connected to the individual artist who lays out the asset’s guidelines to change possession. This is advantageous to the artist since transactions are done on his terms. It also keeps in place his profile and reputation as an artist. The artist also cuts the marketing cost and the issue of art brokers.

Next, there is exposure for the artist. When trading NFTs, artists are at ease to do collaborations with other artists. This is a guarantee as the platform is a haven where artists can interact and flourish while teaming up with even more significant expertise in different fields. Apart from collaborations, there is a world market availed. Geographical borders or any particular divisions do not limit the crypto platforms. Once an artist avails art on a digital platform, the piece is available for everybody.

One other factor pulling artists to NFTs is smart contracts. This is a feature that keeps a contract in code form. It works best for decentralized platforms. Smart contracts are programmed to suit an investor’s interest in trade.

For example, smart contracts can be used by artists dealing with NFTs to store data or be used to get royalties each time the piece of art changes possession. This means that the artist keeps reaping from the art long after the sale. A smart contract can be programmed to work without involving a party to set it up time and again.

On the other hand, since the buzz around NFTs began, more people are trying to get into the trade in an attempt of minting. This is leading to flooding in the market and the uniqueness of NFTs diluting. However, this is not a guarantee for the near future failure of NFTs. Artists can reap much from the NFTs.

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Source: https://api.follow.it/track-rss-story-click/v3/tHfgumto13BJ4uqGEejhiVyOSYGFl6uu

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