Data is the new oil. It’s not just the dollar, eh… Bitcoin value that makes information a hot asset. The usage of data will be a driving force behind changes in society. Through Ocean Protocol, Trent McConaghy aims to make the data economy more equal.
The need for data is immense. McConaghy: “Data can be used to build AI (artificial intelligence) models. The more data you have, the more accurate the models will be. This will help you to reach your goals. Think of making business processes more efficient, trading stocks, or finding ways to treat cancer.”
The Canadian born (“I consider myself a citizen of the internet”) McConaghy operates from Berlin. After successfully selling two start-ups in the AI space, he is now co-founder of Ocean Protocol; a data exchange protocol that will change the way data is shared. “We make it possible, for the first time ever, to exchange data while preserving privacy. Currently, most data is private and therefore not shared. Enterprises hold on to it and there are tons of privacy issues concerned with releasing data. Our tools are built on the blockchain which makes the storage decentralized. We have added Compute-to-Data that makes sharing data autonomous.”
Ocean allows data owners to put their assets on sale in marketplaces. This data will never have to leave the premise of the owner. “What if you could have access to shared data from across 500 hospitals?” asks McConaghy. “This will impact medical research tremendously. Google wanted to do this too. They got pushback on this because they store the data themselves in a centralized fashion.”
The advent of Web 3.0
It is not just the enterprise use cases that make McConaghy excited about his work. Through Ocean, people are owners of their personal data. Everyone can decide for themselves to share data or not, and in return get paid for it. “The predominant business model of the web became selling ads. The focus for Google and Facebook was all on gathering data.” McConaghy frames this to the evolution of the web: “It was part of Web 2.0; where the UX and usefulness of the web matured, but we lost the open ideals of the first iteration of the web.”
Decentralized technologies will lead us to the next stage: Web 3.0. A trustless network that will provide users a much more enhanced and interactive experience. “It’s not going to be mainstream in the coming twelve months. But in five years? Sure. With any good exponential, it will feel like a toy in the beginning and remains small for a while, and then, in the blink of an eye, it will feel big.”
McConaghy gives examples that Web 3.0 is already in our midst: “DeFi (decentralized finance) seems like nothing now, but it’s growing 0.5% each day. Compound that with 365 days and that is around a 10x growth in a year. Look at the Brave browser. It has ten million users and has changed web advertising. Coinbase has thirty million accounts and the number of people holding Bitcoin keeps growing. Taiwan is using blockchain for its people with data sharing. More than ten million users are on it.”
The tech world is paying attention to Ocean. Started in 2017, they already boast an impressive list of users. Toyota, BMW, Roche and Unilever are among the enterprises that are building data marketplaces powered by Ocean. They also work with government bodies. “Cities are a good fit”, says McConaghy. “They aspire to be smart cities and ask us what this actually means. Basically, it is a data layer. Once you have that, you can start building citizen identity, health care, traffic management, parking regulation, taxes, etc.”
It is important to realize that Ocean’s target group are developers. “We provide tools to build really cool things. You start data management with Rails. You don’t have to install anything, it’s there already. And cities can run their own apps on it for whatever the biggest benefits are.”
Realizing a vision
For McConaghy, a childhood dream is slowly but surely coming to fruition. As an eleven-year-old, he read books about AI and it captured his imagination. “In the mid 90’s, I studied electrical engineering and computer science. Over time I found ways to do AI professionally by getting a research job with the government of Canada.”
It was in 2010 that he learned about Bitcoin. “I bought some and eventually lost the keys to them…Three years later, I started spending more time in Berlin. I went to this meetup in Room 77. It was the first brick and mortar place in the world that accepted Bitcoin. Lots of old school Bitcoiners were there, and they talked about blockchain. That made me reread the white paper.”
The power of blockchain and AI combined, set McConaghy on a mission to change the world for the better. “We are heading towards a digital economy. And data is the lynchpin. Our ambition is that Ocean powers this digital economy. What does this look like? We don’t know specifically. But Ocean will be a piece of the infrastructure where hundreds of thousands of transactions happen every second. Ocean will not just be a part of the internet, but a part of civilization.”
Listen to the full interview on YouTube. Trent McConaghy talks about the evolution of the web, the product development strategy of Ocean, his advisory role for Estonia and how Ocean can mitigate the risks in battling Covid-19. Listen here or play below.
Learn more about Ocean Protocol by visiting their website.