ARPA, the layer two privacy-preserving and computation network, officially launched its pre-alpha mainnet on January 6th. The launch includes the right of approved applicants to run computation nodes in the network and generate rewards in the native ARPA token, which will remain an ERC-20 token on Ethereum.
The rollout of the mainnet will encompass two primary stages: the preprocessing and computation phases.
The early mainnet will introduce ARPA’s vaunted sMPC features such as secret sharing schemes for key management. The core architecture of ARPA’s mainnet relies on its MPC Virtual Machine, which enables developers to write MPC functions.
The anticipation of the mainnet launch, formally announced in December, also coincided with ARPA’s inclusion into the Institue of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as a corporate member. ARPA was invited to help develop the IEEE Standard for Technical Framework and Requirements of Shared Machine Learning (IEEE P2830), which is led by the behemoth Ant Financial Services Group.
“The standard aims to standardize the definition of shared machine learning, technical framework, technical process, technical characteristics, security requirements, etc., on an international level,” detailed the ARPA blog announcement.
MPC Tasks & Attracting Users
The ARPA pre-alpha mainnet is instilled with a bootstrapping reward mechanism designed to incentivize early adopters of the network.
Attracting early users to networks is one of the most challenging aspects of bootstrapping new protocols for blockchains, and ARPA’s approach is unique among a sea of unfair launches. The initial batches of computation adopters in ARPA will receive a distribution of 30 percent of the total 2 billion ARPA tokens over a 5-year period — 600 million in total.
ARPA will deploy a random selection algorithm to choose specific nodes to complete MPC tasks, which will help make the entire distribution more egalitarian.
“The random selection algorithm takes both the staking amount of each node and randomness into account,” details the ARPA team. “Given that multi-party computations cost great power and resource, it is better for one entity to hold less virtual machines and maximize their utilization rate.”
And the MPC tasks are where the excitement around ARPA has been simmering for the last several months.
Secure Multi-Party Computation (sMPC) is considered the “holy grail” of secure, private computation. It can augment the abilities of public chains (e.g., Ethereum) significantly, and can extend use cases for dapps and developers to applications like dark pool trading, blind voting, and secure risk analysis.
Some of the MPC tasks enumerated by ARPA for bootstrapping include linear regression, trigonometry, value at risk (for investment portfolios), sorting lists of floating-point numbers, and matrix multiplication.
Considering ARPA represents one of the first full-scale implementations of MPC tech in blockchains, observing the next several months will sew some useful insights into its potential.
Realizing the Impact of Crypto & Blockchain Startups
2020 is poised to become a pivotal year for the penetration of crypto assets into both emerging markets and institutional ambitions, which we’re seeing with likes of ARPA joining the IEEE.
Some of the projects seeded in the aftermath of the 2017 ICO mania are beginning to blossom, following the trimming of scams and consolidation of more practical endeavors. These projects are helping bridge the critical areas of user adoption and extended applications of blockchains, such as more complicated financial instruments.
It has been a gradual process in many regards, with user adoption increasing at a crawling pace, but, nonetheless, continues to grow. DeFi has become the center of this development, but cases like ARPA present useful complements to the surging narrative.
For example, onboarding more users by complementing institutional desires with MPC capabilities like dark pool trading using blockchains is a powerful incentive to explore MPC tech. Dark pools play a pivotal role in liquidity that minimizes public market impact, and applied to blockchains, begets some useful scenarios.
Institutional interest is also a driving factor behind many developments. VC and seed funding for crypto-oriented startups is flourishing, in large part because innovations that originally focused on crypto are inducing meaningful changes in other areas. For example, DeFi (distributed) derivatives products have made meaningful strides in indexing and trading technologies that have been lacking in legacy markets.
The promise of faster settlement (with fewer intermediaries) via blockchains is also attracting corporate treasuries, and ironically, the attention of central banks.
Add in the extensibility that projects like ARPA afford smart contracts platforms like Ethereum, and it’s not hard to imagine 2020 becoming the year where promises of tangible improvements in blockchain tech are realized. We’re a far cry from the “overhype and underperform” days of the 2017 ICOs, and are staring down the barrel of widening the scope of advanced cryptographic primitives.
Eminent organizations (like the IEEE with ARPA) are taking notice, and it’s only a matter of time before standards flowing from crypto leak into conventional markets and institutions. 2020 is gearing up to be the year where those steps are measurable, and ARPA’s mainnet is indicative of promising developments in the real-world applications of MPC tech.
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