As the number of blockchain protocols and platforms has increased significantly over the past 3 years, it can be challenging for enterprises to identify the best for building their blockchain-enabled solutions. As an early-stage B2B SaaS company, Triall matched with a public blockchain platform that offers an enterprise-grade infrastructure, substantiated by a track record of industry and governmental applications. In this article, we will explain why we chose to build on top of the Factom Protocol.
Incorporating blockchain at the enterprise level
Blockchain is being explored and adopted by an increasing number of enterprises. The technology can be used to promote the efficient and secure exchange of data across organizational boundaries and systems. Because blockchain is a relatively new technology, it also comes with more uncertainties and risks than ‘traditional’ time-proven technologies. Risks, among others, include the volatile costs of blockchain transactions, lack of standardization, data privacy, and malicious network actors.
Public vs Private blockchain networks
Enterprises can choose to build their own public or private blockchain network by either writing their own code (beginning from scratch), using an existing blockchain framework such as Hyperledger Fabric, or by forking a public blockchain. When building a private blockchain network, enterprises are required to establish a consortium of trustworthy partners who will run the nodes of the network. Having more nodes will increase the security of the network. Nevertheless, these nodes should be incentivized accordingly to make sure the network stays up and running, which can be difficult for small fit-for-purpose blockchain consortia. Moreover, in a private blockchain network, security is partly dependent on the level of trust between consortium partners, making it easier for a malicious actor to undermine the network. In many cases, this ultimately begs the question whether a secure shared repository (e.g. an encrypted distributed database) won’t be a better solution, as building and operating a blockchain can in comparison be cost- and time-inefficient.
Alternatively, enterprises can build their applications on top of an existing and established public blockchain. This eliminates the need for spending time and effort on building a new blockchain framework and/or finding and recruiting enough suitable nodes to run the network in a secure and sustainable way. Moreover, it makes a stronger case in terms of network continuity (as more independent projects build on one platform, nodes are increasingly incentivized to keep the network up and running). Opting for an established blockchain platform can provide enterprises with network strength and security right from the start, enabling them to fully focus on the development of applications and onboarding of clients and stakeholders. A developer-friendly environment can furthermore help to smoothen integration, and thereby may lower the costs of incorporating blockchain in new applications.
What brought Triall to Factom
As an early-stage B2B SaaS company interested in building blockchain-enabled solutions, we searched for a public blockchain platform with a proven track-record, enterprise-grade infrastructure, and developer-friendly environment. This brought us to the Factom Protocol, an open-source data integrity protocol that is fully optimized for enterprise adoption and has a track record of successful applications for industrial and governmental stakeholders, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the US Department of Homeland Security.
The Factom Protocol
An early-mover in the blockchain space
Initiated in 2014, the Factom Protocol is one of the oldest blockchain platforms in the space. Factom was built with the enterprise in mind and is specifically designed to tackle some of the core constraints found in public blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum. The protocol provides enterprises with high throughput, low fixed cost, and secure data entry, enabling the efficient immutable publication of data and providing a source of indisputable truth and verification to all stakeholders involved.
A two-token system with predictable costs
The Factom Protocol knows a two-token system consisting of Factoids (FCT) and Entry Credits (EC). FCT can be traded externally like any other regular cryptocurrency, while EC are non-transferable and used to pay for data entries to the blockchain. Uniquely, users can burn FCT to create EC at a fixed conversion rate of $ 0.001 and can therefore easily predict the cost of using Factom for their applications, which stimulates enterprise adoption and use. It also means that enterprises can use the protocol without having to hold or transact cryptocurrencies, which is a strength for financial, risk and regulatory reasons.
Separate chains for efficient lookup
The Factom Protocol has an efficient way of organizing data, which greatly reduces the time and costs usually associated with storage of data on and retrieval from the blockchain. This is accomplished by allowing data entries to be grouped into separate chains, making it easy to examine what data does and doesn’t exist within a specific chain. Users can track or examine these chains individually, removing the need to sift through huge data sets that are not relevant to them. In contrast, Bitcoin users have to scan the entire blockchain to find a particular data entry.
Separating crypto from business
With a new data entry on the Factom Protocol, data is not written on a coin (i.e. a crypto transaction from one address to another) which is randomly distributed across the blockchain. The user simply spends one EC per data entry after which the EC is burnt and the data is stored on a new or existing chain of the user’s choice. FCT and EC transactions are registered on their own separate chains within Factom, thereby purposely separating data entries and cryptocurrency transactions. This makes Factom’s consensus mechanism very efficient as only the Factoid and EC transactions on the Factom servers need to be validated. For data entries, users are free to design their own validation steps off-chain. This allows for great flexibility and is particularly relevant for enterprise users interested in building complex applications on top of the blockchain.
Data anchoring into Bitcoin and Ethereum
Lastly, to further improve the security levels of its blockchain infrastructure, Factom® implements a data anchoring policy where ‘Merkle roots’ of the Factom blockchain are periodically registered on Bitcoin and Ethereum, thereby taking advantage of the security levels of these public blockchains.
Wrapping it all together
The Factom Protocol enables Triall to immutably record data in a structured and accessible way. Integrating with Factom enables us to realize an infrastructure that is secure, robust and efficient. Ultimately this supports us in designing applications that help enforce regulatory obligations, promote data security and optimize costs.
The first clinical trial on the blockchain
Did you know that Factom has been used by Triall in the world’s first-ever application of blockchain technology in a live and running clinical trial? Read about it here.