Tag Archive for: tech

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.

Department of Energy selects VIA to demonstrate zero-knowledge proofs for increased cybersecurity of DERs

SOMERVILLE, Mass., July 26, 2023VIA, the leader in secure verification, ingestion, and analysis of private data, announced today that it has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for an in-depth review of zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) to maintain cybersecurity of distributed energy resources (DERs) to aid grid flexibility.

The project includes funding from the DOE and technical support from Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), as well as demonstration with Enel, one of the world’s largest renewable generation and DER companies.

Enel North America’s Director of Innovation, David Rodriguez, commented, “Distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar and battery storage, hold significant value in increasing the flexibility and reliability of the energy grid. To unlock that value, it is absolutely critical to maintain accurate data on the assets. VIA’s work in zero-knowledge proofs offers an innovative and a promising solution to ensuring data verification of energy availability and carbon intensity, while maintaining absolute data privacy and the highest levels of cybersecurity. We look forward to collaborating with VIA on this very important topic.”

Kate Ravanis, VIA’s COO stated, “ZKPs are an ideal solution to the dilemma of verifying carbon while maintaining individual data privacy. This is critically important where DERs from multiple owners, and sometimes competing owners, are required to coordinate to enable grid flexibility.”

This is the third VIA ZKP initiative supported by the DOE this year. In February, INL began evaluating VIA’s ZKPs to track carbon used in charging (smart charging) and discharging (vehicle-to-grid integration) in electric vehicles. In May, the DOE announced funding for industrial decarbonization through the Arizona State University’s EPIXC consortium, of which VIA is a member.

During the testing, VIA is demonstrating the ability of ZKPs to work with near real-time data to verify carbon intensity from distributed energy resources. In addition, DOE is also evaluating the quantum-resistant version of VIA’s ZKPs. Initial results are expected in October 2023.

Are you a community or business with electric vehicles or DERs? Reach out at info@solvewithvia.com to learn more and join the DOE demonstration.

About VIA

VIA’s mission is to make communities cleaner, safer, and more equitable by using AI and Web3 technologies. Using its Web3 platform, VIA enables real-time data verification, automated ingestion, and privacy-preserving analysis across multiple private data sources including energy and environmental data. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Fortune 50 companies, and energy providers around the globe trust VIA to help them solve their toughest data privacy challenges.

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!

Top Burning Questions Q5: Where would I use a “Credentials Wallet?”

A wallet is a means for users to confirm their blockchain transactions. A common question from our customers is: “what‘s an example of a wallet in an enterprise context?”

To illustrate this, here’s an example of how a wallet might be used by an equipment manufacturer that is selling to other enterprises (i.e., B2B).

The equipment manufacturer provides an uptime guarantee to its customers. If the equipment is offline, the event can be automatically recorded in a blockchain for both the customer and the manufacturer to see.

The more important question for the manufacturer and its customers is: why was the equipment offline? Was the equipment offline for a valid reason, such as regularly scheduled maintenance? Or, was it offline due to a fault (and therefore there may be contractual penalties)? Or, were there external factors, like a flood, that will trigger insurance coverage?

In this example, the customer and the manufacturer submit their explanation and evidence (e.g., photos of the flooded equipment). Fingerprints of the documentation are logged on the blockchain. The actual data is stored off chain.

Recording the explanation and evidence in an immutable and auditable format creates trust. This trust speeds up processes like vendor performance review meetings, contract renewals, insurance claims, and regulator investigations.

So, what about the wallet?

Well, in a fully automated system there’s no need for one. That is, if the equipment being offline automatically triggered an alert, storing that alert information on the blockchain could be completely automated without the need for a wallet.

In our example, the “why” piece is a manual diagnostic. This information requires some authorization and authentication to make sure the person submitting it is who they claim to be, and has the permission to submit the documents.

One way to verify that the documents were submitted by authorized parties is to have each submitter digitally sign the transaction at submission. With multiple submitters (e.g., a manufacturer and customers), each party would have to integrate the submission system with their respective digital signature system.

With the VIA Credentials Wallet, all parties receive a simple mechanism to sign blockchain transactions without each participant having to integrate a new system. Each party also maintains their own enterprise user management systems (e.g., role-based access control (RBAC) models, identity access models (IAM), single sign-on (SSO), active directory service, etc.). This approach is particularly valuable at enterprises that have their employees hold their own private keys, such as through Yubikey (like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft …) or an access card to login to their computers.

One of the key benefits to this approach is that the same Credentials Wallet can be used across multiple applications (e.g., systems from different manufacturers). In addition, RBAC integration with the wallet and VIA’s blockchain enables each organization to have their own rules to verify a transaction. Enterprises could decide to have multiple signatures to confirm a transaction, or only signatures from a certain role as submitters of a confirmation.

There are other benefits as well to a VIA-specific wallet. Long-time VIA blog readers will know that cybersecurity is a running theme as a differentiator for VIA in our platform. Everyone deserves the best cybersecurity. Over and above this, companies have a legal obligation to make sure they are protecting their financial and data assets. VIA has made the investment to harden VIA’s Credentials Wallet to U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) cybersecurity standards.

Looking for more information or have a related query? Don’t hesitate to contact us at info@solvewithvia.com and submit your question.

Top Burning Questions Q4: Why does VIA have its own blockchain?

Q4: Why does VIA have its own blockchain?

There are as many as 1,000 blockchains in the world today. A very reasonable question to ask is why create another one?

While VIA does connect to public blockchains if financial transitions are required, our motivation stems from customer requirements to control permission and analysis of off-chain datasets.

Read more below on the key reasons that drove VIA to create VIAsecurechain.

Data – Many blockchains are focused on financial transactions and not on data. At VIA, we are using blockchain to enable the secure verification, integration, and analysis of data. More specifically, we’re focused on large, decentralized datasets that need to be kept private and confidential. We accomplish this by storing hashes of individual digital assets (e.g., datasets) and making them searchable through an off-chain database. This private data use case considerably narrowed the set of available blockchains.[1]

CostMany blockchains today require a token system for consensus and key functionality. While there are benefits to a token, gas fees can add up quickly. A voting-based consensus mechanism (like Tendermint) can provide security without the expense of a token. The customer requirement for low cost combined with a data-centric blockchain led VIA in 2018 to build upon BigchainDB and Tendermint as core components.

CybersecurityAll customers, like those in critical infrastructure such as energy and transportation care about cybersecurity standards. This is particularly true for VIA’s defense customers. This requirement was not something that we found anywhere else.The result is that VIA forked code from BigchainDB and Tendermint and invested to meet the U.S. TOP SECRET level cybersecurity standards (e.g., zero-trust architecture, hardened containers) for the blockchain, consensus mechanism, and the hash storage database (MongoDB). The combination of these three elements are the core of VIAsecurechain. The result is that VIAsecurechain is the U.S. Department of Defense’s first and only cybersecurity accredited blockchain.

Explore the other components of VIA’s Web3 platform here and read more about VIAsecurechain in our solution brief.

[1]  Of course, the combination of a data-centric blockchain with a public, financial transaction blockchain enables the best of both worlds: secure markets for private data. This concept was first proposed in our 2018 white paper and now a reality through our partnership with Polygon.

VIA announces 10th patent granted in January 2023

VIA, the leader in Web3 for secure verification, integration, and analysis of private data, is pleased to share that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted VIA its 10th patent. The patent portfolio covers a range of Web3 capabilities including cryptography, and secure, decentralized AI analysis orchestration.

VIA’s 2022 Highlights in 60 Seconds –
How the VIA values shaped our 2022

One clear theme for VIA emerged in 2022: W3. What do we mean by that? VIA CEO Colin Gounden explains in under 60 seconds.


Examples of Living Our VIA Values in 2022

The VIA values are expressed not just in our day-to-day interactions and culture, but also as a guide for decisions we make as a company. Here’s a look back at how we integrated our values into everything we did in 2022.


Love in = Love out

Our Love in = Love out value is all about taking pride in what you do. VIAneers got to express their pride in our mission captured in the video below.

Be each other’s biggest fan

For the first time in three (3!) years, we hosted our semi-annual Power Up in person at our Montreal office. This was our largest company onsite ever with nearly 20 new VIAneers hired this year. VIAneers got together to share ideas, lend support, and brainstorm.

As a company located across multiple countries, we know that getting ALL of our VIAneers in one space was not an easy feat. In true VIA fashion we’d like to share a shout out to our People & Operations team for organizing and coordinating a fabulous multi-day onsite!

Stay curious

As a company at the forefront of cutting-edge Web3 technologies, not only do we need to be curious about what others are building in the community, but we share our own learnings as well.

In 2022, VIA was featured in a record number of podcasts. One standout interview was with Nasdaq’s TradeTalks, where VIA CEO, Colin Gounden, explained the connections between Web3, blockchain, the U.S. DOD, and clean energy in 6 minutes.

Not only were we giving talks remotely – we did it in person too! Chainlink invited VIA to speak at 2022’s must-attend Web3 event, SmartCon 2022. Didn’t get to be there? Luckily for you we have a 90 second summary of Colin’s talk!


Learning never goes out of style

At VIA, we’re always learning. We began the year by being one of only ten companies out of more than 100 applicants selected to join Wharton University’s Stevens Center Cypher Accelerator program, where we learned from the biggest names in blockchain such as a16z and Pantera.

Then, we ended the year with another innovative accelerator program, when we were selected as one of only nine companies out of more than 200 applicants to learn from industry leaders at the AWS Sustainable Cities Accelerator for Infrastructure.


Ready, set, RESILIENCE!

In 2022, not only did we improve and upgrade our current technology infrastructure, we added brand new features to our Web3 platform. We wrote multiple blogs about zero-knowledge proofs, homomorphic encryption, and even shared some open source code.

Respect a challenge and challenge with respect

The energy sector faces tough challenges in war, weather, and waning infrastructure globally. This year VIA rose to that challenge with the launch of Skylight, our Web3 platform to support ultra-fine grained demand response. Read about how we leverage zero-knowledge proofs, NFTs, and more in our latest white paper.

And that’s a selection of our 2022 milestones! We couldn’t have done it without the contributions and continued support of customers, partners, and of course our very own VIAneers. 

In last year’s end of year reflection blog, we aimed to scale up in 2022 – all of which came true. After all, the best way to predict the future is to build it. In 2023, VIA is looking forward to announcing our contributions to communities big and small globally.