Caleb James DeLisle: Co-founder at PKT Explains how they’ve Used Blockchain Tech to Pay Users for Contributing Unused Internet Bandwidth

CJDNS SASU, a French software R&D start-up in the PKT ecosystem, recently announced its funding agreement with NGI-LEDGER, a European Commission’s initiative that aims “to shape the development and evolution of the Internet.”

The agreement secures funding for SafePKT, an initiative that aims to bring automated software verification to technologies in the PKT blockchain and ecosystem.

As stated in an update shared with CI:

“With an aligned vision to build decentralized data governance technologies for a more human centric Internet, NGI-LEDGER and CJDNS SASU will help SafePKT build on PKT’s ultimate goal of creating an “Internet by the people, for the people.”

The SafePKT project is reportedly being led by Fausto Spoto, Professor at the University of Verona, Italy, and Etienne Payet, Professor at the University of Reunion, France, who bring 40+ years of “combined experience in correctly proving software using scientific methodology.”

Spoto remarked:

“I think the SafePKT project will allow for a new exploration in the field of software verification in the burgeoning blockchain space. It is important to do so, since blockchain code requires high quality levels and this is exactly what software verification and static code analysis add to software development. The use of new programming languages, such as Rust, gives more interest to the application of software verification, which has been essentially limited, up to now, to mainstream programming languages.”

“As a researcher, I’ve been working in the areas of software verification and static code analysis for over 20 years now. I think the SafePKT project is an incredible opportunity to apply the techniques I’ve studied and developed so far to large scale industrial code, which I’ve never had the chance to do before,” Payet added.

SafePKT’s vision is to “re-imagine and re-engineer the Internet for the third millennium and beyond to enable human potential, mobility and creativity at the largest possible scale — while dealing responsibly with our natural resources.”

The collaboration will be “at the core of the European Commission’s policy to allow for decentralised data governance and will adhere to the United Nations agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Thierry Marianne, Research and Development Software Engineer at CJDNS, added:

“In order to ship robust and maintainable software, I’ve been trying test-driven development among other techniques like pair-programming for a while now and it’s very exciting to participate to the research of static code analysis for a new language like Rust in the context of SafePKT,”

Caleb James DeLisle, Co-founder and Lead Developer at PKT, noted:

“I’d like to commend the LEDGER consortium, NGI initiative, and the European Commission, not only for fostering European competitiveness in this blossoming field, but also for helping establish European values within the still evolving blockchain ecosystem.”

NGI (Next Generation Internet) is a European Commission’s initiative that aims “to shape the development and evolution of the Internet into an Internet that responds to people’s fundamental needs, including trust, security, and inclusion, while reflecting the values and the norms all citizens enjoy in Europe.”

NGI funds innovators that address technological opportunities “with a focus on privacy and trust, search and discovery, decentralized architectures, blockchain, Internet of Things, social media, interactive technologies as well as technologies supporting multilingualism and accessibility.”

LEDGER is a EU-funded consortium project of FundingBox, Dyne and BLUMORPHO, three “established entities with track records in research and business development excellence.”

The project supports research and innovation projects “addressing: privacy-by-design, reliability, trustworthiness and openness as core values by providing funding, technical, and business mentorships.”

Caleb James DeLisle, Co-founder and Lead Developer at PKT, has shared exclusive insights with Crowdfund Insider on this announcement.

Our detailed discussion is shared below.

Crowdfund Insider: PKT is the first blockchain that pays users for contributing unused Internet bandwidth. How was this use-case conceived and developed within your internal teams?

Caleb James DeLisle: The PKT project has its philosophical and technical origins in a 10 year old project called cjdns. The vision of cjdns is that ordinary people could own and operate internet infrastructure if only it weren’t so complex to do so. To this end, we developed a system where IPv6 addresses could be created just like cryptographic keys rather than being assigned by internet providers or regional authorities. We also developed a novel routing strategy which we call compact source routing.

The way the internet works today, data is sent in packets and each packet bears the address of its destination. With compact source routing, packets instead bear a binary representation of the path they should take through the network, greatly reducing the amount of processing which must take place in the routers which forward the internet’s traffic.

In 2011 there was no effective way to do decentralized micro-payments, and so the cjdns project was very much focused on simplifying the technological aspect of networking, but we always recognized the importance of also solving the financial and administrative aspects.

The key shift which made it possible to start moving in this direction was when lightning network technology started to mature. So in 2019 we launched the PKT blockchain with a vision to build a decentralized bandwidth marketplace which could decouple the technical and administrative aspects of internet service from the operation of the hard physical infrastructure, which brings us back to the unused internet bandwidth.

The PKT blockchain is based on the first ever bandwidth-hard proof of work algorithm called PacketCrypt. PacketCrypt is designed to foster the buildout of internet infrastructure by creating artificial demand for bandwidth.

Crowdfund Insider: Please explain how the PKT algorithm has been developed and how does it differ from other Internet bandwidth-focused projects like Mysterium?

Caleb James DeLisle: There are a fair number of crypto projects these days which are somehow internet, networking, or VPN related, but the key difference I want to draw attention to is the difference between what is a coin and what is a token.

A lot of these projects are not actual blockchains in the sense of Bitcoin, Litecoin or Ethereum, but instead they’re smart-contract based tokens. So in essence a founding team decides that they’re going to create a hundred billion tokens and then they go about handing these tokens out to their friends, developers, investors, etc.

Then when people are “mining” these tokens, what’s really going on is they’re doing some actions like sharing wifi with the neighbor, and there’s a centralized validator which is checking that they probably did the action and then paying them out some tokens. In effect it’s like the old Bitcoin Faucets except there’s just one central one paying out tokens from the ICO.

Now one advantage that these token projects have is their central validators can pay tokens to people for doing pretty much anything. So for example tokens can be paid out to people for filling captchas or providing wifi in their community or even for planting trees. If someone figures out how to trick the validator and get paid tokens when they shouldn’t, the founding team can update the validator or just outright ban them.

Fully decentralized coin projects on the other hand must stick to algorithms like SHA-256 (Bitcoin), Scrypt (Litecoin), or ProgPow (Ethereum), where every node in the network is able to cryptographically verify that the miner did honest work in order to get the coins.

While coins don’t have the flexibility of tokens, the real Achilles Heel of tokens are their founding teams. If the founding team of a token project should ever encounter legal troubles, become fragmented, or just decide they want to pivot, this can be a disaster for token holders, but a coin will live on through thick and thin, as long as there remains someone interested to mine it. And when you look at the names and faces who have come and gone in the Bitcoin ecosystem, it is hard to overstate the importance of this decentralization.

One of the key innovations of the PKT project is the PacketCrypt algorithm which allows miners to earn PKT by expending their unused internet bandwidth. So while there have been plenty of tokens using “proof of bandwidth” style schemes in their central validators, PacketCrypt is the first true proof of work algorithm based on bandwidth.

Because it must be cryptographically verified, PacketCrypt does involve computation – but that computation becomes exponentially easier when the miners work together, requiring high bandwidth communication.

The vision of PacketCrypt is to foster the buildout of internet infrastructure by creating artificial demand for bandwidth. But PacketCrypt also has another trick up its sleeve: that computation which must exist in for the security equation to work is itself designed to mimic the computation needed to encrypt and decrypt network packets for a VPN, so every effort to build more efficient PacketCrypt mining equipment pays a dividend to everyone by reducing the cost of encryption for privacy and security.

Crowdfund Insider:  Your initiative has acquired a grant from the LEDGER project – which is part of the Next Generation Internet Fund that is backed by the European Commission (EC).

Please explain the process that you had to go through in order to acquire this type of assistance. How has this helped you in achieving your goals?

Caleb James DeLisle: From my 7 years of experience in research, I have seen my share of application processes, and I have to say that the LEDGER project had the most pleasant application process I’ve ever experienced.

We had to read the project call and discuss with our collaborators about what we might like to propose and then fill out the application form online. Then we were invited to pitch the project in front of an evaluation committee and a few weeks later we got the notification that our application was accepted.

We proposed the SafePKT project around bringing automatic software verification to the Rust programming language. Rust is known for being a safety-centric programming language and is quickly being adopted in many mission critical applications, but as a relatively young language, a lot of the academic methods for software verification have not yet been adapted to it. So we are excited to be able to bring the many years of experience of professor Etienne Payet and professor Fausto Spoto to bear on this project.

Crowdfund Insider: SafePKT will bring automated software verification to the PKT ecosystem and its technologies. What are the benefits of performing this type of verification?

Caleb James DeLisle: A fair number of technologies used in the PKT ecosystem, including PacketCrypt, are written in Rust, and this automatic software verification will allow us to evolve these technologies more quickly and with a higher margin of safety.

In addition, Rust is being adopted as a smart contract language in a number of projects, and millions of dollars have been lost to smart contract bugs such as the famous Ethereum DAO, and more recently the hack which stole over 600 million dollars worth of crypto from the Poly Network.

Overall, I think we have reached a turning point for software verification and I can’t think of a better application than this.

Crowdfund Insider: You’ve noted PKT will be able to build what is already a significant cultural commonality between PKT’s vision of “internet by the people, for the people,” and the EC’s vision of LEDGER and the Next Generation Internet.

The LEDGER initiative is able to work with SafePKT and many others to help build decentralized data governance technologies for a more human centric Internet. The SafePKT project will run until December of 2021.

What exactly do you mean by “human-centric” Internet and what would that look like?

Caleb James DeLisle: From its origins as a communications platform designed to survive a nuclear attack, the internet has always been decentralized.

But most people’s access to it is provided by a handful of enormous telecommunication companies, and then people use the internet to access a handful of huge web platforms like Google and Facebook. People are not evolved to exist in these giant spaces where everyone is catalogued, numbered, and processed. People are meant to be part of a community of comprehensible size where they can have meaningful relationships.

On the side of web applications and social networks, there are a lot of exciting things happening in communities which federate over protocols like ActivityPub and Matrix, but there is far less happening on the side of how people access the internet to begin with.

The vision of PKT as an overall project, is to decouple the administrative aspects of networking from the operation of hard physical infrastructure. This is similar to how Uber decouples the administration of a taxi service from the infrastructure of the cars and drivers themselves, but whereas Uber is a single central entity, in the PKT project we envision many “Cloud ISPs” collaborating and competing for the business of end users while bidding on network capacity in a decentralized bandwidth marketplace.

Crowdfund Insider What are your plans as a team working on this project for the remainder of this year and going into 2022?

Caleb James DeLisle: So we clearly have our work cut out for us, in order to build this decentralized bandwidth marketplace we need the ability to subdivide bandwidth and router resources, the ability to create and trade near-zero-cost tokens which represent those resources, and then the software for Cloud ISPs to be able to manage their operations and convert these raw bandwidth resources into internet service for their customers.

The capability to subdivide network routing devices is not possible with current internet protocols because of the amount of data a router needs to have in memory in order to do its job. Core internet routers have about all they can do to hold the data needed for just one network, so making one router act as though it were multiple virtual routers is essentially out of the question.

But this is where cjdns’s compact source routing comes into play, because all of the routing decisions are pre-computed and attached to the data packet, the routers need little to no data in memory which is what makes the entire project feasible.

For tokenization of routing and bandwidth resources, we clearly need a highly scalable token solution, and for this we are working on a project called TokenStrike. The objective of TokenStrike is to allow anyone to create their own small native blockchain. This will allow tokens to be issued with absolutely no gas fees, transaction fees or underlying blockchain to deal with.

Finally to build successful Cloud ISPs, there will need to be significant technology to control the network routing, verify that customers are getting quality service and identify opportunities to trade the bandwidth marketplace.

We have developed a technology called the Route Server which helps cjdns nodes find paths through a network. There is a business in the ecosystem called PktPal which has developed a hardware product that currently mines but will soon allow internet sharing, and a business called Anode is working on an app for end users to be able to access the network.

Some of these projects in this ecosystem are open source and others are proprietary, but what’s important to understand is that while there are a lot of activities going on, PKT is a decentralized ecosystem just like Bitcoin so there is no all-powerful “founding team”.

Each project is managed by a different team or business and one of the key take-aways I’d like people to get from this is that the PKT project is really about building an ecosystem where anyone can join and start their own business, because actually getting the next billion people connected to the internet is not something any one person or company can do alone, we need to work together.

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