ARPA bringing value to data holders through multi-party computation

Felix Xu is well-suited to his current role as one of the founders of ARPA, a blockchain-based secure computation network of multi-party computation.

Mr. Xu attended New York University, where he majored in finance and information systems before working at some investment firms. These experiences gave him a solid background in fintech, big data and blockchain technology.

“I was always thinking of how to combine them,” Mr. Xu said.

So were some of his eventual cofounders. Derek Zhang has a decade of experience as a data scientist at the World Bank and CircleUp with a focus on deep learning and AI systems. Jiang Chen is a former infrastructure software engineer with Google Cloud.

Together they and the rest of the team have created a network that cryptographically enables private smart contracts, data-at-use privacy protection, and scalable sharding. ARPA is compatible with Ethereum and EOS. At its core, the idea is to provide secure and trusted computing where each user doesn’t have to actually see specific data in order to compute it. With data being readily available and easy to copy and transfer, systems need to be developed where data’s original owners can monetize it without giving it away at any point, thereby having a more reliable monetization concept.

Fifteen months after the founders quit their jobs to focus on ARPA, they have developed several proofs of concept with a trading conglomerate, fintech and chemical company. They are also running a large testnet on Ethereum.

One interesting use case for ARPA is KYC checks, Mr. Xu said. Thanks to data encrypted on top of the blockchain, a supplier can check multiple other supplier lists for a bad actor, with the end result a list of how many lists a person is on out of those checked but not the specific ones someone is on.

Another benefit is participating industries can learn their performance levels in relation to their peers and see where they are most at risk. Again, Company B wouldn’t specifically know how they fare against Company A, but they would know how they compare against all of the companies on the network.

In the future, Mr. Xu envisions ARPA helping individuals monetize their personal data. My data can be encrypted. If companies want to include it in analysis, they can essentially rent it from me and any other people on the network who agree.  That cuts out the aggregators who are now keeping most of the profits for themselves. Such a system helps advertisers and consumers because consumers see the ads best suited to them, meaning they are less likely to view the process as an intrusion.

“When ads are displayed the person who rents out their data is rewarded,” Mr. Xu said. “It allows them to both keep their privacy and receive some better services.”

And with that data being on the blockchain, an ARPA user can easily set up a cryptocurrency-based payment system that tracks all transactions involving that user, Mr. Xu said. Those payments could be routed to a personal data wallet, which is ARPA’s ultimate goal, Mr. Xu said.

Multi-party computation creatively addresses network speed, Mr. Xu said. All tests are conducted in parallel on three to 10 separate nodes instead of running on every node in a network, Mr. Xu said. Participating nodes are randomly selected each time.

“We are pretty far ahead on multi-party computation because we have a live testnet and have built encryption from very fundamental algorithms,” Mr. Xu said.

Insurance is another strong use case, Mr. Xu said.  It is a highly digitized sector with significant amounts of clean data and no legacy system issues.

Mr. Xu is also excited about ARPA’s migration to Binance Chain, a blockchain software system developed by Binance and its community. The move allows ARPA token holders to enjoy the speed and access offered by Binance while maintaining control over their assets. In order to complete the move, most ARPA tokens will be converted from ERC20 to BEP-2, the native Binance format. The migration will begin in early July and take roughly 12 hours to complete.

“We’re happy to be among the first batch of companies in this trial,” Mr. Xu said. “At the end of the day we believe decentralized exchanges will replace centralized ones.”

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