Elastos is an operating system, a decentralised internet and a Virtual Machine (VM) tool all wrapped up into one. It has its own operating system to run on devices without one (e.g. IoT devices), it aims to improve security by using the blockchain as an internet protocol rather than TCP/IP and it allows DApps to run across any operating system — including phones — using what is essentially a VM (called Elastos Runtime).
It works to improve security by assigning everything running on Elastos (including devices, digital assets, servers, DApps) their own ID or ‘Universal Unique Identifier’. This is checked on startup by the Elastos blockchain and only following validation is an internet connection established, preventing DDoS attacks. Furthermore, as all DApps run on Runtime they do not touch the device, Elastos OS or any other DApp — they essentially operate in a vacuum.
There are other projects which aim to recreate parts of Elastos, but there are none that are trying to combine it all in this manner.
A blockchain powered OS
Elastos is not just a blockchain internet, it is a blockchain powered operating system and a blockchain powered internet. But what does this actually mean?
- Elastos Runtime, a component of the Elastos architecture, runs on the OS of customers’ mobile devices. Apps are free to run and their performance is comparable to existing mobile apps: Runtime will run on any device and is immune to DDoS and virus attacks. This seems well suited to enterprise usage where security is paramount. It is easiest to think of each Runtime instance as a Virtual Machine (VM) — every time a DApp is opened inside Runtime, a new VM is created per DApp. This means that DApps are kept isolated from each other on the base OS. The point of Elastos is to check the integrity of each VM on the network. Much like if there is one malicious actor on the network the rest of the blockchain can remove said node from altering the chain, Elastos would be able to eliminate a malicious or infected VM
- Even when Elastos apps are running on operating systems such as iOS, Android and Windows, the local OS won’t be able to sabotage the property rights of digital assets: Elastos provides an additional layer of defence from would be malicious actors to the device OS, improving security
- Elastos OS prohibits direct process creation and does not allow direct interaction with TCP/IP, depending instead upon the system to automatically spawn and determine the location of local, proximate, and distant (or cloud-based) microservices: This is another important point. The point here is that Elastos aims to remove an internet connection as an attack vector
- Elastos supports traditional programming languages, making it relatively easy to write code. Elastos also supports popular programming frameworks: There is no new programming language to learn, an obvious benefit. Everything is programmable in C++, Java and NodeJs with developers able to code a DApp that can run across all devices — an attractive proposition
- The Elastos public chain is clean and simple, and hidden from third-party applications and services: In contrast to blockchains such as Ethereum, where all DApps are on the main chain, Elastos will utilise sidechains for DApps to run on to keep the public chain quick. The main chain is only used to check IDs of the devices on the network — a simple task and one that means the main chain will not get congested with extraneous data.
Furthermore, this ID check is part of what distinguishes Elastos and can be thought of as continuing a logical progression of blockchain projects:
- Bitcoin = Trustworthy Ledger
- Ethereum = Trustworthy Ledger + Smart Contracts
- Elastos = Trustworthy Ledger + Smart Contracts + Monetizable Dapps and Digital Assets
Whilst Ethereum is capable of promoting monetizable DApps/non-fungible digital assets (such as Publica), the ID system built into Elastos is different to any other blockchain platform and as such promotes unique digital assets in a way other projects have not done so to now.
However, the potential largest differentiator of Elastos comes more from its architecture as Elastos is an operating system. Accordingly, DApps can run on all devices and OS’s, with security coming through Elastos Runtime (so less potential devices that can be exploited, something of particular importance with the rise of IoT). The blockchain aspect of Elastos is essentially being used to secure a network of virtual machines through the ID system.
Whereas Ethereum and most competitors run smart contracts on the blockchain, Elastos would run DApps that are enabled by blockchain technology but do not run on the blockchain itself, instead running on any OS. The importance of this cannot be understated, as it improves the chances of adoption and removes potential scaling issues.
There are three further pertinent points worth noting about how the Elastos blockchain works.
First, it works in conjunction with Bitcoin using a process known as ‘merged mining’. What this essentially means is that two different cryptoassets can be mined simultaneously which enables less popular projects to benefits from the high hash power of projects such as Bitcoin. It is far harder for a malicious actor to take over the Bitcoin network than it would be a smaller project. The two blockchains remain independent at all time and neither chain gets bloated by the transactions from the other chain.
Second, as the image below shows, part of the Elastos offering is a range of services such as ID generation, token distribution, digital asset trading and payment systems. It also includes the side chains previously discussed on which DApps will run. The main utility of ELA comes back to this ID system as all IDs have to be purchased with ELA. If the system takes off, that will be a lot of IDs, given it includes all assets and instances (e.g. each song published as an Elastos digital asset would have an individual ID).
Finally, the P2P network aspect of the project titled Elastos Carrier enables nodes to rent out their equipment, including computation and storage. This is again similar to other DApps (and how miners/nodes operate in terms of being rewarded for computing power) but is extended within Elastos. ELA holders also receive dividends in the form of ICO tokens hosted on Elastos.
Elastos has a number of fairly high-profile relationships. Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing juggernaut, invested $31m (¥ 200m) in the Elastos operating system in 2015. The project has a collaboration agreement with SAIC Motor, China’s largest automotive manufacturer and Tesla’s partner in the country which sees Elastos “oversee development of communication security, identity authentication and data security solution”.
In March Elastos announced a joint collaboration with Zapya to build a dapp called Viewchain. Zapya claims to have 500m registered users. Whether or not this is just another ICO or something deeper (i.e. Zapya moving all their users onto Elastos) is unclear at present.
The team have also received angel investments from Bitmain (manufacturer of Bitcoin and other cryptoassets mining equipment), NEO (the 9th highest ranked project by market cap) and Huobi (a large exchange).
Elastos is attempting to do something radically different to any other project. The commitment to being device/platform agnostic makes it suitable for both the plethora of mobile first/only users worldwide and the IoT/enterprise industries whilst using the blockchain as an internet protocol rather than TCP/IP could lead to a revolution in internet security.
The mainnet is already live and there are demonstrations of it working on iOS. This is not just a theoretical whitepaper, it is a project gearing up for adoption. Elastos is an ambitious project — but is that not why we love the blockchain space, because it is tackling a myriad of problems that had until now seemed insurmountable?