Bitcoin, the first blockchain and cryptocurrency was designed to facilitate a peer-to-peer payment system that operates beyond the centralized control of governments and without intermediaries such as banks. But as the cryptocurrency has gained more popularity and more users crowd the network, so has the transaction speed slowed down, and transaction fees became prohibitively expensive.
Succeeding blockchains have attempted to improve Bitcoin one way or another. One of these is Ethereum, which enables developers from all over the world to build ‘smart contracts.’ Smart contracts are a new kind of contract that is self-executing and self-enforcing. But even Ethereum failed to solve the scalability problem, averaging only 15 transactions per second.
Other projects like Zilliqa have sought to solve the scalability problem by implementing sharding – the technique of partitioning a database so as to enhance network speed. Still, this approach came short. First, it does not support state sharding, preventing nodes with limited computing power from participating in the network. Second, it uses a proof-of-work mechanism for the random generation of transaction validators.
Harmony is a project that seeks to address the enduring issue of blockchain scalability by providing a fully scalable, secure, and environmentally friendly blockchain.
Breaking Down Harmony
Harmony is a public blockchain network that aims to provide scalability for decentralized applications. It aims to do this by dividing the network states into shards, effectively “scaling linearly in all three aspects of machines, transactions and storage.”
Harmony differentiates itself from other scaling blockchains in the following ways:
- Fully Scalable – Harmony divides up not only the network validation process but the blockchain state itself, making it a fully scalable blockchain
- Secure Sharding – Harmony’s sharding process is secure thanks to its reliability on distributed random generation (DRG) protocol that is unpredictable, free from bias, and verifiable.
- Fast and Efficient Consensus – Unlike other scalability blockchains that rely on Proof-of-Work consensus, which gobbles up a lot of energy, Harmony is based on the more energy-efficient proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. Also, network consensus is reached via the Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) mechanism, which is faster than the Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (PBFT) mechanism.
- Adaptive Thresholded Proof of Stake – Harmony implements an ‘adaptive thresholded proof of stake,’ which adjusts the threshold of stakes needed for a node to qualify to join the network in such a manner that malicious nodes cannot take control of a single shard.
- Scalable Networking Infrastructure – Harmony utilizes an ‘Adaptive Information Dispersal Algorithm’ to quickly assign transaction-containing blocks across shards on the network.
- Consistent Cross-Shard Transactions – this is a protocol that helps achieve the consistency of cross-shard transactions by enabling shards to interact one-on-one with each other.
How Harmony Works
The Harmony platform runs on two major pieces of technology, namely:
- PoS consensus based on BLS signature algorithm
- Adaptive state sharding
#1. PoS Consensus and BLS Signature Algorithm
Harmony utilizes a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism based on what it calls (FBFT) to facilitate faster transactions. On top of that, it uses BLS (Boneh-Lynn-Shacham) signatures – a signature technology that verifies user authenticity. The BLS signature allows Harmony to scale faster than if it were using the traditional PBFT algorithm.
#2. Adaptive State Sharding
Harmony employs sharding, which involves partitioning network data into smaller and more manageable chunks. This is to achieve high-level scalability by facilitating faster confirmation of transactions. However, it goes further to incorporate ‘state sharding,’ also known as network sharding. State sharding involves splitting the entire network’s state across all the nodes and yet again across shards, paving the way for nodes to interact with each other without verification conflicts.
Who’s on The Harmony Team?
The Harmony team comprises experts who bring to the table experience in cryptocurrency and blockchain, coding, engineering, decentralized protocols, and business. The core team is made of Stephen Tse, Rongjian Lan, Nick White, and Sahil Dewan.
Stephen Tse is an experienced engineer and coder with more than 15 years of experience. He has a Ph.D. in security protocols and compiler verification from the University of Pennsylvania.
Rongjian Lan is a decentralized protocols enthusiast who was also a search infrastructure engineer at Google’s Play Store. Lan is the author of more than ten academic papers on Spatio-temporal and map-based visualization.
Nick White is an artificial intelligence and applied mathematics researcher who has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
Sahil Dewan has a degree in business from the Harvard Business School, where he also served as president of the blockchain and cryptocurrency Club. He’s a former employee at the Draper Dragon Fund.
Harmony has also onboarded several advisors, namely Hakwan Lau (neuroscience and machine-learning professor at UCLA), Ka-yuet Liu (medical data and network analysis professor at UCLA) Zi Wang, who’s worked for nine years at Google, Bruce Huang, who’s worked for eight years at Microsoft and is a director at Alibaba.
The Harmony Token (ONE)
Harmony has a utility token known as ONE, which runs atop the network’s mainnet since June 2019. The token plays the following roles in the Harmony ecosystem;
- Staking – network participants must hold the talking in order to take part in the PoS consensus and earn block rewards
- Payments – ONE is the medium through which individuals pay for storage and transaction fees
- Voting – The token is used to purchase voting rights for members to participate in decision-making on the direction of the Harmony protocol
ONE’s distribution was as follows:
- 22.4% went to the seed sale conducted in May 2018
- 12.5% went to the launchpad sale which took place in May 2019
- 16.9% went to the team
- 26.4% point to protocol development
- 21.8% went to ecosystem development
The following is ONE’s market performance as of June 29, 2020. The cryptocurrency is trading at $0.004421 while ranking at #145. It has a market cap of $27, 653, 568, 24-hour volume of 4, 650, 278, a circulating supply of 6, 255, 461, 110, and a total and maximum supply of 12, 600, 000, 000. ONE has an all-time high of $0.030689 (June 06, 2019), and an all-time low of $0. 001257, (March 13, 2020).
Where to Buy and Store ONE
You can buy ONE tokens from a variety of exchanges, including Huobi, Binance, WazirX, KuCoin, BitMax, Gate.io, MXC, HitBTC, Bilaxy, and Bitsonic. With storage, you also have a variety of options, including Trust, Ledger, Math Wallet, and Guarda Wallet.
Harmony manages to solve the decade-old, thorny issue of blockchain’s lack of scalability. By its use of state sharding, and it’s a unique twist to the traditional practical Byzantine fault tolerance mechanism, the blockchain can scale faster than other existing blockchains. Harmony excels where other blockchains have fallen short, and perhaps we’ll see more blockchains adopting some of its techniques in a bid to attain increased scalability.