We hope you are healthy, safe, and well. This year has been unpredictable, to put it mildly, and I think it’s safe to say that none of us saw this coming. That said, we haven’t let it slow us down, and 2020 has already proven to be a milestone year for us. We partnered with KeepTruckin and Distichain, released several industry white papers, launched the Delivery Experience Manager for Final Mile logistics, won the Blockchain Innovation Award at #DataccioConnect Singapore, joined the United Nations Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), recorded and released our fourth industry webinar, won first place in the Ventana Research Digital Innovation Awards, and last but certainly not least, launched Mainnet! And there’s much more that we haven’t even announced yet…stay tuned!
On behalf of the entire ShipChain team, I want to thank you for your continued support and interest in our platform and forward progress. The plan with these updates is to answer FAQs and address the topics people are most curious about. The whole team came together to ensure that we compiled the most comprehensive answers that we can. While we can’t answer every single question in this post, we will always do our best to be as transparent with you as we can and hope to be able to provide more clarity on certain topics in the future.
Additionally, we’re seeing a lot of interest in the Open Scale project, and we will be addressing that in a topical post once we have more information available.
And as always, please remember that some things are under NDA, and there are certain topics that we are unable to speak on at this time. That said, please enjoy our latest community update!
How many employees currently work for ShipChain Inc., and how has the COVID-19 pandemic changed things for the team?
We’re proud of our growing operation of approximately 30 people currently, many employed in our head office but also remote, and more jobs expected to be created in the future. Since the pandemic, we’ve gone work from home at very least temporarily while we ride out the storm, so to speak. We’re very open to remote work – always have been. At the same time, we recognize the value of in-person collaboration. So it’s a mix, and flexible, and from a mindset perspective, I don’t think the pandemic has changed too much for us.
What do you think ShipChain Inc. and the ShipChain blockchain will look like in 3 years?
The goals of both ShipChain Inc and the decentralized platform itself align in many ways – specifically when it comes to adoption. ShipChain Inc drives network adoption through customers and partnerships, and by continuing to build a powerful platform, it drives network usage. On the blockchain side, however, the goal has always been to invite external developers to build more tools and products – we want people to compete with us! We see it as “co-opetition”, since while it might compete in some ways with the company, the end goal of platform adoption is critical and ends up benefiting everyone in the end. So, in 3 years? I’d love to see dozens or even hundreds of active apps using the ShipChain sidechain doing all kinds of supply chain activities.
What does marketing mean for ShipChain Inc.?
For us, marketing is a robust effort involving dozens of people, companies, and working closely with our sales team, product team, executives, and others. Our biggest goal is to ensure that we are getting in front of the right people, our future customers. Now our customers can be in any industry– food, pharma, retail, oil, the list goes on and on, so long as they have a supply chain and are looking to increase visibility, accountability, and transparency. To do this effectively, we have been carefully analyzing current data and market trends and sharing this info with Biz Dev and Product to ensure smooth operations across the board.
Our current biggest marketing initiatives now include brand reinforcement, awareness, and industry education across the media, often in the form of the official ShipChain blog, interviews, thought leadership from our team, press, and other content. We also heavily use our social media channels to promote ShipChain-related news. Lastly, we aired our first educational webinars last year, and that is something we will continue to do to bring awareness of our product and value to different industries and players in the space.
Could you share some statistics about how many people you reach with your posts on social media?
ShipChain is nearing 100k followers across social media channels. According to our stats, we have a reach of around 111k people across Twitter, which has proven to be an extremely effective channel for sharing content and reaching our main audience. Additionally, our overall social media reach is approximately 173k per month across all channels, including but not limited to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, and Reddit. Lastly, we have hundreds of mentions in other forms of media on a monthly basis, including numerous press pickups, which are all key to getting attention from industry leaders and potential customers.
ShipChain’s CTO left the team at the end of 2019. Do you intend to recruit a new CTO? If so, within which timeframe and to serve primarily which mission?
We’re always keeping our eyes open, be it an internal or external candidate. We don’t put a hard time frame on this because we want to make sure the right candidate is chosen – better to be slow and correct than fast and wrong.
Does ShipChain Inc. have active partnerships and pilots with corporations outside of the United States?
One thing we have discovered is that emerging markets are very interested in new and emerging technologies. With that being said, we are in ongoing discussions and have active pilots and customers in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America outside of the US.
What market sectors are you most excited about?
We are very excited about the increased interest we have seen from Food and Beverage, Oil and Gas, Pharma, and High Risk/High-Value cargo companies. These are also the verticals where we feel our platform can really make a huge difference in a pretty short amount of time.
Quote from the Dispatch report in October 2019: “We are getting further and further along with one of the largest fast-food companies in the United States. More details to come soon!” Have these discussions resulted in a signed contractual agreement? If yes, what are the conditions still required to release this information publicly? If not, could you please outline the roadblocks and what ShipChain took from this experience?
Sorry to say we are still under NDA and are not able to talk about it publicly. What’s important to realize here is that introducing startups with new, disruptive technologies into mega-corporations is a long process, and has to go through several layers of red tape. Regardless of what the outcome is, what we have learned from this is that while we look forward to working with the largest companies in the country/in the world, the small and midsize sectors are equally important, and we’re excited to be making strides with companies of all sizes.
In your October dispatch, you mentioned that you would announce a joint customer with GTX in the coming months. Any update on this?
We do have a joint customer with GTX and will announce when they are ready to go out with it publicly. They had some manufacturing delays due to COVID, so the integration was delayed a bit, but it is very much still coming together, and we’re excited to go public with it later this year.
How many NDAs have you signed?
Now that’s a difficult question to answer due to the obvious nature of an NDA. We end up signing multiple per week. Don’t read into that though, everyone asks for NDAs now.
Can you briefly summarize how ShipChain Inc. team members contributed recently to other conglomerates like Baseline Protocol or the UN/CEFACT and what ShipChain intends to get in return?
ShipChain is on the Specifications Steering Committee of the Baseline Protocol – specifically, we want to make sure that logistics and supply chain needs are baselined to the blockchain, and namely EDI – which we appreciate the collaboration of FreightTrust with that as well. Baselining EDI allows for a much more modernized approach, as well as enables possibilities like Multiparty EDI, which were not possible at all. Baselining EDI also has the added advantage of potentially removing VANs (Value Add Networks) that basically had been middleman gatekeepers to the EDI world.
As for UN/CEFACT, the UN (UNECE) has identified the need for blockchain-based materials traceability to validate sustainability, specifically using blockchain to improve on Book and Claim and Mass Balance accountability methods for traceability. Our contribution has been in shaping how that pilot will look primarily and what a network like this needs to be effective.
THE SHIPCHAIN SIDECHAIN
Is there a roadmap you can share with short term and long term functionality?
We’ve decided to keep our roadmap internal for various reasons, but I will say that Q3 and Q4 of this year should be pretty exciting. We’re nearing completion on a web portal redesign that better incorporates some of the features that weren’t included in the original design. Additionally, we’ll see improved LTL shipment functionality, shipment access request services, new integrations that vastly expand our supported carriers portfolio, an ETL backed BI service improvement, and multiple updates intended to increase ease of use across the board. Our work with the baseline protocol has been very rewarding, and we aim to have an integration enabling baselining completed in the near future. We also plan on exploring some adoption boosting features recently made possible by the sidechain release – more on that later|.
Our long term goals include the completion of version 2.0, which adds new supply chain primitives to our ecosystem that provide more granular vault storage options. These primitives will enable us to begin documenting and tracking supply chain interactions before a purchase has even occurred. We have several products planned to be built on top of this new infrastructure that aim to solve some of the biggest challenges in some of the biggest supply chains in the world.
Are there other dapps developers (not announced yet) that are committed to run their dapps on the ShipChain sidechain?
There are definitely other development teams – and that ranges from direct transport industry to protocol-level like with Baseline. We’ll keep you updated as more come out.
What would you reply to corporations being concerned that dPoS networks are essentially vulnerable to collusion between validators?
That they are significantly less likely to experience collusion than private/permissioned Proof of Authority networks. There is always a tradeoff between throughput and hardened security at this point using technology we have today, but we are keeping a constant eye on new developments to offset this. Right now, the optimal method is to have base level Ethereum mainnet security, with a dPoS sidechain for throughput and cost reduction.
Is the supply chain data within ShipChain GS1 compliant?
ShipChain is working with multiple consortia to establish and maintain GS1 data standards, as well as ISO 8000 is on our radar and seen by the industry as critical.
Will the network support automatic redelegations of the rewards granted to validators and delegators?
This is being looked at but hasn’t been the highest priority to develop out at this time, so we in part will see where Loom will be going.
How would you like to provide support for the validators? In case of software errors and upgrades?
We will provide information about updates and critical support in our Gitter.im channel for validators. Any sort of critical update we may catch (or are notified of by other developers or operators), we would send an email notice as well.
Can you give an order of magnitude of the amount of txs / day (related to ShipChain’s track and trace platform) currently run on Ethereum and clarify how the transition of these txs to the sidechain will be performed (100% cut-over or gradual transition)?
We’re pretty gradual about changing over, though the gas costs from the DeFi boom have pushed us to accelerate it. I don’t have a hard number of tx/day currently, but when we finish the full migration will publish this info.
When Ethereum 2.0 is fully scaled up, what benefits do you still expect to come from a layer 2 interoperable sidechain?
We’re really excited about some of the capabilities coming out of ETH2.0. The increased efficiency and lower gas costs provided by sharding are bound to have a big effect on any ecosystem. Though even with the sharding in place, we’ll likely need to rely pretty heavily on the industry-level throughput our sidechain offers.
What is the roadmap to integrate oracles such as Chainlink in the platform to get real-time information, such as fuel prices, commodity costs, sea scheduling, or flight information?
We have a policy of not commenting on specific partnerships, customers, or pilots until they are fully live. That said, there are some really interesting projects happening in the oracle space that, until recently, existed largely outside the scope of a sustainable pricing model for us. As many of you know, the freight industry runs on incredibly small margins, so keeping per-shipment costs low and consistent is paramount to product success. Fairly early on, we determined that traditional API data integration services would meet our needs by providing a scalable, cost-effective, and predictable means of data sourcing.
The recent launch of the ShipChain sidechain has shifted the paradigm a bit, allowing us to revisit the idea of prioritizing oracle integrations. We are definitely interested in a possible Chainlink integration and are continuing to explore other options as well.
Along those lines, the team has been working hard on building a service that will allow us to house and leverage the information that comes in any format from any external data source. I’m really excited to see what it can do when we open the floodgates.
I calculated that the block size is around ~11.9KB, which means that validators need ~276GB per year of storage at the current rates. When more transactions are happening on the mainnet, will the block size and/or block time increase and with that the needed storage requirements? If so, how much is to be expected?
The block rate of the network is not impacted by transaction volume. We recommend that all validators closely monitor the health of their servers, including storage, but do not anticipate the chain data to grow beyond 500GB in the first year of operation.
I noted that with the current block time and settings, that the allowed downtime for validator nodes is only 72 minutes (20% of missing blocks in a time window of ~6 hours with a block time of 1.33s). If someone needs to upgrade their server to get a larger SSD, then it’s almost certain that this person is going to get slashed. Will this time window be increased at some point, or do people need to accept being slashed when they want to upgrade their server in the future?
These numbers aren’t correct – please refer to the slashing documentation provided by Loom here: https://github.com/loomnetwork/loomchain/blob/master/builtin/plugins/dposv3/overview.md#slashing-parameters
We use a maximumDowntimePercentage of 50%. This means that the longest consecutive outage window allowed prior to slashing would be 4096*3 + 4096/2 = 14366 blocks, which at the block rate you mentioned, would be approximately 5.3 hours.
It’s going to be very validator-dependent as to what level of risk validators are willing to take during an upgrade and how comfortable they are with their system administration skills. I would think that the current slashing parameters provide more than enough time to perform the majority of system upgrades without being slashed. If they take longer – that will just need to be factored into the cost of making that upgrade. Slashing is important for the security and resilience of the network.
Additionally, the public docs contain recommendations for Failover and Sentry nodes to combat downtime and slashing: https://docs.shipchain.io/docs/validatorGuide.html#advanced-architecture-suggestions
What happens to the validator node when lockup period is over and the 250k are unlocked? Does the validator node remain operational without the added risk of losing tokens when you’re slashed?
Delegations are slashed regardless of lock status.
Can you provide any relevant links for the community of SHIP token stakers and POP validators?
A token holder can stake its tokens via the ShipChain Dashboard. Additionally, to see the full list of validators and to get more info about rewards, please use the following link. Lastly, to learn more about ShipChain Mainnet, check out our recent blog post.
Wrapping It Up
Thank you again for all of your support! We will be putting out our Q3 2020 Dispatch next week, and we have several extremely exciting developments in the pipeline that we can’t wait to share with you soon. We couldn’t do it without you and look forward to having you along for this next chapter of ShipChain’s development.
-John Monarch, CEO