Oasis Network AMA: Meet the Team with Nick Hynes

The Oasis Network “AMA Session” is a Q&A session, which happens virtually on the Oasis Network Community telegram group. This session has been designed to occasionally bring every community member up to speed on recent developments relating to the Oasis project, and also create an avenue where every member’s questions and doubts, can be addressed.

On June 23rd 2021, the Oasis Protocol Foundation, conducted a community AMA session in the Official telegram group. Nick Hynes (Principal Software Engineer at Oasis) joined the community for this AMA Session, hosted by Jon Poole (Community Manager),to expand on the Parcel SDK and to give insights into tokenization on the Oasis Network.

This article has been divided into two parts. The first part contains questions asked by the host of the AMA session, Jon Poole (Coincidence Jon). The second part contains open questions asked by the community members during the session.

Part 1

Introductions

Jon — Alright let’s get started! Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about how you got started in blockchain?

Nick — Hey everyone, I’m Nick! I’m an engineer at Oasis Labs and I’m leading the development of Parcel and its tokenization module.

I got into blockchain three years ago after joining Oasis as an intern. Prof. Song was my PhD advisor, and my research into privacy-preserving machine learning was a pretty good match for the project. I’ve been here ever since!

Jon — That’s incredible that you’ve been with the team since day 1! When did you realize you wanted to be a full time blockchain developer? What attracted you to the Oasis Network?

Nick — Heh, great question. Let’s just say that blockchain makes sense; deep learning doesn’t as much ;)

The Oasis Network is cool to me because a) it’s scalable, and b) allows you to spin up a virtual trusted third party. It’s like basically exactly what you want if you’re trying to coordinate Machine Learning between mutually-distrusting parties.

Jon — You always know how to encourage deep thought! What is your favorite part about working with Oasis Labs? Who on our team are you most proud of working alongside?

Nick — My favorite part about Labs, and the Foundation, is by and large the team. If there’s a part of the stack that you have questions about, there’s going to be someone who understands it deeply. From deep crypto, to low-level hardware, all the way up to web design.

Saying that, I can’t really pick any one person I’m most proud of working alongside. It’s 100% a team effort and we couldn’t have gotten to where we are without everyone working together.

Jon — I couldn’t have said it better myself, our team is absolutely incredible from top to bottom. Thank you, for sharing a little bit about yourself. Having a globally remote team where the majority of our meetings are all work related, it’s nice to discover a little more about the people you work with and share it with our amazing community. 🌹

Let’s begin talking about Oasis and our most recent technical write up: The Parcel Primer!

First, for folks who don’t know, what is Parcel and how is it related to the Oasis Network?

Nick — woo! Parcel! 🎉 I hope that people are getting a good read out of the primer. If you have feedback, please send it over! Owning the protocol comes with owning your own data :)
On that note, for those unfamiliar, Parcel is a platform for sharing and tokenizing private data. The high-level idea is that you can upload data, and share it for private computation, without revealing the data itself. You can then tokenize the data and sell it using the DeFi ecosystem on Ethereum and the Cipher paratime.

Jon — In the Parcel Primer you proposed expanding Parcel’s capabilities to include the minting of data tokens. What are data tokens and how do you imagine developers using them? What kinds of data can be Tokenized?

Nick — Yeah, we’re calling those “data-backed tokens.” The crux is that the token derives its value from the data. As a very basic example, imagine you’re a content creator on some platform. You can tokenize your sales data on the platform, bridge it over to Eth, and then sell the token such that buyers own a percentage of your future revenue.

Instead of annuities, you can consider health data sold to pharma companies for research, bank data sold to marketing agencies, and so forth.

Actually, one thing that might not be as obvious is a platform for selling high-res art. You’ve ever tried to buy a logo or something, but don’t know how to pay the artist and actually get the art in return? It’s not super easy! (if it is, please tell me :). However, you could use Parcel to tokenize the high-res assets, run a Parcel Job to generate trustworthy low-res previews, and then have the token owner have download access to the raw artwork. If you go and make that, please let me know so that I can start using it :)

Jon — Let’s get deeper into this. How will data tokens be connected to the Oasis Network? Will they only be available for DAPPs on Oasis or can they be used on other chains as well?

Nick — data-backed tokens (DBTs) live on the Oasis Network in the Parcel paratime. They’re bridged over to other chains using the Oasis Bridge. The overall flow is: mint on Parcel, immediately bridge to (say) Ethereum, swap the DBT synthetics on Ethereum, and have the ownership changes reflected in Parcel via the bridge.

Jon — Two part question: Will Parcel users have to use ROSE to pay transaction fees? How does Parcel relate to the ROSE token more generally?

Nick — Parcel can be used through the Parcel Gateway or a light client. If you use the gateway, you can pay fees in fiat and Oasis Labs will pay ROSE. If you don’t trust the gateway (it runs in trusted hardware, though!), you can pay ROSE to talk to the paratime directly. Tokens can be traded for whatever currency you have on the chain where the token gets bridged, so ROSE if you bridge to Cipher. ROSE is necessary for making all transactions to Parcel, though. The more popular Parcel is, the more people will need to (indirectly) acquire ROSE!

Jon — What’s the current progress on data tokenization? If someone wants to build an app using Parcel how should they get started?

Nick — So I’m literally working on data tokenization right now. Seriously: between questions, I type a little into my editor ;) It should be released as beta in another few weeks, actually.
If someone wants to get started with Parcel in advance of tokenization (say, for doing data governance, private sharing, or a centralized data marketplace) it should be easy enough to follow the docs. And, for anyone so brave to begin, I’m always happy to take questions.

Jon — Thank you, Nick for taking the time to speak with us this morning and sharing not only your expertise and knowledge on Blockchain but giving us a little insight into what makes you such amazing team members!

Now for some fun! Let’s open up questions to the community. Today we’re giving our rewards for the top 10 best questions asked! Each winner will receive 350 ROSE for their contribution.

Part 2: Open Community Questions

Question — How easy it is, to create or mint NFTs using Parcel API? Are there any Minting guidelines and what are the cost implication? Do I need any special coding skills?

Nick — It’s as easy as making a POST /tokens request to the Parcel gateway. You’d benefit from having some coding familiarity, but nothing too intense. If you choose to bridge the token to another network, then that’ll incur whatever the gas fees are present there (so $$ if Eth, ¢ if Cipher :). If anyone’s interested in the alpha APIs, hit me up with a DM.

Question — Where does Ekiden fit into the Oasis consensus stack? Is it a consensus mechanism for an execution layer? Perhaps a future Paratime?

Andrew Miller — Great question. Ekiden inspired much of the Oasis Network’s design, both at the consensus layer and the upcoming Cypher ParaTime. The exact implementation has shifted as we’ve learned more about blockchain, it’s use cases, and as technology has advanced. The best reference to our current architecture and design is the Oasis Whitepaper here:

Question — While you build your project, do you take into account community feedbacks and demands? While you build your project, do you take into account community feedbacks and demands?

Jon— Of course! Community feedback is an incredible way to keep your finger on the pulse. 👌

The community members who give us some of the most important feedback are our Ambassadors!

If you feel like you’re someone who wants to see a change in this world regarding the use of your data, privacy within data or wanting to see data tokenization and monetization come to a reality you may belong on our Ambassador Team, please, apply here! 🌹🤝

Question — How does Parcel compare to The Solid Project for example by Sir Tim Berners Lee (founder of the Internet). His project has been around for a few years and is being trialed by UK’s NHS. What advantages does Parcel have over it?

Nick — I like the Solid Project. It’s very similar to Parcel from a very high level. I like to think that Parcel is more focused on sharing and definitely more focused on making use of data in the DeFi ecosystem. I also personally believe that Parcel is less academic and focused on being something the many people want to build on and use.

Question — Current NFT is a hot topic, but are NFT not just for art. Does Oasis Network think that more real world use cases will emerge for NFTs as time goes on, why should we take NFTs seriously?

Andrew Miller — Yes! Our vision with Parcel is to allow it to mint tokens that represent a broad range of data types — so not just art. Think your personal data, marketing data, or even business components like streaming royalties or content. The possibilities are endless!

Question — When giving ownership and access control to an asset, how does the parcel know that the asset is not authentic and fake? Is it possible to have a Parcel approved data token printed on each entity? How is Parcel SDK different from other SDK infrastructures?

Nick — Good question. Authenticating uploaded data is crucial to establishing value. There are several ways to do that within Parcel. The more traditional approach would be to get a trusted third party to audit/curate the data. Another, more private, approach is to have a trusted Parcel Job pull the data directly from the data source using TLS. The data would bear the provenance information and thus be trusted by buyers of the token.

Question —Why would you allow FIAT payment (most of us in the crypto space revolt against the traditional monetary system)? Would there be possible integration to have a ROSE backed stable coin in the near future? Or even data backed stable coin if that’s not too ambitious?

Andrew Miller — Our goal with Parcel is to help bridge the gap between crypto and mainstream use cases. FIAT payment is useful as many companies (especially in the US) don’t want the liability of holding crypto.

Adding stable coins is definitely something were looking into. To start they’d be used to enable market place capabilities (e.g. pay someone for their data token). Eventually we’ll consider adding stable coins as a payment option

Question — Oasis Network is global project or local project? At present, which market are you focus on, or is it focused on building and growing to gain customers, users and partners?

Jon — We’re active across the globe with a globally spread out team. Dawn is in China working extremely hard and many of our developers are in Europe as well as in North America. We have BD team members in Europe, Canada, USA, China and we are globally active.

One of the focuses of course as a layer 1 will be bringing DAPPSs to the network, we need builders and we have an incredible Grants program to incentivize this. Customers will continue to be a focus like we have done with BMW and partnerships will continue to expand the ecosystem at a steady pace.

Question — I would like to know if you have completed any security checks? We have seen dozens of hacks, exploits and the like this year so what measures have been taken to protect the Oasis Network community?

Andrew Miller — Yes! We have an experienced team of leading security experts, and perform many internal and external security audits.

Question — Safety and security are always the most important things. So what is the security mechanism of Oasis Network to ensure user data do not become the target of hackers?

Nick — In general, the security of the Oasis Network is based on BFT consensus and (optionally) trusted hardware. Parcel uses trusted hardware throughout the entire stack: the gateway runs in off-chain trusted hardware, the paratime runs in on-chain trusted hardware. The Oasis Network has “key manager” nodes that _also_ run in trusted hardware and release keys to attested paratimes. The Parcel paratime uses its key to encrypt columns of an on-chain SQL database. Data is encrypted using the encrypted data encryption key :)

Question — Currently the technology is changing every second, is Oasis Network afraid in the future its project will be lagging behind new projects with newer technology? Does Oasis Network have a plan for this?

Jon — We are at the forefront of this technology and have covered our bases when it comes to a top tier privacy platform. Many projects that make claims remotely close to what our platform can provide only offer a small portion of what our platform provides it’s users/builders.

Question — Since tokenization encourages or perhaps favors content creators or large companies since, as they named, health data could also be tokenized to be sold to companies or bank data sold to a marketing agency. Now my question is, how could this help the common citizen? In other words, is there any benefit for the general public regarding this project? Besides that I can buy said token?

Nick — Well, isn’t that how crypto projects work in general? Decentralize the platform, but centralize the app? If there were a big company, it could act as a reseller of data, but remember that data owners have all of the power in Parcel. The health company would need to be given the rights to delegate access to the data, and only under certain conditions. You can find more information here.

Question — Can any app developer integrate Parcel into their apps via API call? How do you ensure integration compatibility? Can artists mint large numbers of coins to represent royalties? Is it possible to print multiple coins?

Nick — Yes! Developers can build on Parcel using the HTTP API. We have a typescript client, too, and you can generate clients for whatever language using the OpenAPI spec.
Artists can mint as many tokens as they want. Royalties are definitely supported, but mostly because you can do literally whatever you want with the token once you bridge it over to Eth/Cipher/whatever.

Question — When it comes to data tokenization I know data revocation has been discussed. Has there been any thought given to methods of arbitration on the buyer side? Would the revocation of the rights to my data be at will or designated automatically by a smart contract that would prohibit me from revoking ad hoc?

Nick — In Parcel itself, you can revoke data based on time (c.f., data rental) and attributes of the job. You can implement whatever revocation policy you want after bridging the token to Eth/Cipher, though. One we have stateful grants in Parcel, you can do things like pay-per-use and differential privacy budget. I’m really excited about that feature.

Question — Why does Oasis Labs care about data tokenization and ownership economics? In this sense, what kind of advantages does Parcel provide in data sharing and governance, and what features will the Data Tokens NFTs that creators and businesses can print with Parcel API provide?

Nick — We care about data tokenization and ownership because it’s what we want to see in the future. If you ask me, it’d be ideal for everyone to own their own data. All of what we’re doing now is reaching stepping stones along the way to sustainability and that grand vision.

This concludes the AMA.

If you are a community member and want to get more involved, apply to the Ambassador Program and start earning rewards today!

For more Oasis Foundation information and resources, visit:

Oasis Telegram Community

Oasis Blog

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Oasis Official website