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April 26, 2021

Market Spotlight

Making data a freely tradeable commodity with Ocean Protocol’s Bruce Pon


Paul Gordon
Editor, Coinscrum Markets
Bruce Pon
CEO at BigchainDB, Founder of Ocean Protocol

This week on Meet the Founder, we were thrilled to have Bruce Pon, founder of Ocean protocol joined our host, Paul Gordon to discuss the future data as a tradable asset through the Ocean Protocol.

(00:21) Whilst most people have assumed that the global banking and payments system is most at risk of disruption by blockchain technology, many argue that it’s the big data silos such as Google, Facebook and Amazon who should be more concerned.

The Ocean Protocol provides a foundational layer upon which data marketplaces can be built, enabling a future where data becomes a freely tradeable asset class in its own right.

Founder Profile

(01:24) Bruce joined the blockchain ecosystem in 2013, having spent over a decade building banks around the world. With his firsthand view of how banking systems in countries got built up and juxtaposing that against the then emerging blockchain, it was a clear no-brainer for him that the way to scale financial systems was through the power of blockchain.

(02:03) Back then, banks and other financial institutions tried to explore the private enterprise use cases for blockchain and Bruce took a deep dive into what intellectual property, copyright and data truly were. From that, the initial hypothesis of what has been heavily accepted now as NFTs was born although it was too early for the world to adopt, Bruce noted. More importantly for Bruce was that the experience answered his question on what the general sense of intellectual property was. That answer was data. What Ocean then does is to try to answer this question in the broadest, most general sense possible by having a protocol, hence Ocean protocol, and hence, a token because it’s going to be owned by the community for the community.

The Ocean Protocol

(04:09) Through the experience of going through various iterations and pivots, the next powerful business model is not necessarily a specific business model on top of the protocol itself, but it’s businesses on top of a protocol like Ocean protocols, Bruce notes.

As such, Ocean protocol as an access control permits the orchestration of opening and closing doors to different resources like data, intellectual property, AI algorithms, amongst others. Ocean Protocol is building on top of any EVM compatible chain, like Ethereum or polygon, Polkadot, Kusama, Cosmos, Avalanche etc. This allows Ocean to be a true chain agnostic protocol to any different chain, but scalable globally. Anybody can start sharing data, monetizing their data, and that’s, that’s where the future of Ocean lies.

(06:10): In 2014, the team explored the question of where to store data and how does that fit in the blockchain, Bruce said. There were a lot of ideas for putting data on the blockchain but failed. The team also built a project called BigChain DB, which was for actually storing databases types, metadata and the like. That type of challenge required decentralized data stores, as well as centralized data stores that everybody understands like Amazon web services or IBM, but the way to unlock this wasn’t to the traditional way where some central body holds your data, Bruce added.

(07:17) “What we saw was ocean protocol being kind of like think of a honeybee, going to various flowers, picking up pollen and stuff like that, except the honeybee being the data scientists needing to go to one flower for an algorithm, another for the data, another for analytics and another for the storage. And that was the simple conceptual model that you could use for Ocean, turning off the access control with the token that underlies it…” Bruce said.

GDPR And Ocean

(09:43): A key principle for the protocol is that people who are the creators of the data are the owners of the data and should have full control. This aligns with the GDPR in that you are giving autonomy back to the people who own it.

“The ultimate vision is that the people who create it, own it, control it, can monetize it, but can also sell those rights…a bad way to have implemented this would have been the typical GDPR style, where you have cookies on these web servers. That is in my mind, a failed policy,” Bruce added.

Data as an Asset Class

(12:53): Still, in its early days, Ocean Protocol has proven that data can be an asset class, Bruce said.

(13:43): One side of what Ocean is making people feel safe, comfortable, and secure cryptographically. That one part of the Oceanside is smart contracts. The other side is what’s the value of data.

While everybody understands that data is valuable, the challenge is unlocking its monetization, calculating its price value and what would be a good price for an asset. By using the tools that are now emerging in the DeFi space, Ocean Protocol can have concepts like an Initial Data Offering (IDO) where that data is publicly available.

(14:37) “It’s tradable, it’s like security in a sense, so you can marry ocean to lending tools like Cream protocol, and Ava. It’s collateral for lending. You can have people stake on your data and earn a portion of the rewards and the earnings from that,” Bruce added.

An ERC 20 token for ocean token and data tokens with all the DeFi capabilities are available. This is the first step to showing people that data has value and you can apply the tools of finance to it, Bruce believes.

Although the idea of data as a tradeable asset may found foreign, Bruce believes people are way more enthusiastic about the prospects of the blockchain than in the past. The days of crypto and blockchain associated with criminals are over and people are seeing them as proven open systems. The DFI space locked at $50 billion, with a 2 trillion total market cap and Coinbase going public are all examples, he said.

Updates from the Latest Ocean Protocol v3

(19:21): Version 3 (v3) of the Ocean Protocol was that about exposing what had been built at the smart contract level to everyone. v3 allows people who may not understand the complications of smart contracts into Ocean Protocol through several ways
Firstly, through the ocean market, which is the way for people to upload data assets, apply ocean smart contracts on it, and then start playing with it, so people could start seeing data assets as if they were in the Web3 World.

Data Tokens

The second was data tokens

(20:09) “What we did is with every data set, we applied data tokens on top of a dataset but …because it’s an ERC 20 token, there are other advantages. That data token is an ERC 20 token so than anything you can do with an ERC 20 token now you can with the data token”

Initial Data Offerings

And thirdly, we have this concept of an IDO, which is an Initial data offering.

“..what that is, is just a formal name that says, if you have used the ocean market or, ocean smart contracts to release your token, you have a data token on top of it. That token is like security… people can buy, sell, trade hold put into their crypto wallets and hold for long-term,” Bruce said.

One of the very first kinds of initial data market offerings Ocean Protocol was this project called BDP, Big Data protocol. BDP got a $6 billion stake for the initial kind of disbursement of tokens. They are now building on top of Ocean technology the ability to release thousands of data assets. Each of them can be IDO(Initial Data Offering)ed –to their people.

How Oceans Plans to Scale

(24:03) A lot of Consensus algorithm projects are now hitting the mainstream in terms of scaling with the Binance Smart Chain as one of the main proof-of-authority networks. As these networks and platforms find their sweet spot of scale, Ocean’s job would be being compatible with each one whenever they hit a maturity level where ocean smart contracts can live, as well as the ocean market, can live on top of their chain.

(26:26) Within the ocean market, you’re going to be able to buy the dataset, but also invoke the compute-to-data function in the ocean market, pay for it, using ocean tokens, and use it with a data set that you find.

If you’re dealing with a command-line interface, which is smart contracts, it’s a lot harder to get adoption from most normal people…by putting it into Ocean market. It exposes it to the entire world who is crypto savvy…,” Bruce said.

Ocean's Roadmap

(27:58) A lot of it has to do with the multi-chain and hardening., Bruce said. The team would focus on little tweaks, features and modules that a lot of people have asked for to help with reputation, make it safer and more predictable if you’re staking and publishing the data.

(28:46) 2021 is also a year of scale for Ocean Protocol and it’s ready to go on multiple chains.

“I think that by the end of the year, we’re going to start seeing people (maybe it’ll happen a lot faster than what happened to the NFTs, which took seven years) starting to say data is an asset class. I’m going to start buying and selling data on the Ocean market,” Bruce said.


(30:50): In the last three or four months, Ocean has seen a lot more community engagement. It has scaled up the team from six to now over 3o developers, with several hundred applications for the ambassadors. You can sit to learn more or the Ocean Academy, where developers can get into the docs. Ocean also has vibrant Discord and Reddit channels.

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Paul Gordon
Following a 20+ year career in financial markets, Paul first became interested in Bitcoin in 2011 and helped to establish one of the world's first Bitcoin meetup groups, Coinscrum, in 2012 since when he has grown the community to over 6,500 members, hosting over 250 events and introducing many of the leading projects and thought leaders in the industry.  Paul currently produces the weekly Coinscrum Markets video podcast series and is an active investor and advisor to a number of crypto and blockchain related projects.

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