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When analyzing a project, the Eden Labs team looks for projects that do something unique or do it much better than its competition. Quality projects should be able to explain complex ideas simplified to their audience. In addition, projects that rely heavily on a broad user base have to have an incentive for the first ten people to join the network before a million users is ever achievable. No project will succeed if it requires a million participants to bring any value to its users.
The Aion Network is a multi-tier blockchain network designed to support a future where many blockchains exist to solve unique industry problems and to power the services of the modern world. Aion aims to become the common protocol used by other blockchains, enabled through a federated blockchain network where various blockchain systems communicate through a hub-and-spoke model, with Aion at the center.
As the number of networks and blockchain-based applications grow, the more siloed and disconnected the industry becomes. Seamless peer-to-peer infrastructure is essential for a future where many blockchains may be required to service specific use cases. While some blockchains will remain independent, on-chain communication with other networks can offer major advancements, especially when privacy and scalability are maintained.
Aion is a 3rd-generation blockchain network that enables private and public organizations to federate (send data between Aion-compliant blockchains and Ethereum), scale (provide fast transaction processing and data capacity to all blockchains), and spoke (allow the creation of customized public or private interoperable blockchains, while preserving the right to define each blockchain’s governance, consensus, issuance, and participation). Some of the use cases where Aion’s solution is applicable include:
Like a computer network, Aion provides a protocol and standard for different systems to establish communication between them. Not only that, but Aion also brings the logic and value between participating blockchains to establish a value chain where every transaction occurs on-chain. In order for this multi-tier network to work, a series of major actors are required; those are the elements we’ll be breaking down in the section below including connecting networks, inter-chain transactions, bridges, and participating networks. On top of that, we’ll showcase a high-level overview of Aion-1, the genesis implementation of the Aion network.
For blockchains to be able to communicate within the Aion network, connecting networks are in charge of facilitating inter-chain communication and inter-chain transactions. Universal to all users and blockchains, connecting networks route inter-chain messages through bridges (discussed below), providing decentralized accountability for security purposes, and enabling the bridging protocol. Bridges are used instead of inter-blockchain relays or BTC Relays since the latter often leads to complicated state channels that can result in problematic situations where one, or a select group of individuals, run the networks. Connecting networks use bridges and a trust-free blockchain network to validate and ensure correctness among the flow of transactions.
Critical to how inter-chain communication between blockchains on the Aion network works, are inter-chain transactions. These are trust-free messages sent between blockchain networks. Initially created on a source blockchain, these messages are then processed and sent by bridges and connecting networks before arriving to the target blockchain. The creator of the transaction pays a fee for communication cost with AION tokens, incentivizing all participants throughout the process to avoid malicious or unwanted behavior. Once the transaction arrives at its destination, a backward path to the origin is set to send a confirmation with the updated state. This ensures that the global state is updated on the original blockchain.
For the communication between the participating network and the connecting network to exist, bridges are established to provide the right communication protocol. Each bridge has a set of validators in charge of translating the protocols and setting accountability between networks. To perform this validation, a lightweight BFT-based algorithm is implemented to reach consensus. Transactions get approved only after ⅔ of the total weighted votes confirm.
Aion’s whole federation model is based on the notion that in order for blockchains to be compatible, they must successfully implement the integration requirements with the connecting network. These can be purpose-specific blockchains, private networks, or consortium blockchains, but they can also be oracles, cryptlets, or even database clusters that require verifiable information. Once integrated, every participating network receives access to the communication protocol.
The Aion-1 blockchain will be the genesis implementation of the connecting network, designed to meet the following objectives:
Regarding Aion-1 consensus, there are two forms of consensus depending on the circumstances. Bridge consensus is a lightweight variation of BFT that prioritizes speed for fast transactions during ongoing inter-blockchain communication. The connecting network consensus is focused instead on providing stability at scale, since it needs to maintain this consensus for both on-chain transactions and inter-chain transactions. With the latter, every node in the network can submit themselves as a candidate and pledge backing towards a candidate, similar to the validation scheme behind representative democracy. For every term, the candidates with the most backing are selected as validators. These validators contribute to block generation through a BFT-based protocol and are ensured rewards in return.
Less relevant to our review but still important to highlight: Aion features its own virtual machine for high-performing, deterministic, and robust decentralized applications, and a new scripting language with security-specific features. The AVM (Aion Virtual Machine) is a lightweight JVM implementation built for chain logic in distributed networks and provides the infrastructure for the main functionalities of the connecting network. The scripting language is used for writing chain logic running on Aion-1 and potentially any connecting/participating network. It is compiled into AVM bytecode and executed by the AVM.
The blockchain ecosystem is fast evolving. In order to gain mainstream adoption, solving interoperability and ultimately enabling inter-blockchain communication is a crucial step forward. Aion’s federated blockchain network on top of the hub-and-spoke model was, at the time, a novel solution. Today, it’s a technique widely employed to tackle interoperability. It would be fair to say that Aion has established a whole new direction for the future of blockchain. Whether they can remain relevant with the emergence of many other interoperability solutions, remains to be seen. For certain, interoperability will emerge, but not necessarily under the guidance of one single project; It’s possible that it will be in the form of a global and collective initiative aimed at providing a communication standard, similar to what the TCP/IP was to the Internet. If that is the case, Aion’s value proposition as an enabler of interoperability will be irrelevant.
Kilimanjaro officially launched at the end of April and is currently successfully operational. Aion is already onto their next big release later this year. Their full implementation is not too far ahead, which may be critical for early traction to stay relevant as new solutions for interoperability come into place.
The Aion network relies on an economic system powered by the AION token. TAION tokens are the fuel used to operate the Aion-1 blockchain, building and launching applications, establishing bridges between blockchains, as well as customizing, creating, and connecting participating blockchains. AION tokens are a requirement to operate the Aion network, as well as an incentive to maintain integrity.
Use cases for AION tokens throughout the network include:
The whitepaper mentions the active exploration of new uses of the token, including Aion-backed tokens. This mechanism is important since it would allow for the creation of new blockchains with their own tokens, to protect individuals from token fluctuation risk and reducing volatility.
At the core of Aion, there are many applications for the AION token to incentivize participation, fuel applications, achieve consensus, and connect new blockchains to the network. However, it may also be restrictive to blockchains that want to use their own digital currency.
Aion is not alone in its efforts to bring interoperability opportunities to the blockchain; below are three of the clear and most popular contenders involved in providing similar solutions, and how they compare to Aion.
Currently, there are not a great variety of viable interoperability solutions projects can implement on their network. Comparing Aion with Polkadot, which aims to solve similar issues, we can identify several differences and similarities. Polkadot is implementing Relay chains to enhance interoperability between different chains. The network functions like a blockchain hub with the mainchain, the Relay chain, in the middle and the side chains, called Parachains, scattered around, communicating through the mainchain. Bridges can link to other blockchains and have their own consensus. Similar to Polkadot, Aion is also providing bridges but to join different networks together, similar to Polkadot’s Relay chains. While Aion enhances communication between public and private chains, Polkadot is implementing zero-knowledge proofs to keep parachains private. Lastly, in case an object fails to adopt the state of the end of a process, it will be reverted back to its original state. In contrast, Polkadot decouples the consensus architecture from the state-transition mechanism.
Cosmos is a decentralized network of independent parallel blockchains, each powered by classical BFT consensus like Tendermint. Just like Aion-1, the first blockchain of the Cosmos Network is the Cosmos Hub, acting as the literal ‘hub’ within the hub-and-spoke model. On Cosmos, blockchains in the network are called zones, which act as hubs with respect to other zones, allowing many zones to interoperate through a shared hub. The core architecture between Cosmos and Aion is very similar. A key difference with Aion, however, is that Cosmos allows users of its network to interact with external blockchains through Peg-Zones. A Peg-Zone is a blockchain that forms a bridge to track the state of an external chain. The problem is that these Peg-Zones need to be customized for the particular chain they bridge. Aion instead, aims to set industry-wide standards that do not require customization, but do require blockchains to join the network and build on Aion’s standardized protocols.
Ark is developing “ARK SmartBridges”, which allow communication between validated bridged blockchains with the ability to perform tasks and advanced functions. The bridge itself is the Ark Blockchain, governed by the underlying token running a delegated proof of stake. While Ark’s mission is to develop a community and limit the set of obstacles in bridging blockchains, Aion focuses on being a blockchain bridge and providing governance models. In order for Ark to be interoperable, the foreign chains must implement pieces of the Ark code into their blockchain. While Ark takes part of the processes off-chain, one of the core elements of Aion is that everything will be happening on-chain. Both aim to provide bridging solutions, Ark being broader (and less accurate in the detail), while Aion is a protocol approach to set industry standards.
Wanchain is a digital bank dealing with digital assets from all connected blockchains. It features cross-chain asset transferring with a focus on ensuring privacy protection for enterprise applications. New blockchains can be created and connected to the platform, without the need to use WAN tokens. Compared to Aion, its architecture is slightly more complex. Each chain’s assets have a Wanchain representation, so they do not theoretically ever reside on the Wanchain blockchain. There are several business applications such as super financial decentralized entities, lending/borrowing terms, payment/settlement options, or trading markets, that ultimately make Wanchain tackle interoperability through a more niche approach than Aion. In fact, it is so niche that alongside ICON, all three companies have formed an alliance to push interoperability forward side by side. Because of this alliance, the three projects are more symbiotic than competitive.
It remains to be seen which cross-chain communication protocol/s will be the most important moving forward. It’s important nevertheless to note the large number of protocols that are competing for the leadership within this segment of the industry. We believe that no one contender will lead the rest, but rather by a select group of companies that facilitate effortless adoption through customization and inter-chain communication standard definitions.
In the fast, challenging, and dynamic industry of DLT startups, the team is an imperative component to a project’s success. The frequent need for pivoting and the challenges of a new industry necessitate a team with a strong background in distributed ledger technology, technical and engineering educations, and proven reputations. Team bios, LinkedIn profiles, past work experience, and publishing work are all reviewed and analyzed.
Aion features a +50 team scattered across Toronto, Shanghai, and Barbados, composed fundamentally of a large engineering force. Leading the Aion team are:
Aion features one of the largest teams in the blockchain industry, led a well known figure such as Matthew Spoke. They are currently looking to make new hires, including a VP of Engineering. Many of the members come from the company formerly known as Nuco, a company dedicated to building decentralized modular applications before it became Aion. Alongside the team, is a wide and robust group of advisors with experience across business, blockchain, and engineering.
Aion is working alongside some of the industry’s biggest brands to build a robust ecosystem. This is a positive theme over other companies competing to bring interoperability to blockchains. The larger the ecosystem and the more blockchains are connected to Aion-1, the more relevant Aion will be in its attempt to bring decentralization to the Internet.
Aion features one of the most diverse and well executed marketing and social presence in the industry. No comments to be made here.
One of the obstacles faced by current and future iterations of blockchains, of platforms that will be used by millions of users executing billions of transactions, is cross-chain interoperability. Similar to what TCP/IP has done to a once siloed Internet, blockchains need to solve this obstacle to achieve mainstream adoption. Aion presents a federated blockchain network built on the hub-and-spoke model that lays a step in the direction of inter-chain communication. Whether they can remain relevant in the face of future initiatives remains to be seen. Aion presents a currently successful product, not too far away from full implementation, and features one of the largest and most robust teams in the industry, as well as experienced advisors and a large network of partners. No one contender will lead the rest, but rather by a select group of companies that facilitate effortless adoption. Aion could well be there.
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Disclaimer: This is not investment advice, merely our opinion and analysis on the project. Do your own research.