Blockchain is a technology gaining traction, not only in cryptocurrency trading but also in other business sectors as well. A key appeal lies in the fact that it delivers an incredibly secure and decentralised means of accessing a variety of services. This is also what makes it attractive to citizens. “Until blockchain came along, centralised financial institutions had enormous power,” explains NGRAVE project coordinator Ruben Merre, co-founder and CEO of NGRAVE, Belgium. “Blockchain decentralises this information.” This is because each blockchain transaction must first go through what is called a decentralised consensus protocol. This involves not just a single centralised node, but a great number of different nodes in the network, that all need to confirm that the transaction is valid. A second advantage is unparalleled security. “The cryptography underlying blockchain cannot be broken with today’s available computing power,” says Merre. “Even quantum computers don’t come close to breaking so-called blockchain private keys.” Merre points out that there are almost as many possible private key values as there are atoms in the universe.
Secure transaction solutions
This very strength however can also be a drawback. “If you forget your bank account password, you simply ask for a new one,” notes Merre. “But if you lose your blockchain private key, that’s it – you can’t gain access to your account. There is no centralised party to help you recover it.” There is also the risk that hackers might access your codes if you create and/or store them online. The NGRAVE concept was developed to address these challenges, as well as to radically improve user experiences. NGRAVE’s flagship product ‘ZERO’ is a touchscreen device built to operate completely offline. It can generate private keys as well as sign blockchain transactions, all without needing to be online. “Hackers can’t make a connection to the ZERO,” explains Merre. “They can’t therefore even attempt to hack it.” The second thing NGRAVE addressed is what happens if you lose your private key. Many people write their codes down on paper, which is obviously not ideal. NGRAVE therefore came up with a clever backup solution, dubbed ‘GRAPHENE’. This consists of two fireproof stainless steel plates that together form and show the private key, but are meaningless separately. The 6-month EU-funded project was launched with the objective of bringing these innovations to market. Cost-benefit analyses of merging the ZERO and GRAPHENE concepts were carried out, along with an examination of future back-up solutions. The project also enabled the start-up to develop a technology roadmap to 2024, and to come up with a pricing strategy.
Tapping market potential
Since project completion in March 2020, the company has taken pre-orders and aims to beginning shipping in October / November the same year. “Our crowdfunding campaign was the third most successful in Belgian history,” says Merre. “We are currently moving from the crowdfunding platform to our own website and webshop. Customers will be able to order the device online and receive it a few days later, anywhere in the world.” Merre notes that while individual investors are the primary target audience, businesses like banks and insurance firms are moving towards adopting blockchain technology as well. This is a potentially lucrative market. “The only thing we’ll have to keep updating are the device capabilities,” he explains. “For example, in a business context, it is more common that three managers need to each sign a transaction before it can be processed.”
NGRAVE, cryptocurrency, hackers, online, digital, security, blockchain, quantum