XAIN: Consensus Algorithm & Access Control Protocol

2 weeks ago
By CeAnn Simpson
Posted: Updated:
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This industry-specific and innovative project (XAIN: The eXpandable AI Network) combines an access control protocol with a unique two-fold consensus algorithm which meets the dynamic nature of IoT networks, with specific applications to connected cars or machine networks.  XAIN has partnerships with Porsche, NVIDIA and Daimler.  They have completed a case study with Porsche using their protocol for the first time within a production hybrid client vehicle to enable user-centric access control. XAIN won the 1st Porsche Innovation Contest against 120 international start-ups in mid-2017.

XAIN’s protocol has three unique features:

  • Three different types of clients:
  1. Dataloggers that store the entire Merkle tree of the Blockchain, including the history of all transactions;
  2. Initiators, clients that are comparable to light clients in Ethereum in that they look at neighbouring logging-only clients for actual data, but also have the ability to put new transactions into the network; and
  3. Processors (also known as miners) – hybrid nodes that mine new transactions and store the newest stack of transactions. These clients only store transactions in a recursive pyramid structure, which means over time, the density of storage decreases.
  • Access Control and Key Management: Access permissions are securely logged in the blockchain protocol and embedded clients on micro-controllers for device-level authentication, validation and execution. Lightweight Embedded Clients for IoT devices such as microcontrollers allows users to log events and access machine functions remotely as well as providing lightweight validation of network-wide access permissions.
  • Practical Proof of Kernel Work (PPoKW): The two-fold patented consensus mechanism, combining cryptographic sortition and reduced proof of work, is energy-efficient, supports dynamic network structures and secure scalability for machine networks.

XAIN’s PPoKW approach is based on two pillars:

  1. Reduction to a Kernel (reducing the set of nodes that can participate in the solving of Proof of Work puzzles) means that an adversary cannot increase his attack surface based on Cryptographic Sortition. Cryptographic sortition creates a publicly verifiable random function written on the blockchain.  This function randomly selects an expected number of network nodes to perform critical system tasks, notably the mining of the next block.
  2. Reduction of Proof of Work through an adaptation of existing Blockchain and enterprise technology stacks.

By combining these pillars, XAIN creates a blockchain-based communication platform for energy-critical low-latency systems such as IoT networks where nodes consistently enter or leave the network.  Their mission is to create an information auditing channel between IoT objects in a network built on their blockchain protocol.  This approach reduces the energy consumption of the Proof of Work and mining process.

Practically, the applications of XAIN are infinite as are the IoT networks which could be created and run using this protocol.  It is easy to imagine a world with autonomous vehicles.  This project would enable shared vehicle access between users and record traffic data over the Blockchain, in direct communication with other vehicles.  It might also get your packages delivered into a vehicle you use, where you could then pick it up.

This project is the first I have seen that addresses the problems around enterprise data silos and the data transaction volumes necessary to run these dynamic networks.  Their unique client and node structure delivers task management around consensus and paves the way for data processing on the vast scale envisaged in machine networks.

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