Chatting with Shiv – an insight into Streamr and our data future!
After following the open source platform Streamr for a while, we decided to have a chat with them to get a bit of insight into their rise and see how the inner workings of the company roll. Enter Shiv Malik, Streamr Head of Communications, an evangelist and an all-round nice guy. As an ex-journalist himself, he knows a fair bit about how to investigate and was able to give us a pretty good insight into the “back-end” of Streamr. It makes for interesting reading and certainly gives us some clues into what the future of our data might look like!
Can you give me a little bit of the history of Streamr, where you’re coming from and what it was based on?
Streamr came out of an idea which was to design software that was incredibly good at ingesting all sorts of information that would eventually turn into machine-readable data. Real-time is key when you’re doing high-frequency algorithmic trading, since data that is just a few minutes old can often be worthless. With our platform, the high-frequency algorithmic data can be traded in real-time. The unique thing we’re bringing to the table is allowing consumers to sell and aggregate their data, and sell it to businesses. This way lots of people can come together to create their own data sets.
How do you stand out from your competitors in the data and IoT sector and what is your advantage compared to them? And who are the biggest competitors?
I should start by saying that the open source model doesn’t work too well with competition. It tends to work better if you are more cooperative. You can just add network effects and no one’s trying to edge anyone else out of the market. When for-profit models come up against open source products and ecosystems, they tend to get eaten alive. We are bringing something unique to the table and in that sense we’re doing similar things like Amazon, but we have a very different architecture.
There are existing economies for selling data from ordinary individuals, so there’s this big conversation going on about who owns all of this personal data. We have all of these software manufacturers, software owners and individual copyrights. The big question is who owns that information? I think that’s probably one of the biggest problems of the information age. How do we, technologically speaking, ensure that the power balance and those rights can be enforced and not just exploited? These are the challenges and that is what we are working on.
Is interoperability with other blockchains something Streamr is looking into, or is it purely locked to Ethereum?
We’re blockchain agnostic, so we could just swap them out. We are an ERC 20 token and the token aspect of it is that we use a token for payments, but the payment aspect can be detached from the service provided by the centralized network. So, although it would be a lot of work, we could adopt another token on another platform.
How is Streamr’s individual personal privacy determined? And how is it secured?
I think the very first step is ensuring privacy, so we’re working on it. It’s difficult because you need to be able to do it in these high moving systems. How do you provide encryption with high moving systems when people are coming in and out? You have to think about it from a sort of architecture level, like who has the encryption keys to be able to subscribe to a data product. They’ll have access to that key but then you need to revoke that access and it all gets very complicated. At the moment we’re working right on the edge of encryption, sort of pioneering encryption technology. It’s very fascinating to watch the progress and the teamwork. I think the eventual solution that will arise is going to blow everyone’s mind.
What can Streamr do in the energy sector?
We’re already collaborating with Electrify in Singapore and that’s been pretty exciting. I’m not so familiar with the markets in East Asia in general, but they still are sort of deeply regulated. You have all sorts of state providers who might no longer be owned by the state, but they don’t really offer consumers much choice.
Consumers can’t really switch providers. This means energy costs can be quite expensive in the end. What Electrify wants is to develop a market that offers much more discretion in allowing people to change and swap out energy providers. This is what they are trying to solve.
Has the tight crypto legislation in Europe affected your day to day running of the company?
We would prefer certainty for sure. But we’re slowly getting there. European legislators have been slow to create proper legal frameworks for operations, but it looks like the UK might be adopting the crypto perspective about ICOs at least. In that case, utility token projects will be treated as if they have raised money through regular crowdfunding platform like kickstarter, and not as if they were a US security. I think we’ll learn more from UK legislators in June.
Have you been approached by any suspicious actors? Any recommendations for other businesses or individuals?
There are dark data markets that are largely unlawful and yet continue to be run by seemingly lawful businesses. Even people who would regard themselves as legitimate enterprises are still doing unlawful things, and most are not getting prosecuted for it. That’s on a general note.
More widely, we haven’t had any contact with scammers, although we ourselves did a pretty thorough KYC process, which many other crypto companies didn’t do for privacy reasons. We did it in a sense as if we were intending to be a listed security. And that was, you know, a pretty interesting process. The 2018 crypto winter flushed out most of the scammers and anyone with bad intentions – and all that was left is hardened well-intentioned projects, so that was a great thing for the space.
How is your community? What are your preferred platforms?
We have a lively community on Telegram and Reddit. 20,000+ followers on Twitter, where we are relatively active. We try to keep things alive and very real. We don’t buy ready-made lists or work with bots. At the end of the day, it’s nice to know that what we’re receiving is genuine.
Those are sort of the main hubs for our community. We’ve also got a special community forum for developers that we’ve just kicked off.
Did the 2018 bear market affect your roadmap?
It made us knuckle down. Investors worried about the price. However, I think the bull run of 2017 sucked in a lot of scammers on all levels and from all perspectives, so the best thing that ever happened to crypto is that bull run ended and the only the strong entities remain.
A massive thank you to Shiv Malik and Streamr for their time and effort with us – it’s really nice to be able to get to know a new perspective and get some inside info into one of the foremost companies in the space. We appreciate it and wish you all the best!