Fundamental Pick: NEO

 

 

Digitalising Physical Assets In Order To Build The New Smart Economy

 

Overview of The Neo Ecosystem

 

NEO is a non-profit, open source Blockchain platform which aims to build the infrastructure for an innovative new smart economy. The project was founded in 2014 by CEO Da Hongfei and CTO Erik Zhang, backed by their now notorious Chinese firm Onchain, which undergoes Blockchain research and development in Shanghai. The project started out as the first Blockchain platform in China coined Antshares, before the founders decided to rebrand to NEO in an effort to appeal to a more global market. NEO understands that community development is the most essential aspect of any efficient Blockchain ecosystem and so have placed a great amount of emphasis on expanding their global developer community at a rapid rate. The project now supports such a community with side projects including City of Zion (CoZ), NeoResearch and NEL, who aim to continuously develop the ecosystem to make NEO one of the best functioning Blockchain platforms in the world.

 

The Smart Economy

 

In order to achieve the vision of a new smart economy based on a distributed network, NEO aims to utilise Blockchain technology and digital identity to digitise assets, automating these digital assets using smart contracts. Thus, NEO aims to convert real-world assets such as property, vehicles and physical possessions into digital assets recorded on the NEO Blockchain in the form of smart contracts, that can be verified to unique individuals using their digital identity. As a result, such digital assets acquire the ability to be traded, transferred and registered (to name a few use cases) via a distributed network, allowing global peer-to-peer agreements to be made efficiently and with ease. Not only does this open up a global market for digital ownership of assets, but it also provides immutability not possible when often untrustworthy centralised intermediaries are involved, creating a digitalised, programmable and trustless economy. Whilst some might be suspect to such a drastic change to the status quo, NEO’s purpose is not to destroy traditional Chinese institutions. Instead, they aim to help gradually transfer the Chinese economy into the smart economy of the future.

 

NEO Applications

 

Digital Assets 

As previously mentioned, in order to facilitate their smart economy NEO aims to convert traditional assets into digital assets on the NEO Blockchain. Digital assets are programmable assets which represent a traditional asset in the form of a smart contract. By converting traditional assets to digital assets individuals no longer need unnecessary intermediaries to transfer ownership between parties, exchange value or register an asset to a particular individual. Instead, the inherent trust of NEO consensus algorithm allows assets to become fully decentralised, traceable and transparent. All of this is possible due to NEO’s digital identity system which connects individuals to physical assets via digital certificates placed on the NEO Blockchain. Ultimately, digitalising assets allows individuals from all over the world to exchange physical value seamlessly without the need for a third party. This eradicates traditional fees associated with centralised authorities and provides liquidity from a globalised market.

 

 

Digital Identity 

Digital Identity will allow NEO to accumulate the information of willing organisations, individuals and other entities in electronic form, to create a digital fingerprint for such parties in a highly secure manner stored on the NEO Blockchain. As a result, once they are baked into the Blockchain, the identity documents will become tamper-proof and impossible to destroy. Such digital identity will then be utilised by parties using highly secure multi-factor authentication methods such as fingerprints, voice and facial recognition in order to digitalise assets themselves and exchange value of existing assets. The concept of digital identity allows organisations and individuals to transact knowingly with one another without needing to trust them. Moreover, assets registered using NEO’s digital identity system can be protected by law due to the transparency of ownership. This innovative solution combining law with a trustless system ensures all digital assets are unconditionally verifiable to parties and cannot be seized.

 

Smart Contracts: The Ethereum of China?

Whilst many have coined NEO ‘The Ethereum of China’ there are some key differences. Although both platforms provide similar functionality, allowing developers to build smart contracts on top of their existing platform in order to create dApps, NEO allows a much more diverse set of programming languages to be utilised. For instance, if one wishes to build a dApp on the Ethereum Blockchain, they will need to learn Solidarity, Ethereum’s unique programming language. Comparably, in order to create a dApp on the Neo Blockchain, one can utilise a variety of widely used coding languages including Javascript, C#, Python, Java, and Go. The ability for developers to code smart contracts without needing to learn a new coding language significantly reduces the high barriers to entry in the industry by eradicating the time it takes to learn a new distinct language. This opens up a global pool of talent who already have the ability to program smart contracts with ease. Looking forward, this should allow for many more dApps to be deployed than possible on the Ethereum network which should grow the NEO ecosystem exponentially.

 

Catalysts

 

Prominence Within China: The Chinese economy is growing at an exponential rate, with the Chinese government placing a strong emphasis on innovation within the financial-technology (FinTech) sector. Already meeting with government officials, NEO has placed itself at the forefront of this development. Other platforms such as Ethereum will incur high barriers to entry when seeking to penetrate the Chinese market, due to the inherent language barriers and cultural differences. Hence, a homegrown Chinese platform such as NEO has the potential to gain substantial market adoption within China, especially when they place a strong emphasis on respecting Chinese regulations alongside business and cultural norms.

 

Universal Programming Language Support: Many existing Blockchain platforms require developers to learn a unique programming language in order to build smart contracts on their platform. This excludes a wide number of businesses from developing dApps on their platforms, due to the obvious cost and time of learning an entirely new coding language. To the contrary, NEO affords developers the ability to program smart contracts using numerous traditional programming languages, substantially reducing the cost of implementing smart contracts into existing business practices. This removes the high barriers to entry for businesses looking to enter the Blockchain ecosystem, which could lead to widespread adoption.

 

International Partnerships: Despite being based in China, Neo has managed to garner support from international tech giants. For example, Microsoft Azure partnered with NEO in order to attract talented developers to the platform from a global community. Such large-scale partnerships are likely to further bolster their standing within China, drawing attention to the platform from other tech giants within the local Chinese business community.

 

Risk Factors

 

Chinese Regulation: Although China is keen to be at the forefront of the Fin-Tech revolution, with a strong focus on Blockchain for business purposes, they do impose strict regulations on cryptocurrencies. For example, in the past year, they banned ICO sales within the country alongside unregulated cryptocurrency exchanges. Despite this, NEO places a strong emphasis on ensuring they comply with all necessary government regulations and now appeal to a global market of developers, limiting internal risk and the ability for businesses outside of China to develop on their platform.

 

Keeping Pace: The environment for Blockchain platforms has grown exponentially over the past year as a result of the clear success of Ethereum’s platform. Global competition is now incredibly saturated and if NEO wishes to keep pace with other platforms they must ensure that they attract the best talent to their platform. Nonetheless, with an incredibly strong brand name, an increasingly global community, significant developer bounties and by utilising a universal known coding language, the platform looks set to compete with other well-known platforms within the Blockchain ecosystem.

 

Conclusion

 

The Neo platform has positioned itself to become the world-leading provider of smart contracts for the smart economy of the future. By allowing businesses and individuals to digitalise assets, verified by their digital identity, NEO has the potential to cut out unnecessary intermediaries in the transaction of value and ownership of physical assets between parties on a global scale. The ability to program smart contracts in a variety of traditional programming languages gives NEO a real edge over many large players within the industry who require developers to learn an entirely new language. As a result, the platform has the potential to see widespread adoption by businesses and individuals who simply do not have the time or funds to learn a new language. Thus, as the global community continues to grow, NEO looks set to have a bright future ahead of itself.