After nearly a year of working on the technology, Eris Industries’ main product, its application layer for distributed ledger and blockchain apps, has entered beta. In a company statement, Eris Industries CEO, Casey Kuhlman explained, “Eris sits at a layer in the stack between a blockchain client and the operating system. In other words, eris is an application platform”
“The 0.10 release of eris represents a significant step forward for our work. After our 0.9 release we understood that we needed to completely redesign how the platform operated.”
— – Casey Kuhlman, Eris Industries CEO
The firm has reworked the majority of the technology stack, in order to make the process of developing distributed applications easier for engineers wishing to to do so. “Eris is free software that allows anyone to build their own secure, low-cost, run-anywhere data infrastructure using blockchain and smart contract technology,” states the platform documentation.
The company has discontinued efforts to develop it’s own permissioned blockchain, a ledger that is controlled by an organization or group of individuals. The company originally developed its blockchain based on code from Ethereum, a ‘Blockchain 2.0’ cryptocurrency platform that was created with greater smart contract functionality than bitcoin.
“Our permissioned smart contract network (blockchain) design which was called Thelonious has been continued and integrated into the Tendermint project. We have been supporting the Tendermint project by paying one of our Core Developers to work on the Tendermint protocol and blockchain design. Tendermint is a permission-able, proof of stake based blockchain design.”
— – Kuhlman
Tendermint is a cryptocurrency consensus network developed by Cornell computer science graduate, and former Yelp engineer, Jae Kwon. Unlike Bitcoin’s consensus protocol, which uses Proof-of-Work and requires large amounts of energy, Tendermint claims to be able to solve the famed Byzantine General problem, but without the large cost. Eris is “actively supporting the Tendermint open source project where our permissioned smart contract network efforts have continued,“ Kuhlman explained.
The company also stated that it’s command line tool, EPM, is being replaced. “EPM as a tool became overly bloated and unweidly with three different blockchain designs compiled into the binary and other challenges.”
“The functionality of running, installing, creating, and organizing blockchains is now handled by the eris-cli tool. The smart contract package management functionality of EPM is now handled by eris-pm.”
— – Kuhlman
Along with EPM, the distributed application server, Decerver, has “more or less been tabled.” Kuhlman said that, “the idea behind the design was to provide a single server that was able to be plugged into various distributed protocol backends. While the goal was laudable, the implementation was awful.”
Amongst the reworking, the company confirmed its commitment to Docker, an open source software packaging solution. Docker containers wrap up a piece of software in a complete filesystem that contains everything it needs to run: code, runtime, system tools, system libraries. Kuhlman explained, “While some folks have mixed feelings about docker, and while there are still edge cases, it empowers a significant advancement for application developers due to its ‘build once, run the exact same anywhere’ design structure.”
The discontinuation of the companies blockchain development allows the firm to focus on its core platform, and a successful beta. Eris will focus on being the application layer working between blockchain protocols and the operating systems of a user, allowing people to easily build distributed apps. Kulman described the firm’s technology platform as “blockchain agnostic.”
Now that the Eris platform is entering beta, the technology is ready for businesses use, and the firm is increasing its efforts to drive adoption. The company is spending more time reaching out to financial institutions and businesses, as well increasing the technology’s documentation. These efforts also include creating Eris meet ups around the world and looking for communication managers to foster interest among tech circles in major cities, including New York, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, and Nairobi.
Eris Industries first entered the public spotlight in June of 2014, when Olivier Janssens gave the firm second place in a contest he created. The challenge was to find a technology that could replace the Bitcoin Foundation with a decentralized alternative. Eris won $10,000 USD for their efforts, only a month after the platforms development had started. The three men behind the project, Casey Kuhlman, Dennis McKinnon and Preston Byrne, spent the next several months establishing the company, and officially launched Eris Industries in Dec 2014.
The company went on to secure seed funding, of an undisclosed amount, raised from European investment and advisory firm Anthemis Group. Yann Ranchere, Anthemis Group Partner, became an Eris Industries board member as part of the deal. In a post on his blog, Ranchere claimed that distributed digital infrastructure could be the next big thing for web development.
“In order to start experimenting with building organisations, services that smartly and cleanly support the creation of distributed organisations at various level (between users, between companies, between countries ?), an architecture that allows the distribution of the data and the transparency of the underlying logic will play a fundamental role.”
— – Yann Ranchere, Eris Industries Non Executive Director
Smart contracts, including those being developed on the Eris platform, could have many applications among various industries. According to the banking giant Santander, smart contracts will “lead to a wide variety of potential uses in securities, syndicated lending, trade finance, swaps, derivatives or wherever counterparty risk arises.”
The bank’s report on blockchain technology also noted that distributed ledgers could save the banking industry between $15B and $20B USD a year by 2020.
EverLedger is one of the few firms who have been using Eris Industries’ platform, building an anti-fraud service for diamonds and luxury goods. The firm uses the eris application layer to interact with Bitcoin’s blockchain, entering a diamond’s unique characteristics into a bitcoin transactions. Using the service, firms can later identify any stolen or fraudulent stones.
The anti-fraud focused company is currently working with several diamond houses in London, and other major cities, as well working with law enforcement agencies. EverLedger is also working with the British multinational bank Barclays, having graduated from a startup accelerator program the bank helped run.
Other firms building products with the Eris’ platform include freelancing marketplace Microwork, providing a platform for decentralized autonomous organisations, and peer-to-peer open source identity and reputation database 2way.io.
Eris Industries is one of the companies leading the nascent blockchain 2.0 space, and the even more obscure private, or permissioned, blockchain technology space. While some companies have thought about developing on top of the bitcoin blockchain, utilizing its consensus system, many have sought to avoid potential drawbacks, including the cost of transaction processing, reliance on a native currency, and comparatively slow transactions.
By using permissioned blockchains, many large institutions hope to utilize the advantages of blockchain technologies without having to reply on anonymous actors around the globe to validate transactions.
Eris Industries is far from the only company pursuing what they regard as a huge opportunity to reinvent how data is stored and transfer. Ripple Labs, creators and developers of the Ripple protocol, were one of the first startups to explore the idea, when they started in 2012.
Although not originally interested in institutional use cases, the Ripple Labs began signing partnerships with banks in 2014. Fidor Bank, a German bank with a reputation for innovative financial services, was the first to start using the technology in May of 2014, allowing customers to send and receive any currency for free.
Since then Ripple Labs has signed on numerous banks, including three of Australia’s ‘Big Four,’ who have been testing the protocol by settling payments between the banks and their respective subsidiaries.
Most recently, the global network for low-value bank-to-bank payments, Earthport, announced a new real-time payment service built on top of the Ripple protocol. It is the first public service using the technology and will enable Earthport’s customer, who are all small to large financial institutions, to begin using the using the technology without having to integrate it. The financial institution originally announced the partnership with Ripple Labs back in December of 2014.
There are also a number of smaller firms building technologies for permissioned ledgers, mostly focusing on the settlement between large banks. HyperLedger, a distributed ledger platform focusing on institutional settlement that was acquired by Digital Asset Holding (DAH) in June. DAH is a financial services company created by Chairman of Santander Consumer USA, and former head of global commodities at Goldman Sachs, Blythe Master. The HyperLedger’s technology will be used by DAH to develop new platforms for banks.
Other firms that are developing similar technologies based off of Ethereum are London-based Clearmatics, South Africa-based BoardRoom, and New York-based Consensys. There are also many firms building on top of the Bitcoin blockchain. Symbiont is a blockchain-based platform for financial markets founded by co-creators of the CounterParty protocol. The firm holds that for the time being, Bitcoin’s blockchain is the most tested and trusted, and thus the most secure. However, they are also developing private blockchain technologies citing many of the reasons being put forward by Eris Industries and others.