Serguei Popov, one of the main contributions in IOTA
The full article was originally published by Daniel De Michele on IOTA Hispano. Read the full article here.
The Russian mathematician Serguei Popov, professor of the Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Scientific Computing (Imecc) of Unicamp, is one of the creators of Iota, cryptocurrency launched in 2015 with the proposal to introduce innovations in that segment. One of the differentials of the digital currency is that it dispenses the collection of fees to make the transactions viable, in addition to having been designed to be applied to the Internet of Things (IoT). In the interview that follows, the teacher talks about his experience in the development of the system, which he described as “fascinating”, of the concept involved in the project and the distrust of people in relation to the use of cryptocurrencies. “Mistrust is natural. But we must consider: the future always arrives, and what one can do is participate a bit of it. Soon, distrust will be overcome. ”
How did the idea of creating Iota come about?
Well, the idea of the project was not mine. It emerged three and a half years ago with David Sonstebo, Sergey Ivancheglo and Dominik Schieer, who thought about creating a cryptocurrency that applied to the Internet of Things and that was appropriate for micro transactions, that is, very low value transactions. To do this, I could not charge fees like the other digital currencies do. Some currently charge between US $ 3 and US $ 4 per transaction, but in December of 2017 that rate cost 30 dollars. If you are buying a helicopter, all good pay that rate. However, if you are paying for a coffee, it makes it unfeasible. As we imagined that, with IoT, we would have many small value transactions, we looked for a way to get rid of the transaction rate.
How did the opportunity to work on the Iota creation project come about?
I’m a mathematician I started to get interested in cryptocurrencies at the end of 2013, as a hobby. I spoke with several people involved with the subject. Afterwards, I made some calculations about how the blockchain construction process [accounting register system used by Bitcoin] is, what is the probability of success of an attack against that system, etc. I wrote a text with some formulas and put on the Internet, in a discussion forum on the subject. The forum participants really enjoyed and encouraged me to continue producing. When David Sonstebo and Sergey Ivancheglo started the creation of Iota, they called me to be the mathematician of the project, based on these produced works.
What was your contribution to the project?
My task was specifically to write the whitepaper, that is, the document that conceptually describes the currency. So, my work was very conceptual. I have not participated in the programming work.
How long did the construction of the project demand?
The project demanded more or less nine months of work. The launch of Iota took place in October 2015.
What was the biggest challenge faced by you?
The biggest challenge was to arrive at a model that would exempt the fee and the presence of the miners. In the traditional currencies, you have the miners, who are those who have more computational resources and who make the blocks that contain the transactions. Everyone can issue a transaction. However, for the transaction to be considered valid, it must be included in a block by a miner. This miner has a very powerful hardware. At first, it was possible to mine a Bitcoin with a home computer. Nowadays, it is necessary to use a powerful hardware, made to perform this task specifically. For you to have an idea, a Bitcoin mining company is a huge warehouse. In it are several shelves, each with several hardwares that make accounts to mine Bitcoin, tens of thousands of times faster than that of a home computer. The energy consumption by these miners is very high. It is estimated that the current electricity consumption of the Bitcoin network is equivalent to twice the consumption of Denmark.
According to the mathematician, the digital currency was created to be applied with the Internet of Things
How are Iota transactions processed?
In Iota, you also need to process the transactions, but a normal team can do it in ten seconds. However, in order to get there, it was necessary to deal with economic incentives. In Bitcoin, miners have incentives to mine the blocks. Today, the Bitcoin network pays every ten minutes at $ 100,000 for the miners. If that incentive is removed, nobody will obviously want to undermine. In the case of Iota, the incentive is as follows: help others, others will help you. If you are behaving well in the sense of doing your transactions to help others, the system will help you. If, on the other hand, you are an exploiter, if you are only interested in taking advantage, the system will not collaborate with you. It was necessary to think enough to make the rules so that things would work.
What is the function of the Iota Foundation?
Iota Foundation is a non-profit foundation, registered in Germany. She has a certain amount of capital that the investors donated so that it could work, but its attribution is to encourage the research and development of the Iota network.
For talking about research and development, cryptosystems need to be constantly improved, right?
All cryptosystems are in constant improvement. There is a concern for security, but there is also concern that transactions are made more quickly, what people call scalability. The system has to remain efficient, even when thousands of transactions occur simultaneously. He always has a new challenge emerging on the horizon. In addition, no software is free of errors. One of the works of the Foundation is to monitor the system and propose solutions for eventual failures. This applies not only to Iota, but to all cryptocurrencies.
With the advance of Internet of Things (IOT), it is said that our refrigerator will be able to identify a missing food, buy that item and pay for it with a cryptocurrency. Are we far from this scenario?
That is already at our doorstep. There is already an experience in the Netherlands, through which the owner of an electric car plugs the vehicle’s cable into a totem to get supplies and pays for the energy consumption with Iota. The Iota Foundation has cooperation with several large industries with the aim of expanding this type of application. Today you can pay your coffee with Iota, using your smartphone, as long as the cafeteria accepts the cryptocurrency. There are still few establishments that use it, since it is a nascent technology, but I think there will be an exponential growth of its acceptance.
Since the issue is acceptance, many people distrust cryptocurrencies …
Mistrust is natural. I even share it, since I do not like the idea of my fridge having my own opinion (laughs). But we must consider: the future always arrives, and what one can do is participate a bit of it. Soon, distrust will be overcome.
Do you use the ‘cryptocurrency’ theme in your classroom activities?
When the students want to know about that, I always speak. Currently, I have a student of scientific initiation and two doctoral students who work specifically with applied research on the subject cryptocurrency. I did not introduce it in the day to day of the classes, but when the students look for me, I do not refuse to deal with the matter.
How do you describe the experience of having contributed to the creation of Iota?
It was fascinating to work on the project. There are many beautiful things associated with that job.