In a fast-evolving world that is becoming increasingly data-driven, access to real-time data is of vital importance for tech companies looking to establish dominance in their field. Streamr seeks to provide a solution and is building the world’s leading marketplace for real-time data with the framework for scalable, secure, and efficient data transfer. We recently had an opportunity to interview Henri Pihkala, CEO and Founder, Streamr and know about his vision and his company’s journey so far. Streamr is a distributed open-source software project.
Streamr Labs has its head office in Zug, Switzerland. This lies in the middle of “Crypto Valley” which is the region in Switzerland that has the most favourable laws/regulation related to blockchain-based businesses.
The core team has a diverse group of members with experience ranging from machine learning to finance and software development. They also have entrepreneurs who have founded and sold other related businesses. Let’s dive into the interview question and answers we had with Henri Pihkala, CEO and Founder, Streamr.
Please tell us about yourself and your journey in the crypto industry so far?
Data economy has been a huge influence in my professional journey, encouraging me in founding three companies in the data space. Before my entrepreneurial journey began, I worked in an algorithmic trading company, but eventually decided that I wanted to do more than just execute others’ ideas and give life and form to entirely new ideas.
So, the first company I founded was an algorithmic trading company that leveraged real-time data to make trading decisions at high frequency. This gave me a clear preview of the value of data in the trading space, following which I started another company that offered a more generic real-time data platform as a cloud-based SaaS offering to allow companies outside of finance to leverage the tools, analytics, and automation commonly employed in trading.
But eventually, me and my co-founders decided to pivot towards building a decentralized, open-source platform, and that’s how Streamr was born. We saw that the only way to power a healthy, global data economy was via neutral and open infrastructure.
What is Streamr?
Streamr is a distributed open-source project, incorporated in 2017 and based in Zug, Switzerland. Streamr Network AG is the corporate entity which coordinates the implementation of the protocol. The project’s goal is to build the decentralized infrastructure for real-time data, replacing centralized message brokers with a global peer-to-peer network. By relying on cryptography instead of trust, the open-source network aims to enable data sharing and monetization in IoT and smart cities, business consortia, individual crowd selling through Data Unions and the decentralized web (Web 3.0).
The internet’s current data infrastructures are monopolized by the big tech, and almost every company and individual in the world depends on them in some way. This huge problem can only be solved in small pieces, and our focus is on the part that has to do with real-time data infrastructure. This data is extremely valuable for marketers, new market entrants, hedge funds, researchers and many more. Streamr believes that society will be better off when the value from, and control over, our data is decentralised away from a few giant corporations.
At Streamr, we’re creating an alternative model for data transport, sharing, and monetization where data is interconnectable, secure, and controlled by those who produce it. With the technologies we are creating, data flows become easily shareable and monetizable, and even completely new business models can emerge. This accelerates the birth of efficient and scalable global data economies.
What are Streamr, Data Union and Streamr Marketplace?
Streamr, DATAcoin, or DATA, is the cryptographic token representing the value in the Streamr ecosystem, implemented as an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain. The companion blockchain is used for value settlement, identity, and permission control, while the actual data transmission is handled by the scalable Streamr Network. Broker nodes contribute bandwidth and storage to the network and earn DATA paid as usage fees.
A Data Union is a framework, currently being built on the Streamr Marketplace, that allows people to easily bundle and sell their real-time data and earn revenue. On its own, our data does not hold much value, but when combined in a Data Union, it aggregates into an attractive product for buyers to extract insights. This is crowd-selling and has the potential to generate unique data sets by incentivising trade directly from the data producers.
Streamr Marketplace is a platform created for anyone to buy and sell real-time data. This is the first application to be built on the Streamr Network, with third parties offering a range of products for sale – everything from cryptocurrency feeds to pollution data. Buyers can pay in DATA, ETH and DAI.
Why should one choose Streamr over other cloud services which can provide scalability and investment as per use?
Streamr protocol enables a data economy where humans, AI, and connected machines and applications can share access to data and monetize it openly, fairly, and transparently. It removes all central server or cloud service and replaces it with a peer-to-peer network and protocol. So while to applications, it feels like any traditional message queue or pub/sub message broker; but the observed data transport service is delivered by a swarm of independently operating nodes working together.
Teams developing with the Streamr protocol can create new kinds of business models around real-time data – whether it’s data crowdsourcing, IoT connectivity, global data sales, or purely technical improvements over the data pipelines provided by cloud services today.
“Streamr runs smart contracts on Ethereum Network”, How does it plan to overcome the scalability issue and increasing gas price of Ethereum Network?
Streamr has built its own scaling solution Monoplasma to skirt around the issue of increasing gas costs on Ethereum. That means that if a Data Union wants to send money to several thousand members, gas costs aren’t in the way. However, in order to deploy a smart contract for a Data Union gas costs still have to be paid. This is however just a one time expense. Going forward we are confident that Ethereum 2.0 will deliver better scalability and that we will see a decrease in gas prices.
Name some use cases where Streamr is being used or can be used?
With the abundance of data gathering requirements among service providers, Streamr has several use cases where it can add value to data economies. It ranges across several industry verticals like healthcare, gaming, social media, eCommerce and more. At the moment we have three popular solutions built on Streamr that are taking ground.
Swash is Streamr’s first Data Union. It’s a browser extension developed by Streamr community members which allow its users to capture, anonymise and sell their browsing data on the Streamr marketplace. Swash is a new, transparent way to reclaim control of the value of your data.
Tracey is an app for fisherfolk that will use the Streamr stack for documenting and verifying catch and traceability data. Tracey is currently being developed and tested in cooperation with Streamr’s subsidiary TX, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines and UnionBank of the Philippines.
MyDiem is an app for Android that captures phone device and app usage information paired with demographic data, such as age bracket, country/region, and gender. It allows its users to monetise statistics about their mobile apps usage, like time or frequency, without revealing any personal data. MyDiem was developed by Streamr community members and is now being transitioned into a DAO, a decentralized autonomous organisation, in cooperation with DAO Stack, to create a fully self-governed global data ecosystem.
Data Unions are built on a special framework that sits on top of the Streamr open data Marketplace and anyone can build a Data Union by simply referring to our developer documents and tutorials to get started exploring the framework.
If you have an idea for a Data Union, please submit a proposal to the Streamr Data Fund with as much information as you can provide. We also provide funding for successful proposals.
How many nodes are currently active in the network, that makes it truly decentralized?
At this stage, there are only several dozen nodes in the Network. Most of them are still operated by the Streamr core team. Some additional nodes by the University of Helsinki. The next step on the roadmap is to open up the network to trusted nodes. Interested parties can apply and soon run their own nodes. Going forward, come 2022 anyone will be able to run their own node in the network. Trust will no longer be needed since the right incentive mechanisms will be created through a stable token economy.
What is that sole purpose, on which Streamr focuses the most?
The project mission is to build the real-time data infrastructure of the decentralised web (Web 3.0) that can contribute to sustainable data economies.
What are the major exchanges where DATA token is listed, and also other exchanges where it will be listed soon?
What part of the globe do you see as the most potential market for Streamr?
Streamr operates on a global scale. The technology is being used from teams in Asia, the US and Europe. The team’s goal is to create a global network for real-time data and make this truly global. There are existing Data Unions being built in the Philippines, Turkey, Finland and the US.
As a platform, what use case can make Streamr stand out of the crowd?
Simply put, Streamr is not only a viable business solution but it is one that focuses on enabling pro-active data management solutions for consumers as well. It stands out in incentivising consent and provides a user-friendly space where both businesses and consumers can benefit equally as primary stakeholders in the data-sharing economy.
What are the future plans and expansion plans of Streamr?
Collaborations with like-minded stakeholders in the industry play a huge role in helping us spread the word about Streamr and expand our operations. As an attempt to enable one of the biggest developer communities in the world with Streamr, we’ve partnered with Lumos Labs to conduct the Streamr Data Challenge. We’re also working on a pilot to set up data unions with three global telcos as we’ve partnered with GSMA – a global association representing the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.
On the development roadmap, we’re working on helping everyone run nodes in the network without being bogged down by a limit, so much so that the network will start to decentralise without limit.
On the development side, we’re working on delivering the next milestone of the Streamr Network. This milestone will be achieved in 2021 and enables anyone to run nodes in the network, meaning that the network can start to decentralize without limit. With untrusted parties running nodes, features like end-to-end encryption to keep data safe are essential. In the next 18 months, we will be approaching the final milestone of our initial roadmap. This is a really significant point for us as it marks the “1.0” release of the whole ecosystem stack. This will involve the addition of network-level token incentives that will provide users with larger incentives.
The last question will be, what do you think about the future of Blockchain Technology and DeFi market and where do you see Streamr in it?
Among decentralized technologies, Blockchains are here to stay. In contrast to the emergence of the internet, the scope of solutions that blockchains can offer industries is vast and holds great potential in reaching mass adoption. With the world progressing with data-centeredness, we’re in need of solutions that will lead us to a point where ethical treatment of user data to fully wield its potential to create sound transactional data economies will be the norm. There is tremendous value in blockchain technology as it builds trust and brings value by creating consumer inclusion.
A potential marriage between DeFi and the data economy could bring about tokenized data products which can be traded and speculated on. Similar to the stock market’s futures on rice or oil, traders could buy data futures.
DECODING MINDS – a brand new series of interviews by Digital Notice to give you an insight into the projects straight from the Founders and the Team. Each article explores the real-world experiences and expertise of our guests to discuss their unique perspective on the project use cases, its challenges, its changes, and its prospects in the fiercely competitive world of Crypto and Blockchain.