Raullen Chai, Co-Founder & CEO of IoTeX – Interview Series

Raullen Chai is the Co-founder & CEO of IoTeX , a leading blockchain & IoT platform that is empowering the Internet of Trusted Things. Raullen received his Ph. D in Cryptography from University of Waterloo and served in Tech Lead roles at Oracle and Google from 2012-2016.

You’ve had a successful career having led engineering teams at Google and Uber. What inspired you to launch IoTeX?

After receiving my Ph.D from the University of Waterloo, I moved to Silicon Valley and led tech teams at Oracle, Google, and Uber throughout 2012-2017. These experiences working at the world’s premier tech companies were invaluable — I learned how to build ultra-secure systems at scale, as well as how technology fits into their overall business models.

However, I always knew my contributions and innovations were benefiting Google and Uber, not necessarily everyday people and businesses. As an early Bitcoin adopter and believer in blockchain, I knew my future would blend my passions in technology and social good.

After meeting my co-founders Qevan and Jing in early 2017, we began to ideate on how best we could apply the ethos of blockchain to establish a new paradigm for how users interact with their devices, identities, and data.

Three years later, IoTeX is now powering the first decentralized smart devices that enable users to own and control their smart devices, as well as the data and value they generate. We’re still just getting started on our journey to build the Internet of Trusted Things!

Most of us are familiar with IoT, could you explain how the Internet of Trusted Things is different?

IoTeX is building the Internet of Trusted Things, an open ecosystem where humans and machines can interact with guaranteed trust, free will, and privacy. Unlike traditional smart devices where centralized corporations custody, mine, and profit from our data, devices that are “Powered by IoTeX” enable users to own and control their data as a property right with “privacy by design”.

We envision a future where self-sovereign users can own and control their smart devices, as well as the data and value they generate. We believe everyday people and businesses, not profit-hungry institutions, should be the ultimate benefactors of the future machine economy.

Using blockchain and secure hardware, IoTeX not only addresses the current IoT’s shortfalls in security, privacy, and interoperability, but also empowers users to capture data/value from their devices and utilize/monetize it in decentralized applications (DApps) on the IoTeX platform.

Could you explain the private/public features of the IoTeX open-source blockchain?

IoTeX is a permissionless (public) blockchain with privacy-preserving capabilities. Private blockchains (often called “permissioned blockchains”) restrict read/write capabilities to select users/nodes, while public blockchains (“permissionless blockchains”) enable anyone to read/write information to the blockchain.

The permissionless nature of IoTeX is extremely important — anyone can join the network, participate in the consensus process, and interact with various DApps without requiring permission from anyone.

However, all data that is written to public blockchains are visible by anyone — IoTeX uniquely combines privacy-protecting hardware and tamper-proof blockchain to maintain permissionless-ness while also enabling devices/users to own their data exclusively, which is a prerequisite to absolute privacy.

What are the benefits of introducing the token economy into IoT spaces?

Blockchain is an elegant combination of technology and economics, which are encoded and verifiable by anyone to build trust amongst entities that do not trust each other.

At a high level, tokens are a mechanism to incentivize different sets of stakeholders, enabling them to interact/transact in a peer-to-peer fashion without a centralized entity.

When applied to the Internet of Things (IoT), this concept is extremely powerful — humans can interact with other humans, humans can interact with devices, and devices can interact with other devices in a completely peer-to-peer fashion without intermediaries clipping high fees for every transaction.

Ultimately this means humans and devices, which will have their own unique identities/wallets on the IoTeX blockchain, will be able to participate in decentralized token economies and deliver various services in exchange for tokens.

As machines become more intelligent and autonomous (e.g., drones, solar panels, robo-taxis), IoTeX and blockchain technology will create a secure, trusted, and interoperable ecosystem that is fueled by token-backed incentives and open to any users and application builders that wish to join.

Could you discuss the tokenomics of IOTX?

The IoTeX blockchain is fueled by the native IOTX token. In addition to representing fractional ownership of the IoTeX Network’s value, IOTX has multiple uses (or “utility”) to enable trusted interactions between stakeholders, including users, Delegates (miners), application builders, and service providers.

The IOTX token instills economic and reputational incentives to ensure the IoTeX Network is governed/maintained in a decentralized fashion. IoTeX stakeholders can spend, stake, and/or burn IOTX in order to access network resources. As the utility of IOTX grows, the demand and value of IOTX will also grow, providing continued incentives for network participants to maintain and grow the network.

As such, IOTX tokenomics are designed to balance incentives across multiple types of stakeholders including users that spend IOTX to use applications, builders that pay IOTX to power their products, Delegates that stake (deposit) IOTX in order to be eligible to participate in consensus, and service providers that stake/spend IOTX to offer services builders.

The maximum supply of IOTX is 10 billion tokens and is deflationary — IOTX is burned for every new device and user that is registered to the IoTeX Network, which rewards long-term holders of IOTX.

It’s worth noting that these are the tokenomics that fuel the IoTeX blockchain, but applications that are “Powered by IoTeX” can have their own tokens and accompanying tokenomics based on the unique incentives/rules they wish to enforce.

IoTeX’s latest hardware, Pebble Tracker has just sold out its first tier on CrowdSupply. What is this product exactly?

Developed in partnership with Nordic Semiconductor, Pebble Tracker is the second “Powered by IoTeX” device; our first was Ucam. Pebble Tracker is a multi-sensor, cellular-connectivity, and blockchain-integrated device that uses a tamper-proof secure element (TEE) to convert real world phenomena into trusted, blockchain-ready data. Pebble Tracker is equipped with cellular connectivity and GPS, climate (temperature, humidity, air quality), motion, and light sensors, which generate data that is cryptographically signed as it is captured, making it verifiable, traceable, and trusted by anyone.

By combining tamper-proof hardware and tamper-proof software (i.e, blockchain), Pebble Tracker establishes a new standard for security and trust. Verifiable data from the secure Pebble Tracker device can be used to inform verifiable smart contracts on the IoTeX blockchain for end-to-end trust.

Bringing real-time, real world data to blockchain will change everything — IoTeX and our partners are working on innovative use cases with Pebble Tracker including decentralized machine learning, GPS-based NFTs  with “proof of presence”, crowdsourced air quality indexes, medical supply chain management, health data management and more.

By enabling Pebble Tracker users to exclusively own their data, as well as verify its authenticity and authorize its use to anyone, IoTeX will unleash a universe of new decentralized applications. These “data farms” will contribute their verifiable data can become shareholders in the farm’s future value.

What is your vision for the IoT infrastructure of the future?

By 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) will consist of >50 billion devices generating 80 trillion gigabytes of data. Today, these devices and data are largely owned by corporations that may not have our best interests in mind. In fact, time after time these corporations have neglected user security, privacy, and transparency in favor of profits.

While Big Tech has transformed our world for the better over the past decade, we are now in a position to propose a new architecture that can power our devices, manage our data, and deliver services to users. One that is user-governed and user-benefitting by design, where self-sovereign users can own and control their smart devices, as well as the data and value they generate.

This vision is now being built by IoTeX using blockchain, decentralized identity, and secure hardware. Blockchain is the root of trust and settlement layer of the entire IoTeX platform and provides a “single version of the truth” via decentralized consensus.

On this blockchain, a decentralized identity system enables both people and devices to have interoperable on-chain identities, allowing them to transact and establish ownership hierarchies.

Finally, secure hardware collects verifiable data from the real world, which can be used to instruct smart contracts using “if-this-then-that” logic — for example, GPS location can instruct a smart contract to advance a supply chain workflow autonomously and in a fully decentralized fashion.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about IoTeX?

IoTeX is more than just a blockchain — it is a full-stack platform to enable trusted data from trusted devices for use in trusted applications.

The IoTeX platform was architected by an award-winning team of cryptographers that currently lead premier industry and standards consortiums, including the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and IEEE. We apply advanced research to not only our blockchain, but also the products that are powered by it.

Our first “Powered by IoTeX” product was Ucam, a 100% private home security camera that won the CES Innovation Award for Cybersecurity & Personal Privacy. IoTeX is pioneering the first decentralized smart devices that allow everyday people to own their devices/data, as well as utilize it on their own terms in applications/services on the IoTeX blockchain.

The combination of blockchain + IoT is extremely powerful, and IoTeX has spent the last three years to make it a reality — the potential is endless!

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit IoTeX.

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