From Zug to Davos: A whirlwind week in Switzerland

Last month, VIA’s CEO, Colin Gounden and Client Delivery Lead, Becky McClements ventured across the Atlantic to meet our Lead Software Research Architect, Madjid Aoudia in none other than, Switzerland 🇨🇭!

The trio had an action-packed week that is well worth the recap for our devoted VIA followers. So, who is ready to take an adventure with us from Zug to Davos?

Day 1: Zug

If you are new to VIA’s blog or just need a refresher, there are many reasons why we chose Switzerland as our European headquarters: clean energy, data privacy, and blockchain, our wheelhouse! Once our team landed in Switzerland, it was off to our office in Zug by train. Madjid and Becky also took the opportunity to snap a picture of our logo on the outside of the office, too!

Madjid Aoudia

Madjid Aoudia ready for his trip to Zug.

Madjid Aoudia & Becky McClements

Madjid and Becky McClements at VIA’s European headquarters.

Then, we met with one of our energy customers for a full-day workshop at our office, followed by dinner with executives in the utility space.

Day 2: Zurich + Lucerne

We kicked off day two in: Zurich! Our team met with government entities to discuss how we can support their data privacy initiatives. With a new data privacy code of conduct coming into effect in January, two agencies reached out to VIA for our expertise in data privacy. We look forward to continuing the conversation and deepening our support for Swiss data privacy efforts.

Later that day, we made our way to Lucerne, home of the HSLU iHomeLab. As we mentioned in our blog from 2022, “The year in Switzerland,” HSLU has been one of our research partners in energy and data privacy since 2018. We were thrilled to see the research they have been doing in energy efficiency and IoT and to have our Expansion Manager, Ray Neubauer join us!

VIA’s team

VIA’s team alongside the iHomeLab team.

Colin showing off some of the fantastic innovations at iHomeLab

Colin at iHomeLab.

Finally, to cap the night off, we had dinner with executives in the electric vehicle and automotive space. Stay tuned for more on this front!

Day 3: Davos

The highlight of our week was traveling to Davos for the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC)’s 7th Annual Blockchain Central Davos event, hosted in parallel to the World Economic Forum. Colin was invited to speak on the panel, “Blockchain and AI Convergence for Enhanced Trust and Transparency” alongside Tanvi Singh, Managing Director, Global Digital Assets Technology Lead, UBS, John deVadoss, Co-Founder & CEO, NeuralFabric.ai, and David Treat, Board Chair, GBBC; Senior Managing Director and Global Metaverse Continuum Business Group Lead, Accenture.

Paola Valencia, Director of Operations, & Strategic Partnerships, Home of Blockchain.swiss, was the moderator, who did a fantastic job of keeping the conversation flowing and asking terrific questions. If you are short on time, don’t miss our favorite moments at the timestamps from the recording below:

  • 9:23: Watch Colin introduce himself and VIA in Swiss German!
  • 19:08: Paola says she was thrilled to see Colin’s name on the panel because she wanted to hear how VIA has been using AI and blockchain with actual companies and how those use cases impact humanity.
  • 35:40: Colin provides his thoughts on the next big thing in the next six months related to AI and blockchain.

Thank you again to GBBC! The whole event from start to finish was world class and we are grateful for the opportunity (and the high quality pictures below 😉).

GBBCColin

Day 4: Wrap up!

After the eventful day in Davos, not to mention the fact that we ran into people we know from Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. (the Americans were out in full force!), we closed out our trip by meeting with another automaker and more government officials in the evening.

As we reflect on the week, we wanted to acknowledge a few small things that make a big difference. Everywhere we went, there was next-level hospitality, people made time in any way they could to meet with us, and embraced VIA with open arms. All of these points keep us coming back (and the spectacular scenery isn’t too bad either!).

This trip laid the groundwork for what is sure to be some exciting announcements this year 📣.

Davos

View of the mountains during our train ride.

Fast and Curious 6: AI Edition

The Fast and Curious blog series you know and love is back! This time, we are bringing you all things AI. Watch the 3-minute video below to learn how we break down the enterprise barriers to GenAI adoption (or you can read the full transcript that follows).

Below is a transcript of the video:

Welcome to Season 2 of Fast and Curious – the AI Edition. Everyone, everywhere is talking about Generative AI and Large Language Models. Having said that, large enterprises have not widely adopted Generative AI, and for some very legitimate reasons.

In this series, we’re going to talk about three of the big enterprise barriers to GenAI adoption and wait for it, how we’ve solved for them. So, let’s get started.

Number one on our list of GenAI blockers is: Intellectual Property Restrictions.

The basic problem is that, how can I know whether the text or responses that we’re getting back from an AI system are okay for us to use? That is, how can I be assured that the AI is not using some source material that might have a copyright restriction or an IP restriction because that might make me liable as a result. The flip side of that is, how can I be guaranteed that whatever I send to an AI model won’t be used by the model and sent to someone else at some other company? 

The press about employees inadvertently doing just that has been pretty scathing, so everyone and every company will want to avoid that.

That is the number issue that we have seen that gets talked about. While it’s the biggest issue, it’s not the only one.

Number two on the list of concerns is: consistency.

Experts talk about GenAI as being stochastic models. What they mean by this is that there is some randomness in the results that they generate. Sometimes AI can even generate false answers. The kinder euphemism is to say that the models hallucinate. But, a wrong answer is still a wrong answer. If you are an expert in the field, you may be able to figure out how to tell the difference. The advantage of these systems, available to everyone, is that you don’t have to be an expert, so errors going unnoticed are a real risk.

Last but not least, number three is: cost or availability of the system.

GenAI models use GPUs generally rather than CPUs, and that is expensive and it’s in short supply. Maybe I should say, they are in short supply, so they are very expensive. This is the reason that NVIDIA became a trillion dollar company last year. Even big players like AWS and Microsoft Azure have a scarce supply of GPUs, so you can imagine how in demand they are.

To recap, issue one is IP Protection, issue two is Consistency and fighting hallucinations, and issue three is Cost.

If you are an enterprise CIO, CISO, or Chief Data Officer trying to figure out how to provide GenAI to your employees that all of your users are clambering for and are trying to overcome these barriers, watch out for the next episode of Fast and Curious about these solutions.

Can’t get enough of these Fast and Curious videos? Well, we want to hear from you! What topics should we cover next? Drop a note in our inbox to let us know: info@solvewithvia.com.

Maj. Gen. Kim Crider (ret.) joined VIA for a chat about data, AI, and enterprise innovation for VIA Visionaries interview series

Devoted readers of VIA’s blog will remember Major General Kim Crider (ret.) from our Power Up! blog, that recapped a friendly competition between our team members for the best AI project idea. Maj. Gen. Crider provided her data and technology innovation expertise on a panel of judges selected to pick the winning idea.

VIA was delighted to bring Maj. Gen. Crider back to our HQ in Somerville to share with our VIA Visionaries followers just how remarkable her career has been. Along with other guests we’ve had on our VIA Visionaries speaker series, Maj. Gen. Crider shares a collective mission with VIA of making our communities cleaner, safer, and more equitable.

Here is a little background on Maj. Gen. Crider.

Maj. Gen. Crider has had an impressive career spanning over 35 years in the United States Air Force, where she held the distinguished role of Chief Data Officer. She is also the former Chief Technology Innovation Officer for the United States Space Force. Beyond her service, Maj. Gen. Crider has held pivotal roles with Harvard University as CIO-Executive IT Consultant and with MITRE as a Senior Information Systems Engineer. Currently, as the Founding Partner of Elara Nova: The Space Consultancy, Maj. Gen. Crider continues to influence the space sector while offering her expertise as a Board Director and Advisor for various companies.

With over 40 minutes of captivating conversation, Colin asked Maj. Gen. Crider an array of questions ranging from why she chose to devote her time to the military, the role of data in today’s “AI world”, and exceptional applications she is seeing in the space sector.

One of our favorite moments was when Maj. Gen. Crider gave us an analogy of just how large the amount of data we are seeing today is:

“…We’re entering hundreds of zettabytes of data this year and it’s going to continue to grow into numbers that you can’t even really imagine. You think about 200 zettabytes. What is that? I mean, I heard somebody talk about this statistic, for those of us who have been around for awhile, we can start to get our head around something like, this year alone we are going to be around 120 zettabytes of data, which is a billion terabytes and then next year we’re going to be at 180 zettabytes of data. So, 60 zettabytes, somebody said, is like 60 trillion DVDs, 60 trillion DVDs.

To hear the full question and response, and Colin’s shout-out to those of us who remember DVDs, watch the video below!

We’re thrilled to have hosted FIVE exceptional VIA Visionaries events at our HQ in Somerville in the second half of 2023. True to our mission, we will be bringing you an impressive lineup of speakers in 2024 with some exciting updates to the format. Be sure to follow VIA’s website and social media (LinkedInXInstagram) for the latest on this series and more!

Ann Davlin, Partnership Development & Commercialization at Constellation sat down with VIA for a conversation about the future of sustainability and climate solutions for VIA Visionaries interview series

Earlier this month, VIA hosted another thoughtful chat as part of our VIA Visionaries interview series. As we always mention in each interview recap, we’re honored to have the opportunity to interview individuals who share the common mission with VIA of making our communities cleaner, safer, and more equitable. 

Throughout Ann Davlin’s remarkable career, energy and climate have been a constant theme across investing, researching, and government. Given her passion for sustainability and climate solutions, we knew this was going to be an enlightening chat for our VIA Visionaries followers.

First, a little background on Ann:

Ann’s impressive career has spanned multiple sectors, including government, private equity, and sustainability-focused organizations. From fundraising for ocean protection and leading sustainable energy projects to government roles such as Special Assistant – Deputy Undersecretary, Environmental Security at the Office of the Secretary of Defense and various positions at The White House, Ann’s versatility and profound ability to strategize across fields have made her an excellent leader in the energy space.

During the live-streamed 23-minute interview, VIA Visionaries audience members were treated to snippets of knowledge from Ann about her first-hand experience working in government and energy roles. Colin asked questions ranging from, “How important is sustainability and climate to defense?” to “Where does hydrogen fit in the climate solution landscape?” We have to say, though, you couldn’t beat the response to the first question Colin asked.

Right off the bat, Ann shared with us the story about how she ended up in the White House as one of her first roles. As Colin put it, “While you’re currently with Constellation Energy, you started with the White House – a place most people end their careers. Can you tell us more about your experience there?” We absolutely loved hearing her response:

After college, I didn’t really know what to do. I ended up in DC, my best friend had an extra room in a group house. I went to the Russell Senate Office Building to do an informational interview and ran into a friend I met over the years, Winston McGregor. She said, “Oh my god, my office is hiring!” So, I went and did an informational interview with Senator Ted Kennedy’s office manager and then I walked over to Winston’s office and I became a legislative associate for Al Gore doing environmental policy.

To hear the rest of her story as they both referred to as “serendipity,” watch the video below! 

The line up of special guests for our VIA Visionaries exclusive interview series keeps growing! Next month, Maj. Gen. Kim Crider (ret.), former Chief Technology Innovation Officer for the United States Space Force and now founding partner of Elara Nova (a space consultancy company) will join us for a live-stream chat on Monday, December 4th. Be sure to follow VIA’s website and social media (LinkedIn, X, Instagram, Threads) for the latest on this series and more!

Hilary Flynn, Managing Director, Investments at MassCEC joined VIA for a chat about policy, investment, and climate in latest VIA Visionaries interview

We created the VIA Visionaries interview series to showcase exceptional people in both the energy and technology spaces. These individuals share a common mission with VIA of making our communities cleaner, safer, and more equitable. 

For our latest interview, we were privileged to spend time with Hilary Flynn.
Hilary has such passion and drive when it comes to commercializing new technologies, investments, and policy development, that we couldn’t wait to ask her to share her wealth of knowledge with our VIA Visionaries followers. 

Here is a little background on Hilary. 

Hilary has had a remarkable career spanning policy and research at major think tanks and analyst firms and technology innovation and investment at a global utility. To break down her exceptional career, she has been with MassCEC as Managing Director, Investments for nearly two years. In her role, she oversees the 2030 fund, an early stage climate tech venture capital. Before joining MassCEC, Hilary was with National Grid for six years in different capacities – from identifying innovation to her latest role as Head of US Offshore Wind and Vice President of NG-RWE JV. Prior to National Grid, Hilary was a consultant for major research firms, working closely with renewable energy, utilities, and policy.

With a packed house at our headquarters in Somerville, which included VIA team members visiting from around the globe, our CEO, Colin Gounden, chatted with Hilary for over 30 minutes on a live streamed event. Colin asked Hilary questions about why she chose energy, the mission at MassCEC, and what role state organizations like MassCEC play in climate change mitigation and clean energy transition. 

Through the conversation, you can tell just how proud Hilary is of the work MassCEC is doing, so when Colin asked Hilary, “There are so many programs at MassCEC. Is there one in particular that is a favorite, or you really want others to consider more actively?”, we enjoyed hearing her response, here is a snippet:

My program, which is terrific, it’s called the 2030 fund. It’s an investment fund that we launched last year. It’s $50 million, effectively a tripling of the budget from what we had historically. We make equity investments and provide venture debt to startups. I think many people who know us know us for the grant program or some of our education programs, and they’re not always aware that we also act like a venture capital firm, and in a good way. We call ourselves public strategic, so we’re very friendly, but we’re unique. There aren’t too many states that have such a venture capital fund, particularly one for climate. So, we make early-stage investments in pre-seed, series A climate tech companies…”

To hear the entire response and the full interview, watch the video below! 

We’re thrilled to share that we have quite the line up of special guests for our VIA Visionaries exclusive interview series. Ann Davlin of Constellation, the largest producer of clean, carbon-free energy, will join us for a live-stream chat about the Future of Sustainability and Climate Solutions on Thursday, November 2nd at 2:30PM ET. Be sure to follow VIA’s website and social media (LinkedIn, X, Instagram, Threads) for the latest on this series and more!

Shalaya Morissette, Chief of the Minority Business and Workforce Division at the U.S. Department of Energy joined VIA for a chat about equity in energy for VIA Visionaries interview series

Our network of people who believe in VIA’s mission to make communities cleaner, safer, and more equitable has been growing exponentially this year. Through our outreach, we have the privilege of meeting exceptional people in the energy industry who are also making a positive impact on the world.

So, when we met Shalaya Morisette, Chief of the Minority Business and Workforce Division at the U.S. Department of Energy, we knew we wanted to host her at our headquarters for one of our VIA Visionaries interview series.

First, a little background on Shalaya.

Shalaya has been with the U.S. Department of Energy for just over a year in her role within the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity. Prior to joining the DOE, Shalaya spent over five years with National Grid, where she served as a safety and compliance officer. She has devoted the majority of her career to education, including teaching high school students engineering in energy, and serving as a board member for her alma mater, Georgia Gwinnett College. Shalaya is a highly regarded leader in the clean technology space, as evidenced by high-profile speaking opportunities around the globe. She has served her community in numerous ways including President of the Greater Boston chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, the first African American board member of New England Women in Energy and Environment, and committee member of Browning the Green Space.

We knew given our common vision and Shalaya’s impressive background, this was going to be an interview for the books!

Speaking on camera on Labor Day in Somerville, our CEO, Colin Gounden asked Shalaya questions about her decision to work in the energy sector, who inspires her, and the ways companies can improve on their equity and diversity. Some of our favorite moments from the interview were when Shalaya beamed with joy as she talked about her daughter and teaching her about energy (catch the 6:35 mark for a cute story!).

For us at VIA, our favorite moments are always centered around our team and it’s clear Shalaya feels the same. Another favorite quote from Shalaya during the interview was when Colin asked, “Is there a special moment, favorite memory, or something you are most proud of in terms of accomplishments [in the last year at the DOE]?” 

“Oh, there are several. Most of them involve my team. I have an amazing team of people that are incredibly dedicated and talented. But, I will say, Alaska. One, I never thought I would get there. But, going to Alaska and seeing their fabrication lab. They have an amazing lab dedicated to natives there. And they have every piece of equipment. There is so much intention. They are still doing things like making drums the old school way…”

To hear the full response to this question (9:20 mark) and the entirety of the interview, watch the video below. Spoiler! you might hear a little something about a moose!

We’re thrilled to share that we have quite the line up of special guests for our VIA Visionaries exclusive interview series. Next week, Hilary Flynn of MassCEC will join us for a live-stream chat about Policy, Investment, and Climate. Be sure to follow VIA’s website and social media (LinkedIn, X, Instagram, Threads) for the latest on this series and more!

 

Fast and Curious 5: ZKPs Done Right

In the fifth and final installment of our summer learning series, we talk about zero-knowledge proofs and how they can be done right in just three ways. Watch the video and read the transcript below as we give the summer edition of the Fast and Curious a farewell for now!

Below is a transcript of the video:

Welcome back to Fast and Curious, the 2023 Summer edition.

Happy to have the opportunity to speak today. We’re going to talk a little bit about zero-knowledge proofs and particularly, doing them right.

It’s great that this mathematical obscurity from the 1990s has now become commonplace in certain parts of the Web3 and blockchain world. Software libraries and technologies are developing quickly in this space. We’re happy to have the opportunity to be involved with that.

But, they’re not as easy as they seem. And there are three practical tips that we’re gonna give here. Three tools to help people identify how they could be better in this space or make use of it.

First is, how do you create the ZKP?

It turns out that this is a more complicated endeavor than your average website or HTML page. It does involve some math. It is a mathematical property, and so you do need somebody who has some math skills for the specific application that you are creating. There is some good news about that, though. It’s getting easier. There are more tools and libraries available, and there are more and more ZKPs being created by others and being offered. And you may, for your specific use case, be able to just borrow or license the ZKP you need for your application.

Point two, how do you know whether the ZKP works?

By definition, the whole point of the zero-knowledge proof is zero knowledge. So, in that world, do you just trust that the code is working as promised, that the guarantee is real? Well, we think independent testing or having a third party who is trusted to be able to validate and say, “Yeah, that thing does what it says it’s gonna do,” is the best possible way. From our perspective, look for the people who are, or that is a trusted authority, and you can work with to validate and verify your zero-knowledge proofs.

And then the third one here is around cybersecurity.

We talk about blockchain. We talk about Web3. But it’s all just software. And software that is doing anything valuable at all, is going to be attacked. We live in this world where you can expect that. And so constant vigilance, as they say in Harry Potter, is the word of the day. You need to make sure that the software you’re writing is cyber secure and meets some cybersecurity standards, but also that you’re keeping up with a list of critical vulnerabilities and updating your software to make sure that there aren’t new vulnerabilities or it doesn’t become susceptible later.

With that in mind, from a VIA perspective, we work with a lot of folks in the Department of Defense. If you follow us at all on our blogs and announcements, you’ll have seen that. It’s not a secret. And one of the big reasons is that the DoD has terrific cybersecurity standards and a very published and public list of what they’re looking for. And we feel like if we’re meeting their standards, then we’re meeting a standard that could be met in the external world.

For our zero-knowledge proof specifically, most of the ZKPs are actually in energy. Did someone turn down their thermostat? Did they charge their EV at a certain time? Did they not charge their EV when they were supposed to? The Department of Energy has stepped in and offered help for testing and validating our zero-knowledge proofs, and we’re excited to see, so far so good, very positive results from that. And, we feel like having that imprimatur from third parties is valuable.

Can’t get enough of these Fast and Curious videos? Well, we want to hear from you! What topics should we cover next? Drop a note in our inbox to let us know: info@solvewithvia.com.

Fast and Curious 4: ZKPs 4 Collective Good (from Collective Action)

In the fourth installment of our summer learning series, we talk about how ZKPs can be used for the greater good. 

Below is a transcript of the video:

Welcome back to Fast and Curious.

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about use cases or what positive social impact we can get from things like zero-knowledge proofs. A saying we have at VIA is that “collective good comes from collective action.”  And what we mean by that is, when people work together, they can do incredible things.

National security is an example of that. We collectively gather together to defend our borders. Health is another example. People get vaccinated and we eradicated polio and smallpox by everybody saying, “Hey, the collective good has forced us to do something together. Let’s take the collective action of vaccination.”

Climate change is another one. We can mitigate climate change, if we all do our part.

For us to actually have the collective action yield collective good, we need to be able to trace, “I did this and the outcome actually happened.”

How can I know who did what?

How do I know they did or did not join the army? They did or did not get vaccinated? They did or did not turn down their thermostat or charge their electric vehicle at a certain time? I need to compare the individual and their actions and I need to link them in some way. Zero-knowledge proofs are a mechanism to be able to say, “we mathematically guarantee this action was taken. But, we’re going to keep the identity of the individual private.”

And so, some examples of collective good around this, related to our mission at VIA of cleaner, safer, more equitable communities are that we want to have cleaner air. Our intent is that the action of electrification will yield reduced asthma for children in neighborhoods around the urban cities around the world. How do we link the incidents of hospital visits by children and their asthma related incidents to the action of reducing electricity? Well, I want that linkage, but I want to keep the identities of those children and their health conditions private. ZKPs can deliver that mathematical guarantee of the action or the outcome while keeping the individual identity anonymous.

Another example is around safety. You are going to have a family, maybe for weather conditions or maybe for refugee status, take shelter. How do I know that the individuals showed up and were sheltered at that time and place they were supposed to be while keeping the identities of those individuals safe, secure, private, and anonymous?

And then, there are many examples where equity plays a role. There’s probably a whole video that we could spend just on that. One example here is preventing child labor. I want to verify the age of the workers and make sure that for each and every one, they are above whatever the age statute of limitations is in that jurisdiction.

Those are the examples of cleaner, safer, more equitable community use cases that we think have great social impact, great for the world, and are a good use for zero-knowledge proofs. We’re excited to have the opportunity to support those.

Disclaimer: In the spirit of staying current with the fast moving tech world, these videos are done in one take! The result is they are fresh but may be a little rough around the edges. Enjoy!

Fast and Curious 3: An introduction to zero-knowledge proofs

In the third installment of our summer learning series, we give a quick introduction to zero-knowledge proofs and an example of how they can be applied in cryptocurrency.

Below is a transcript of the video:

Welcome to Fast and Curious.

A question we often get around zero-knowledge proofs is “That sounds complicated.” So, we’re going to do a super high-level overview here for folks. In data privacy and data security, historically there have been two extremes of methods or approaches.

On the one hand, you’ve got an option which is keeping the data so private and so secure that no one has access to it. That’s beneficial to data security, but basically not very beneficial to anybody who wants to make use of it.

There’s a second option on the other extreme, which is: I’m going to sign some paperwork, provide a file or access to somebody, and I’m going to trust that they do the right thing with it and keep it private and confidential. That’s the other opposite end of the spectrum.

At VIA, we had a notion when we were in our very early days that there had to be a better, software intermediated way of dealing with that. We bet that blockchain and Web3 technologies were going to be the foundation of it. And it turned out to be true. So, the Goldilocks way is not too restricted, not too risky. The Goldilocks way is actually through something called zero-knowledge proofs, and we’ve been working in that space for a little while.

You ask the question, what is a zero-knowledge proof? And how does that actually work?

I’ll give you the quick example from cryptocurrency. Zero-knowledge proofs have been around since the 1990s. They more recently came into popularity from a software perspective because of cryptocurrencies.

So meet Mary and José – not their real names! Their identity has been protected. Mary is saying, “hey, I’m gonna send some cash to José.” José says “that’s terrific.” But then he says, “wait, I didn’t get the money. Did you send it, Mary?”

How are they going to resolve this dispute? In the old days, if Mary was going to wire money or send money to José, they would probably know each other, they would know each other’s names, and they would have a bank that would intermediate that transaction.

In the newfangled cryptocurrency, NFT, blockchain world, Mary and José by definition don’t know each other, right? Part of the benefits of blockchain-based transactions is anonymity, and the other benefit or the other challenge in this case is its peer-to-peer. There is no intermediary. So how can José reconcile the fact that he did or didn’t get what he was expecting from Mary and vice versa. Mary says, yep, I did or can verify that transaction.

And that’s what zero-knowledge proofs are.

It’s essentially a piece of software code that can verify this transaction happened. José got it or didn’t get it without revealing either José or Mary or their identities or any details about their bank accounts.

And if you’re interested, there are actually terrific videos by experts that explain a little bit more detail about exactly how that works, from both professors as well as Up and Atom, that you can find at solvewithvia.com on our blog page.

That gives you the nickel summary. We’re excited to have the opportunity to use and leverage that same zero-knowledge proof technology in new areas like energy transactions and identity. And you can read or see more about that in the upcoming Fast and Curious.

Disclaimer: In the spirit of staying current with the fast moving tech world, these videos are done in one take! The result is they are fresh but may be a little rough around the edges. Enjoy!

Testing decentralized storage
Part one: speed

Long time VIA blog readers will know that VIA focuses on military-grade and enterprise-grade Web3 components for data privacy like zero-knowledge proofs. But where is all that data stored? In the Web3 world, IPFS is a standard for decentralized storage. Is a private version of decentralized storage ready for the enterprise?

In this first part of a two-part blog, we’re going to focus on speed. Decentralized storage has claims of being faster than centralized storage. We decided to test that with our own private deployment of decentralized storage and publish the results for you.

For our testing, we put four files of different sizes (114 bytes, 6.2Mb, 311 MB, and 933 MB) on a node in Japan. We also created a node in our local region of the East Coast of North America. 

As expected, the download times for when we accessed the file without a local node varied by file size. The download times for each file size was relatively consistent:

File Size Average Range
114 bytes 292ms 288ms to 293ms
6.2 Mb 1.84s 1.58s to 2.14s
311 MB 20.33s 19.77s to 22.09s
933 MB 62.67s 60s to 65s

In comparison, decentralized storage was:

  1. Significantly faster on all downloads for a smaller file (initial download and subsequent downloads)
  2. Slower on initial download for larger files
  3. Significantly faster on subsequent downloads for larger files

Here are the times for the initial file downloads:

File Size Average Range
114 bytes 155ms 155ms
6.2 Mb 2.6s 2.5s to 2.7s
311 MB 76s 76s
933 MB 237.5s 235s to 240s

Here are the times for subsequent file downloads:

File Size Average Range
114 bytes 9.45ms 3ms to 36ms
6.2 Mb 70.6ms 49ms to 109ms
311 MB 4.06s 3.59s to 4.74s
933 MB 17.28s 15s to 19.11s

Of course, it’s not just that the same user would receive faster downloads for the same file on subsequent attempts. As Web3 pros will know, any authorized user nearby would get routed to the local node and therefore benefit from the increased speeds. The greater the number of users in different locations, the greater this benefit.

In the context of a private decentralized storage deployment, administrators can force nodes to clean up and remove files when needed if they don’t want something in one location. Administrators can also “pin” content to a specific node (location) if they want to make sure something is always available. 

For you visual learners, here are the summary results:

Watch a quick demo video below:

Our takeaway is that decentralized storage has a speed advantage over centralized storage for enterprises where:

  1. There is a highly geographically distributed user base 
  2. There is interest in dynamically allocating files to specific locations to optimize file download times

In our second part, we’ll cover what it takes to make decentralized storage enterprise ready. 

Follow VIA’s website and social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Threads) to catch the latest!

 

2 Fast 2 Curious: Blockchain and foreign policy

The second installment of our summer learning series continues the discussion on blockchain, but this time from a foreign policy perspective. Follow VIA to learn about blockchain, zero-knowledge proofs, and all things Web3 in the Fast and Curious series.

Below is a transcript of the video:

As a country, we want to make sure that we’re safe. National security is of interest to all of us, and we need to make sure that there are ways to limit the power or keep checks and balances to unfriendly countries.

And as an example, things like cryptocurrencies or digital currencies can be used for nefarious reasons. They can be used in black markets. They can also be used by countries that have sanctions against them like Russia for invading Ukraine. It’s a way for people to get around embargoes or sanctions.

In September of last year, the United States White House put out a publication. It’s a longer document, and it’s the first-ever framework for digital assets. And the thing you’ll note is despite all of what’s happening today around regulation and legislation (really that’s just trying to clean up fakes in the industry) that there’s a clear commitment to U.S. leadership in the global financial system and economic competitiveness.

And I think that’s sort of reinforcing the points we just talked about in our previous video. There’s also the importance of kickstarting the private sector. It’s jobs for everyone, making sure there are high-paying jobs. A little bit further down there is a recognition of the potential benefits and risks of a U.S. central bank digital currency and how important that is to the United States around maintaining the U.S. dollar leadership. 

In a lot of ways globally, the U.S. dollar provides stability. The framework also aims to ensure that white-collar crime and fraud don’t become the domains of digital currencies overall.

So lots of reasons why Web3 and blockchain play a huge role around this area of domestic policy and foreign policy.

Number one, jobs. Very high-paying, high-quality jobs to create a robust domestic economy.

Number two, foreign competition. Making sure that sanctions and embargoes are maintained despite the proliferation of digital currencies.

And number three, the U.S. dollar. Making sure that the U.S. dollar, which has a huge role to play in the global economy, not just at home, and any kind of central bank digital currency can play an equally important role. Or, as digital currencies gain favor in the world, that the U.S. role is not diminished as a result of a rise in blockchain, Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

So there we have some of the key reasons domestic and foreign policy is having an impact on blockchain, and also how Web3 and blockchain is impacting domestic and foreign policy. We’re excited to see the commitment by the U.S. government in this area.

Thanks for watching. Stay tuned for next episode.

Fast and Curious: Blockchain and domestic policy

This is the first installment of our brand new summer learning series: Fast and Curious. We’re summarizing key insights from our most popular private speaking events at Harvard, MIT, and elsewhere. For fans of our Blockchain Unboxed event, this video follows up on the connection between blockchain and domestic policy. Follow VIA to learn all about zero-knowledge proofs, public policy, and Web3 in the next few weeks.

Below is a transcript of the “Blockchain and Domestic Policy” video:

Welcome everyone to Fast and Curious with VIA. It may seem like an odd confluence of events, but actually the area of Web3 and blockchain impacting and being impacted by domestic policy and foreign policy is of high national importance and we’re going to spend one minute today to bring you up to speed on why that’s the case.

So first, let’s have a look at some companies. Let’s rewind the clock to 2011. And if you were to look at December 2011 and a list – thank you Wikipedia – of the largest companies by market capitalization on the planet, there are some observations to make about this list from 2011.

One observation is there’s a mix of countries. The United States is on this list, but you also have China and you’ve got Australia and Royal Dutch Shell, which is an Anglo-Dutch company.

Second observation is you’ll see commodities, right? So you’ll see the world of energy playing a big role. But energy more like oil and gas. Natural resources are really what’s driving this list from a big part, not exclusively, but from a big part.

Now, fast forward ten years, right? And let’s look at the list from 2021. In December 2021, when you look at that list, what’s the observation? Well, compare and contrast. Number one, a lot more American companies on this list. Eight out of ten of the companies are from the United States.

And number two, tech kind of plays the leading role here. Everybody basically on this list, even Taiwan Semiconductor or, you know, you could argue Berkshire Hathaway is not a tech company, it’s a financial services company. It is an investment firm, but who are some of the biggest stocks that they own? They own Apple, number one of that list. They own Microsoft, number two on that list. They own Amazon, number four on that list. So in a way, it’s an investor of some of the other companies higher up.

So the thing we’re seeing here is from a domestic policy standpoint, if you want to be elected and you want to be reelected, then one of the fabulous most easiest ways to do that is jobs. Create a strong economy. And the evidence shows that technology is a driver of high quality, high paying jobs. And how do you get more people employed? Well you make sure that there are technology jobs available here in the United States.

And so this is one reason that you’re seeing the United States focus in this area around things like blockchain and Web3, because 25 years ago, 25 or 30 years ago, you might not have picked the Internet or high technology as the biggest places where jobs are going to be created. But now that’s where wealth creation is happening. The result is the United States thinks ten, 15, 20, 25 years ahead of time. And with that perspective, an investment in things like Web3 and blockchain are inevitable because from a defensive perspective, you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity and have those jobs go elsewhere, have some other country become the main provider of that industry. And you want to be able to provide here domestically good things like high paying wages to people right here at home.

Our summary here is that the U.S. has leaped ahead in the economic league tables with the help of tech companies. U.S. investment in technologies like Web3 and blockchain are in the best interest for the long-term health of the U.S. economy.

In our next segment of Fast Curious, we’ll look at blockchain and foreign policy.

 

Former WSJ White House Correspondent and Senior Director at Circle, Jared Favole, interviewed during VIA live stream

VIA had the pleasure of hosting Jared Favole, Senior Director, Communications and Policy at Circle and former White House Correspondent for the Wall Street Journal at VIA’s headquarters in Somerville two weeks ago. Jared joined us for our first-ever live streamed event. VIAneers in Somerville, Montreal, and viewers from around the globe tuned in to hear VIA’s CEO, Colin Gounden, interview Jared Favole to discuss all things blockchain and domestic and foreign policy.

Circle is a global financial technology firm and the issuer of USDC and Euro Coin – highly liquid, interoperable, and trusted money protocols on the internet.

One of our favorite quotes from Jared during the event ties to the benefits of digital currencies over cash:

“The traditional way to deliver aid, particularly in the middle of a war zone or strife, sometimes amounts to literally flying a plane and dropping a palette of cash … if you tried to create an innovation called “cash” today, it would not get approved.”

Jared also shared his experience while being a White House Correspondent, his thoughts on how to make blockchain work in the future, and answered a number of excellent questions submitted from audience members on social media, the live chat, and in person. The full recording of the 45-minute discussion is available below:

As a follow up, blockchain, Web3, and particularly zero-knowledge proof enthusiasts will be excited to hear that we are launching “Fast and Curious,” a summer learning series of short videos where our CEO Colin Gounden gives an overview of specific topics in the Web3 space.

The first blog in this series will also be on blockchain and domestic and foreign policy. So, follow VIA’s website and social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram) to catch the latest!

Power Up! Winner: AI to improve developer experience

Frequent readers of VIA’s blog will know that twice a year we invest several days into “Power Ups!” These are days where 100% of VIAneers to stop bumping their heads on their day-to-day tasks and think about ways we can improve the way we work.

This year, we focused on artificial intelligence (AI). VIAneers self-selected into 13 teams and came up with ideas to leverage AI. Ideas included everything from ethical guidelines for AI, and how to generate more blog content, to how to use AI to support Kubernetes deployments.

This Power Up! we upped the stakes and had the teams compete for a $1,000 USD prize to be spent on anything that they would like. We were privileged to have Major General Kim Crider (ret) former Chief Technology Innovation Officer of the United States Space Force, Tom Davenport, author of more than 11 books on analytics and AI, and Tom Werner, former CEO and Chairman of SunPower join VIA’s COO, Kate Ravanis as our panel of judges to select the winner.

Winners were judged based on four criteria: VIA Value, Technical Readiness, Risk Consideration, Presentation Skills.

All of our VIAneers did an incredible job of not just finding great ways to leverage AI but also implementing them in the 2.5 day Power Up! time limit. 

But, there could only be one winner. 

The team that won was the TL;DR team. As readers know, we love a good pull request (feedback on developer code changes). While we have a whole language system about how to provide feedback on pull requests, TL;DR team figured out how AI could be used to help write a summary of the pull requests to aid reviewers.

“We found that all the teams had done an exceptional job generating ideas and taking a first pass at articulating the benefits and the implementation plans for their AI initiatives. What the judges thought made TL;DR stand apart was that the team had actually implemented their solution and reviewed internal data to quantify a savings of more than $250,000 per year with no additional costs. The fact that they had also thought through how to make the AI generated summaries reflect VIA’s culture and values was a special bonus from my perspective.” said Kate Ravanis, VIA’s COO.

As the video below shows, the TL;DR team’s AI generates summaries of pull requests to speed up the code review process.

Here are a few examples of how the TL;DR team’s project excelled against the evaluation criteria in just a few short days:

  1. VIA Value – The team requested internal data and was able to quantify the expected value (over $250,000 per year) and provided a spreadsheet to show their work.
  2. Technical Readiness – The code was working and demonstrated on a current VIA repo using VIA’s existing infrastructure. Bonus points that the AI model was directed to generate text that reflected VIA values and even use emojis.
  3. Risk Consideration – The team evaluated external solutions but ultimately implemented an in-house solution to protect VIA’s intellectual property. A thoughtful addition is to add a warning to each response that it is generated by AI and may not be 100% accurate.
  4. Presentation Skills – Every team had a 5 minute limit and TL;DR did a great job of summarizing their solution clearly and concisely.

Less than two weeks later, this solution is already live and in use today with VIA developers. 

Consistent with our long-standing commitment to improving developer communities everywhere, after further testing at VIA we will open source this project and make it available on GitHub.

Introducing VIA GPT: Supporting customers using AI

In October 2022, VIA began testing generative AI (GAI) and large language models (LLM) to support our internal development work. In January 2023, we released our first documentation to customers using GAI. The idea was that if we used GAI to create and provide first line technical support to customers, we could provide high leverage to our more seasoned technical VIAneers – with the caveat that everything was vetted by a person for accuracy and consistency.

Of course a lot has happened in the GAI and LLM world since January. Model variety, use cases, and performance are increasing exponentially.

Today, we’re pleased to launch VIA GPT as a way for our customers to get first line technical support on our core components (initially VIAsecurechain, and Fingerprinting).

With VIA GPT, customers can ask natural language queries to receive:

  • Documentation about our components

  • Code examples to deploy and integrate products

  • Multi-lingual support

  • 24/7 support

In addition, the use of a VIA-specific interface reduces the risk of GPT “hallucinations” from queries and creates a user-tailored and / or enterprise memory that is accessible across query sessions.

Given our standard deployment environments (Kubernetes, Helm charts) and also standard APIs (RESTful and Kafka with Swagger docs) most customers that have large IT teams can integrate and install VIA’s platform in just a few hours. We hope that VIA GPT support will reduce that time even further and bring our platform to enterprises with smaller IT teams.

Of course, our friendly and experienced VIAneers are always available to support customers directly as well. We look forward to continuously enhancing our offerings and giving our customers the VIA Good experience they have come to expect.

If you are interested in learning more about VIA GPT, contact us!