The 'Gospel' of Blockchain

Who are Gospel Technology, and why did IDC call them the first practical enterprise blockchain application? What does this means for businesses and where is the technology being deployed?

Ramy Caspi
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Gospel Technologies was started 18 months ago with a highly trained team of experienced enterprise personnel coming from HP, IBM, and Deutsche Bank and they saw a huge problem.

Both data and the lack of trust with the way data is managed has arisen from the significant data breaches that keep on occurring.

Centralized servers containing valuable or sensitive information are targets for hackers, as we saw in the iCloud hack of 2014 and the Dropbox hack of 2012. These systems are only as secure as the measures put in place. Even the world’s best and most funded tech teams cannot protect themselves: see Equifax, Verizon, Target, etc. The fact that each of these companies actually takes custody of customer data means that there is always risk of theft. Data breaches are happening regularly with the general public becoming more aware of the significance of the problem. When a company like Facebook makes headlines and over 80 million records have been used in a way, not originally described in the terms of conditions, do people start to understand the severity of the problem and how their data should be managed?

Over the last few years, enterprise and commercial data storage has migrated to the cloud. With this migration, a huge lack of control over how data is being used in businesses and how it's flowing. This has created a world where this centralised security data solution has degraded. Enterprise services have paid significant sums to trusted vendors and when it's implemented, the solution is brilliant, but it degrades.

General security protocols become outdated, working principles become more relaxed. Employees begin to send spreadsheets via email and trust services like Dropbox. These services are fantastic, but these technologies may not belong in a secure corporate environment and people fall into the trap of using them incorrectly. This is what Gospel began to work on. The company looked ahead at the technological roadmap, and the problem with security and the lack of trust for enterprise data and stated to build out a solution.

An example of a typical problem in a corporate environment occurs when a company officer sends 30,000 records over email to a travel agency. This is done so that employees that need to book a flight, the travel agency can simply validate the records and book the flight over the phone. In hindsight, the example in question has on average only 180 staff that are constantly travelling, so was it necessary to send the agency 29780 records? That's the problem. We are all familiar with this type of issue, but these problems are never reported and mostly go unnoticed.

The problem gets even bigger when you start to deal with supply chain information. When you have multiple parties, multiple data points, and multiple technology types all trying to work on the same dataset. We all understand the world that we are in and we are always moving forward. We need to work with new types of partners and new partnership consortium. Whatever you want to call it, we have no real tangible mechanism in which to do that.

This is why Gospel Technologies was created - 18 months ago the company began to build a lot of IP on top of blockchain and make it work with existing systems. Utilizing existing infrastructures to the fulliest.

There are many blockchain projects currently in development around the world; however, half of those projects are being done for the sake of doing a blockchain project. The other half have a real tangible business case and they are trying to fix those problems, but are they not simply creating another silo?  With these new silos and custom built applications, we need trained people with new skills to manage those services. Once the outsourced consultancy company signs off and leaves, businesses are left with this open source program which no one really understands how it works. The blockchain space is going through a a level of disillusionment, because we have been promised new miracles that can transform many industries. But people are simply saying “I don't care about this distributor ledger technology.”

What Gospel Technologies has done, is they have approached the problems differently. Gospel has created a tangible platform with interesting capabilities. Blockchain, or Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), enabled Bitcoin. Since then, many new DLTs have come to market – built to mathematically deliver trust in an uncontrolled environment – where the distributed results and grouped consensus are derived to determine the integrity of the absolute result. 

A Distributed Ledger is an append-only database technology in which every new block of information is encrypted with a part of the previous one, making the historical record of data unchangeable. This builds up into a chain, where if it were even possible to remove a link it would be identified immediately. As the name implies, the database is also distributed by nature. In contrast with other distributed technologies, it does not spread the data over the network – instead all members keep a fully synchronised copy of the data – each peer therefore being essential in determining the integrity of every new transaction. The security is immense and to break into the system,a breach would have to happen to all members at the exact same time. These aspects make the DLT immutable and an architecture that Gospel have leveraged to build trust into data and data transactions.

The Gospel Ledger Bridge

Gospel LedgerBridge is Gospel’s ingestion engine. One of the biggest problems of blockchain is getting data onto the chain and ensuring the security of the data. When data is added to the chain, Gospel confirms that the update is done correctly. Gospel LedgerBridge is the technology that allows data to be translated and copied onto the Gospel Cloud and underlying Blockchain. It is an application environment that includes the source data integration through API and the secure, encrypted, connection to the Gospel LedgerNode. This ensures that data copied from centralised systems is absolutely secured as it is translated to transactions on ledger.

The Gospel LedgerBridge can ingest a CSV files, payslips, contracts, anything really. For example, in a manufacturing environment, Gospel LedgerBridge can manage certificates of authenticity and prove that a part came from the supplier, the part in question went through the whole supply chain process, and which personal interacted with it. Therefore, the ledger bridges are ingestion engines on top of the blockchain Gospel has built the ledger nodes.

Gospel LedgerNode is the scale-out entity that holds the actual data and capacity. Each LedgerNode holds the world view, i.e. the current active data set versions and the full immutable history of real data versions. This LedgerNode also holds the Gospel core application and the underlying Enterprise Blockchain. All actual data and configuration are stored on-chain and therefore the number of LedgerNodes can be increased to improve security and distribution.

The Gospel platform acts as a micro service architecture, which essentially enables the platform to work with lots of different technologies. For example: when a piece of data is copied, unless you can prove who you say you are, the system will lock you out. It works on a set of defined terms, like GPS coordinates or the correct facial recognition, then if those conditions are met the data that you are requesting will be exposed. Data sharing between organization's is a challenge for every enterprise. Centralised and silo-ed infrastructures means that controlling and monitoring the use of the data held is extremely complex.

When these types of rules are applied the contextual view of data across supply chain becomes more valid. When organizations work with each other, typically they actually do not want to share their intellectual property (IP), however organization's need to collaborate on a multitude of scenarios and this creates a significant problem. It's a competitive problem of people needing to work together, but do not want to expose their IP. The innovation lies in Gospel LedgerNodes which ingest data and securely distribute it to the other nodes in the private, permissioned, network. Through Gospel’s consensus mechanism, the LedgerNodes create a resilient network with no single points of failure.

Before a change is made, consensus is used to verify that requests are valid and will not corrupt the shared data, reducing the requirement for backups or DR solutions. Security is also maintained by the network of LedgerNodes through consensus. This prevents unauthorised access to data even in the event that a LedgerNode is compromised. Gospel has chosen to expose the data through a front-end UI, which is slightly different as the solution uses a RESTful API and this will allow a true end-to-end integration between different systems and applications.

From an enterprise IT point of view, the biggest problem which companies have to solve is how to secure the data. When data comes databases, it has no context in which it is been exposed and has no real understanding of why its been exposed to the application. What Gospel is doing is controlling the security of that data, at an applicational layer, and what comes out of gospel is only contextually aware information. LedgerBridge and TrustLink securely translate structured and unstructured data into and out of the platform. This accelerates enterprise data integration with cloud services, essential in the age of digital transformation.

For example a business that sells various components has a contract business and its enterprise clients are expected to order products through it. The challenge arrives when the enterprise client needs to make an order, the client ends up using Google as a search tool, and needs to purchase the parts from Amazon. How does the business compete on a commerce level, when services such as Amazon, or eBay are offering cheaper components to the public? If the business’s existing system adds a line cost that makes the solution non competitive?

Gospel has developed a way and has deployed an automation engine which uses smart contracts and logic.Using the logic, they are able to create trigger’s based on predefined parameters of the contract such as: should the price on Amazon fall below 10%, automatically allow the price reduction, send an email to the accountant, and update the csv file. Similarly should the price on Amazon exceed the 10% threshold, send an email to the Account Manager and trigger an internal price review.

By integrating smart contracts and conditional logic, Gospel can integrating into existing ERP systems/ordering systems and if the order is approved, a delivery API is triggered and a part of that integration is translated through the reporting engine. At the end of the month it provides the CFO with a detailed traceable statement. This is significant on many levels. First, is the obvious audit trail which cannot be disputed. Second, by implementing conditional logic and services on the workflow and be adding automation triggers this will reduce the costs and for industries this is huge.

All industries have some kind of process implemented. For example: an insurance company has its own process to manage re-insurance customers, and data is being fed to 10-20 agents through a spreadsheet. Each agent saves a copy of the data on their PCs and begins to work the data. The agents are all working off a different dataset and this should not be the case. The data should be single source of truth with automation steps to reduce cost and audible traceability. These features permit a group of organizations to work together on a single dataset, with the confidence that access controls and integrity are maintained at the data level. This enables completely new effective and efficient ways to drive cost savings, increase revenue streams and secure critical data.

Blockchain has made some incredible promises to transform the supply chain, however, the challenges with existing supply chains is that each has a different technology stack applied to it. Whether that technology is SAP systems, Oracle, IBM, or DB2, everyone is interacting with that data different. Through Gospel’s ledger, this provides the bridge to the components which then allows the solution to work across existing technology stacks.

Gospel Technology’s approach to databases, security, and DLT is very interesting. The company has developed significant IP around its solution and they have their own forked Hyperledger network. The security allows businesses to take away the heavyweight aspects of Proof-of-Work.  Gospel has introduced Multi Factor Authentication, LDAP, and other security functions as plug-ins in order to achieve levels of assurance and trust. This is even before users get access to the underlying framework of Gospel.  It’s not a siloed model. This means there are new APIs for facial recognition and other ID assurance once they are on the Gospel platform. This is a unique approach to addressing various data sharing rules. I believe that Gospel will push their technology even further. The company has already won numerous awards and has already amassed an impressive list of customers. Gospel’s underlying blockchain foundation provides immutability and trust, and then builds its data logic rules. These rules work based around who, when, how, and what those records can be accessed, providing full transparency to the individual data owner and complete encrypted security.