SORA Research Review (Insanely Review)


14 min read
SORA Research Review (Insanely Review)

So this was a long time coming, but a few days ago, I performed a research review on SORA ($XOR).

This was for no greater reason than the fact that the project seemeed to be the subject of much hype in a few DeFi channels that I was in (saw the alerts coming across my screen). I had a little bit of free time, so I was able to extract some notes on the project and it turns out that there was some significant information that I was able to glean about SORA (and some of the affiliated entities / venture capital firms that are backing this project) as well as its origins (Japanese as you may have guessed from the name).

Initial Research / Background on the Project

Quick visit to their website shows a rather unimpressive display (this almost deterred me from looking further, but there were some rewarding revelations that I uncovered in the process).

Quick Notes

A) They're talking about it in a few of these 'degen' channels

B) Mentioned as part of the "Polkaswap" that occurred recently (https://medium.com/@polkaswap/introducing-polkaswap-6f1db4003747) ; published on July 18th, 2020

C) Appears that their website = sora.org (references some entity called, "SORAMITSU" [?}) ; name is clearly Japanese but I've never heard of these individuals in my life. That site is unimpressive and so is the one that it links me to (the japanese site ; soramitsu.co.jp)

Biggest (and most important) Connection Here is to "Hyperledger Iroha" (that's what I'm seeing pop up on my radar most frequently in relation to this project.

Hyperledger Iroha

Obviously we need to look into what the hell this is.

  1. Basic Information About Hyperledger Iroha: https://medium.com/@polkaswap/introducing-polkaswap-6f1db4003747
  2. Code here is actually open source (and there is a wealth of documentation on it too) ; can be found here = https://iroha.readthedocs.io/en/master/index.html  [perhaps we'll take some time to run it through the linter + whiz it through Codacy once or twice when I get around to covering this topic]
  3. Chat for Hyperledger Iroha + http://chat.hyperledger.org/channel/iroha
  4. Git for Hyperledger Iroha = https://github.com/hyperledger/iroha
  5. Covered on Linux Foundation (they've always been fond of Hyperledger for some reason ; can't knock it though - and this is open source, so why not) = https://www.linuxfoundation.org/blockchain-data-analytics/2019/05/hyperledger-launches-hyperledger-iroha-1-0/

They're on "educative.io" as well (damn they're in a lot of different fucking places ; but Hyperledger is pretty well-funded)  = https://www.educative.io/edpresso/hyperledger-iroha

Those are the rough footnotes on the project for those that  just want to dive straight into the research without wasting any time here.

Assessment of Hyperledger Iroha

Its intriguing. Almost seems like its as much of a driving force as the damn SORA project itself.

Consulting the Wiki / Documentation Would Be the Best Idea For the Nerds Here

That link = https://wiki.hyperledger.org/display/iroha/Hyperledger+Iroha (referenced above, right?)

Screenshot below:

Jira / Confluence has some beautiful documentation interface don't they? Shoutout to the ones that are able to tame that beast...

I digress though.

YAC Consensus

The most important facet of this SDK / blockchain codebase here (that's what HyperLedger does) is its new 'YAC' consensus.

More information can be found here: https://wiki.hyperledger.org/display/RU/Advanced+Iroha?preview=%2F20021629%2F20021630%2FHyperledger+Iroha+in+a+nutshell_general.pdf

Quick Dissection of the YAC Consensus

Honestly don't want to get too off the beaten path here with this project, because there is a strong possibility that individuals are not investing in it (like crazy) for its technical merits.

But in that pdf document (linked above), detailing the protocol's specifications - the YAC consensus is explored extensively.

See below:

This initial photo illustrates the 'voting' process.

Apparently, nodes on the network (contributors) are mandated to come to a hash agreement before the next block can be published (one can imagine that this process would be adjudicated by some sort of fault tolerance algorithm of some sort ; this does not appear to be an asynchronous protocol in the least bit [like Bitcoin's Proof of Work consensus architecture)].

Some Initial Qualms With the Protocol Design

Damn it - said that I wasn't going to be here long, but it appears that they've trapped me into seriously reviewing this protocol (once again).

So here goes.

First Major Qualm: The Outlined Consensus Architecture is Extremely Redundant!

Take a look at the process below:

Based on what we can see from the illustration above (specifically, the annotations), it tells us that each one of the peers are running the same process we see outlined in the three boxes labeled: 'propagation', 'collecting', and 'agreement' (respectively).

This is confirmed through the annotation at the bottom of that slide / page proclaiming:

"Note: all phases are performed simultaneously. The process is the same for all peers. There is no 'leader' peer which shares commit, everyone can do it."

Which takes us to qualm number two.

Second Major Qualm: The Consensus Authentication Specification Makes Zero Sense

If each of the nodes is completing the authentication process on their end (albeit in different roles), then why would there be a need to continuously shuffle the distribution of those in various roles?

This is what is essentially happening here by mandating regular rotations of the consensus nodes (i.e., the node that was playing '4' in that picture above, will eventually be playing the same role as '3' / '3' / '1')

Moving Past Hyperledger Iroha

This isn't even what we came here for, but I didn't want to neglect to at least comment on the structure / design of this protocol for those that are curious.

Probably seems like I beat them up a little bit, but these were just objective critiques that I had for that specific collection of slides (going to assume that the information contained within was part of a presentation for a conference / the general community / etc)

Back to SORA

This project is oddly pretty popular.

  1. Here are some quick (additional) facts to supplement what we've already covered thus far:
  2. Covered widely in a bunch of different publications from Bloomberg to Whitepaper repositories (the latter linked here = https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8751489) ; see how efficient we can be at uploading this to the 'files.librehash.org' repository where this belongs at.
  3. Covered by CT (shows that its part of 'shill central') = https://cointelegraph.com/news/soramitsu-starts-testing-white-tiger-digital-currency-in-japan [why are they covering this project though? I'm curious about who Sora's backers are now, more than ever]
  4. Some Pretty Comprehensive Research on This Project Here = https://www.reddit.com/r/CryptoMoonShots/comments/gmj8k7/xor_sora_decentralized_autonomous_economy/ (what is this little subreddit?)

Sora Investment and Investors

Re-visiting their main website (Japanese!) (https://soramitsu.co.jp/) ; more to follow [this is owned by a Japanese firm, which is pretty unique because we don't see too many projects originating directly from Japan in the blockchain space these days]

Below Are the Listed Team Members:

Specifically from that very last screenshot, let's extract that information for further reference.

Address

Jingumae Tower Building 13F
Jingumae 1-5-8, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo 150-0001

Email Address (who knows, may be handy!)

Email: info@soramitsu.co.jp

Telcoin Connection!

Appears that the address that we extracted at the end of the SORA website gave us an exact match to Telcoin (which is curious, since I had no clue that Telcoin was of Japanese origin - they seemed to be very Western-focused in their marketing & value proposition).

Evidence Below (corroborated by numerous external sources that list Telcoin at the same address):

source = https://yellow.place/en/telcoin-shibuya-ku-tokyo-japan

Pursuing the Telcoin Lead

Welp, now that we know that Telcoin is essentially the same entity (or managed by the same one ) as SORA, it stands to reason that we should be able to find out more information about SORA (potentially) by extracting out more information about Telcoin

Telcoin's Crunchbase Page

Crunchbase is always a great place to start for these types of investigations (before we move on to see if there are any investors / VC firms that may have been missed during the first sweep).

Here's the link to the Telcoin Crunchbase page: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/telcoin

Who is Batara Eto?

According to Bloomberg's Business Profile Search, Batara Eto is the 'Managing Partner / Co-Founder' of 'East Ventures' (current at the time of writing):

source: https://www.bloomberg.com/profile/person/15756879

Curious Information Regarding the Funding of 'East Ventures'

See below:

This line in the excerpt above is worthy of the most attention / note:

"East Ventures has raised $57 million at first close from Adams Street and Pavilion Capital, a unit of Temasek Holdings Pte..."

Specifically, we're going to zero in on Pavilion Capital

Why?

Had an inkling that I had seen it elsewhere in the blockchain space and thus far, there are no definitive links to corroborate the association between SORA and Telcoin, which increasingly gives me the feeling that this relationship has not been reiterated publicly (by either team) for a reason (not sure what that reason is, not making any conclusions here or implying anything nefarious behind it - these are just observations).

Examining Pavilion Capital

Here's their Crunchbase Profile URL: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/pavilion-capital/recent_investments

Among the investments that Pavilion Capital was involved i, I noticed that one of them was titled, 'SORACOM'.

Obviously, the name is pretty damn similar to SORA (and they're both even spelled in capital letters; which is a notable aberration from how other projects display their project's name).

Super Quick Look at 'SORACOM'

Don't want to get too far down the rabbit hole here (especially since there is a possibility that the projects just happen to share one part of their name in common ; perhaps 'SORA' alludes to a common reference in the Japanese language and I'm being obtuse about this whole thing).

But here is their Crunchbase profile URL (in case I'm not) = https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/soracom

There's nothing too notable here (other than the fact that Soracom had a heavy emphasis on IoT devices alongside connectivity solutions, which is eerily similar to what Hyperledger Iroha / SORA proposes they will accomplish with their project).

Proving That Hyperledger Iroha / SORA is Building a Structure to Address IoT Devices in Specific

A recently published whitepaper (from the Islamic University of Madinah, Saudi Arabia), titled, "IoT-Fog: A Blockchain-based Middleware Framework for Communication Security in the Internet of Things" sheds a bit more light on the applicability of Hyperledger Iroha when outfitted to function within the framework of IoT devices (this is markedly different than outfitting blockchain for non-IoT purposes ; i.e., like Ethereum, for instance)

Specifically, this excerpt from the whitepaper outlines exactly how Iroha would be used to facilitate / foster such an ecosystem:

Curiously, the paper goes on to state:

"The Hyperledger IROHA tool is included [in] many facilities such as distributed Hyperledger, Proof of Work (PoW) algorithms, P2P network, etc."

They also note:

"The Android and iOS packages in IROHA provide the facility to **interact [with] the IoT nodes [on] the blockchain."

Sumeragi Algorithm

Don't worry, we're not going to dig into this one, but what should be noted here (with regards to the above referenced 'Sumeragi Algorithm'), is that it is specifically outfitted to facilitate interconnectivity between different blockchain devices.

For the sake of due diligence, more information about this protocol is provided below:

source: https://iroha.readthedocs.io/en/iroha2-dev/iroha_2_whitepaper.html

Not going to dig too much into this (although its tempting), because we're finding something interesting here in relation to the Venture Capital Firms / core investors in Telcoin and their (potential) relationship to the SORA project (if any at all)

Going Back to Soracom's Premise

From their Crunchbase page, the VC has the following description:

"SORACOM provides IoT (Internet of Things) platform of data communication to connect all the people and things in the society." (side note, did someone write this description while they were drunk?)

Intro KDDI: The Company That Acquired SORACOM

Press Release From SORACOM Announcing the Acquisition

link = https://www.soracom.io/press-releases/kddi-corporation-to-acquire-soracom-inc/

So the SORACOM thing was short-lived, but we established that they were essentially niched in the same industry with the same use case as SORA (curious), with both originating from Japanese teams.

And, of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that the only reason SORACOM came across our scanners is by virtue of us tracking down investors in the Telcoin project (which we discovered was located at the exact same address as the one published on Soramitsu's website [SORA's parent company]).

So the relationships between these entities appear to be more than just coincidental at this point. But there is no definitive evidence yet to estbalish this linkage between Telcoin and SORA (which is really fucking weird, all things considered).

KDDI and the Blockchain Space

With KDDI, we finally have stumbled upon an entity (in the very direct) chain of investments / investors stemming from the Telcoin project.

It turns out that KDDI has been extremely active in the blockchain space.

Below is a mini-compilation of KDDI's related investments in the blockchain space.

"KDDI and Couger Lead Japan to Initiate 'Smart Contract' Proof of Concept Projects Utilizing Enterprise Ethereum"

Its worth noting that the proposed blockchain solution that KDDI and Couger plan on manifesting via smart contracts describes an architecture that is virtually identical to the current functionality of SORA (see below):

(Getting Closer): "Tech Giants Hitachi and KDDI Trial Blockchain Biometrics Verification System For Retail"

Above is the title of a CoinTelegraph article, published in 2018 (link = https://cointelegraph.com/news/japan-tech-giants-hitachi-kddi-trial-blockchain-biometrics-verification-system-for-retail)

Yet again, another IoT-premised project with a proposal to establish a viable architecture to meet the project's core goal via the integration / supplanting of blockchain technology into its architecture.

Hitachi's Role as Collaborator / Partner On this Project is Worthy of Note

The following excerpt in the CoinTelegraph is really worth paying attention to (in my opinion; I'm going to isolate the specific part I'm referring to)

Specifically, where it states:

"The trial integrates Hitachi's Hyperledger Fabric-powered platform with biometric verification technology and KDDI's existing retail coupon system."

Did someone just say, 'Hyperledger Fabric'?

I think so. And if I remember correctly - Hitachi was named as well.

Hitachi Brings Us Back Full Circle: Hyperledger Iroha

I'm sure anyone (still) reading this article remembers Hyperledger Iroha, correct? (This is the hyperledger project designed by SORA that implements a unique, consensus mechanism that functions like a replicated round-robin with replication).

Brief Recap

More information on the Hyperledger Iroha (in relation to SORA's blockchain project), can be found here: https://sora.org/#rec142094744

Establishing Soramitsu (creator of SORA) as One of the Creators of Hyperledger Iroha

SORA's parent company - Soramitsu - essentially represenets the human element of SORA (remember, $SORA si a blockchain - just code, not a team or group of people - that would be "Soramitsu", to be clear).

Shelling Out Soramitsu's Involvement in the Creation of 'Hyperledger Iroha'

In order to ascertain this information, one need not look any further than the official Soramitsu website, found here (the specific entry detailing the protocol, for speed's sake: https://soramitsu.co.jp/iroha#rec103186413)

Soramitsu is a Member of Hyperledger?

And they're one of the protocol's core creators?

This is definitely a bonus for those that were looking for objective validations of the team's developing chops.

The proposed use cases (on the same page), further establish Soramitsu as one of the primary driving forces of the Hyperledger Iroha protocol (and its subsequent development and ecosystem expansion).

List of Investors / Ecosystem Participants = Jackpot

At the bottom of that very same Hyperledger Iroha specification page (again, link = https://soramitsu.co.jp/iroha#rec103186413), we can see a list of investors / contributors to the Iroha ecosystem.

If we scroll down far enough on that list, we find both Hitachi AND KDDI listed underneath this project

See below:

(worth paying attention to the labeling of this section - for reference, especially if there are subsequent denials of affiliation between Telcoin and SORA for whatever reason)

(it appears we've found KDDI now! [remember they bought out SORACOM])

And there's Hitachi there as well.

The same two partnered investors that were explicitly referenced in the CoinTelegraph article detailing their foray into the blockchain space (going back a few sections; yeah this ended up being a monster that was a bit lengthier than we had originally anticipated, but making these connections are worthwhile to shell out).

Temasek

This is another one of the major names that kind of went unaddressed earlier in this article.

Specifically, their relevance stems from the following chain:

We found out that Telcoin and Soramitsu (parent company of SORA) were listed at the same address (for whatever reason).

We were able to corroborate this weird intersection between the two projects independently

It was subsequently discovered that the key (sole) investor in Telcoin was an individual named, 'Batara Eto'.

'Batara Eto' was the head of East Ventures.

East Ventures received investments from Temasek Holdings.

Who/What is Temasek Holdings?

You may remember this firm being mentioned a couple years ago when there were article headlines detailing Binance's relationship with a subsidiary of Temasek (Vertex).

The related press release from the South China Morning  Post can be seen below:

link = https://www.scmp.com/tech/blockchain/article/2169809/temasek-backed-vertex-invests-binance-develop-fiat-cryptocurrency

Temasek: The Company

In short, Temasek is one of the largest investment firms in the entire Asia-Pacific (AP) region.

According to their website, they held a $313 billion portfolio as of March 2019.

(link: https://www.temasek.com.sg/en/who-we-are/about-us)

Conclusion

This is probably over kill for this project (and I still don't feel that I've covered all of the relevant facets of SORA).

But what individuals should take away from this project is that:

It has a longstanding presence in the blockchain space.

Their code is shelled out already (which is an aberration from several other blockchain projects in this space; this actually surprised me because you rarely see this).

The SDK is legitimate. I've looked at the codebase and the idea is legitimate as well. I'm not necessarily into embedded devices (IoT),

The investors

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