Widespread use of blockchain technology has faced slow adoption rates in part because the associated learning curve is high. Blockchain is still quite a young technology which means it lacks tools, documentation and best practices. This leads to a high complexity when trying to develop applications which are blockchain-powered. We were curious about how to propel this situation forward by enabling developers to build hassle-free blockchain-based apps.
To move forward, we collaborated with our community to identify key challenges which include:
Private key storage issues: What to do with the keys? Who should hold them?
User hurdles: The user requires blockchain knowledge, and this therefore limits the possible target group.
Cybersecurity & timing: The developer is usually not an expert when it comes to safety. He or she has to start at point zero. This requires a huge amount of time to get started.
Connection to the blockchain: There is no standardized way to connect to blockchains. Projects have to figure out a stable and reliable way to connect to blockchains.
Signing transactions: Complexity depends on who holds the private key. This can be tricky when it comes to transaction fees, monitoring, etc.
As a company builder in IoT and blockchain, we’re dedicated to bringing speedier innovation solutions to these and related challenges. We find that a collaborative approach works best in terms of co-founding successful tech startups and building hardware and service-oriented solutions. With that in mind, we want to introduce you to a recent collaboration that embodies this sum-is-greater-than-its parts approach. You’ll see how with the right merging of skill sets and the right setting, you can move the complexities of blockchain to the background and innovation to the foreground.
Tangany is a Munich-based startup which began in September 2018 and with whom we recently collaborated. Their product “Wallet-as-a-Service” was released in April 2019. It is the first of several modules to create a full blockchain infrastructure platform. As successful intrapreneurs, the team behind Tangany brings many years of experience in software development, marketing, sales and finance. The startup has received nearly €200,000 via governmental programs for being an innovative high-tech startup.
Cloud or blockchain Infrastructure requires a full system, whereas Wallet-as-a-Service is the first module. Other modules will follow in the next couple of months, but we’ll get to that later. For now, Tangany offers Wallet-as-a-Service, which enables companies to simplify the development of blockchain apps enormously. They handle the complexity and the above-mentioned blockchain challenges. In other words, neither the developer nor the user of the application requires blockchain knowledge. It’s a simple as plugging something into an electrical socket.
This made Tangany the perfect choice to combine forces with during our spring hackathon. A hackathon provided a real-world opportunity for Tangany to help developers and NBT to collaborate and foster innovation in support of new ideas and new companies, such as Bounty Boards, a project from one of our own blockchain developers, Martin Maurer.
Tangany Co-founders Alexey Utin (l) & Christopher Zapf (r), flank NBT's Venture Developer Martin Maurer
Why a Hackathon? Making Blockchain Approachable
In April 2019, NBT and Weiße Arena AG jointly hosted a Blockchain & Machine Learning Hackathon in Laax, Switzerland under the hashtag #LaaxSnowHack. The hosts provided an IoT sensor to track data from the participating snowboarders. The goal of the hackathon was to analyze this data and reward users with tokens for special snowboarding tricks. Tangany provided the blockchain gateway to an Ethereum Private Network that enabled all participants to easily interact with the blockchain. The hackers quickly integrated Tangany within the Android App so that every user had their own wallet – without the hassle of handling a private key.
Tangany Co-founder Christopher Zapf shows how the coffee machine was paid with crypto.
As a refresher, public blockchains are like Bitcoin and Ethereum, while private blockchains are Private Ethereum or Quorum. This is sort of comparable to the Internet vs. all the Intranets. Private blockchains are setup for specific use cases and mostly limited in access (to the organization).
With Tangany, the blockchain moved into the background layer so that every user was able to use a blockchain-based app without needing prior knowledge of private keys, gas (a unit of measurement of how much work is required for a set of actions), or other technicalities.
Laax: Results & Actionable Learnings
Tangany wanted to ensure that all participants of the hackathon were empowered to work with blockchain, regardless of whether they had worked with that technology before. No prior knowledge was needed and this lowered the entry barrier to success.
Uplifting environment of the spring 2019 Hackathon in Laax Switzerland with NBT AG, Weiße Arena & Tangany GmbH
Tangany received very positive feedback from the hackers for the simplicity of their system and how their smart wallet could be used. In evaluating what kind of challenges remained, it seemed hackers were still not yet crystal clear as to what the possibilities of blockchain are, and for what purpose it can be used. Some participants also didn’t quite know how to get started. So collectively we identified that it might have been a good idea if there would have been some short workshop about blockchain’s strengths.
What does the Future Hold?
Up next for Tangany is completion of the infrastructure solution with the other modules. This will include what's listed below (but you can learn more at Tangany’s website):
Offline custody wallet
Regulation/KYC (identity check of users)
Blockchain-as-a-Service by adding new Private Blockchains to the selection
They will continue to support new blockchains and generally upgrade their system. Tangany aims to empower Germany and the EU to use blockchain to compete with other innovative regions in the world (USA and China). In this way, Tangany aligns well with NBT’s goal of building ventures in the blockchain space. You can get to know our ventures here.
Hackathon participants gathered against the stunning backdrop of Laax, Switzerland.
We’re open to more such collaborations that move the needle in terms of making high tech accessible to more people. We're looking forward to Berlin Blockchain Week later in August where we’ll be hosting a VC event, inviting ETH Zwei hackathon participants to our IoT Lab, and to participate in rowing machine challenges to earn tokens. Follow Tangany and NBT on Twitter to keep updated on each of our activities!