ICON Partnerships and DApps – A Detailed Look

ICON is a project that is aiming to connect various, normally disconnected, industries and ecosystems into one interwoven network, via which information in all its forms can be passed smoothly and without the need for expensive traditional intermediaries. In our ICON (ICX) analysis we broke down the overall elements of the project, but we felt that the issue of certain partnerships and connections deserved a little more time. Here we look in more detail into the partnerships of primary importance, as well as some of the DApps that should be launched on the ICON network this year.

Finance

Korea Financial Investment Association (KOFIA) – Partnering Finance With theloop 

KOFIA is the single self-regulatory organisation for the South Korean financial industry (somewhat like the SEC in the US or FSA in Japan) and leads the Korea Financial Investment Blockchain Consortium, which consists of a network of 26 financial institutions, for which theloop is the sole technology partner. KOFIA’s network were the first institutions to enable ICON’s Chain ID service, which allows users to share blockchain-based certificates and data between all participating financial institutions, without the need for a trusted central authority. 

Kim Yongbeom, current Vice President of the South Korean Financial Services Commission (FSC), and then Secretary General, stated that, “With the creation of the consortium, momentum is expected to start for spearheading the development of technology and service in the blockchain field, rather than passively following the footsteps of advanced nations”. This quote is from late 2016, but shows that South Korea truly wanted to and is actively pursuing blockchain technology, with government support in this case directly connecting major financial institutions with theloop team.



SBI Ripple Asia – Assisting With Cross-Border Transactions

SBI Ripple Asia is a joint venture between Ripple (XRP) and SBI Holdings, which is a financial services company based in Tokyo, with a current market cap of $5.9 billion. Interestingly, SBI Holdings had previously announced that they were going to co-launch a cryptocurrency exchange as part of a business partnership with cryptocurrency exchange Huobi, which they cancelled in March this year, but recently announced that they are intending to launch their own exchange by this summer – making their interest in the cryptocurrency space an extremely tangible one. A partnership was formed in conjunction with DAYLI Intelligence, the company directly above theloop – ICON’s blockchain technology arm – and DAVinCI – who work on the AI component of the project.

Together, the two will work to enable instant cross-border payments primarily between Japan and South Korea, but also on a global scale. SBI Ripple Asia manages a consortium of 60 banks who all use Ripple’s “frictionless” instant payment and settlement system. With these instant inroads to banks, the Ripple partnership once again widens ICON’s already fairly impressive reach in terms of financial institutions. The Ripple organisation believes that the ASEAN region (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) could best European economic output within a decade, making this area both a phenomenal location for the ICON team, but also meaning they will have to work hard to stay on top of their financial connections, making this partnership a major step in the right direction.

Korea exports 2017 data

Source: Bridgat

In the chart above we can see that South Korea has major export ties to Asia in general, with Southeast Asia, when taken as a whole, equating to a substantial share by itself. Having pre-established instant payment channels in place for future Korean blockchain networks should lead to substantial savings over traditional payment options, especially with trade volume to Japan and surrounding countries as high as it is, and only likely to grow in the near future – especially if Ripple’s ASEAN prediction comes true.

Woori Bank – Government-Issued Cryptocurrency 

Woori Bank have partnered with Dayli Financial and theloop teams to help create an official digital currency for South Korea, WeeBee coin, which will initially be used in franchises around the country, but is expected to spread to regional societies and universities around the country. The bank themselves stated that “We are planning to issue the blockchain-based digital currency by the end of this year and test the charging system”.

This is big news for several reasons; first of all, the fact that a major financial institution such as Woori decided to partner with the teams behind ICON shows that other big players out there recognise and understand the importance of their skillset. For the ICON team, on the other hand, it is valuable to know what these institutions are doing, and have a hand in shaping their vision and helping them implement it – with the potential for future projects or even WeeBee coin itself to be run on the ICON network.

Frontera South Korea banks asset sizes
Source: Frontera.

Despite not being a huge bank by international standards, Woori is still one of the largest banks in South Korea, with a market cap at the time of writing of $9.7 billion and over 15,000 employees nationwide – for reference, BNP Paribas has a market cap of $94.7 billion, and Deutsche Bank $28 billion. As can be seen in the chart above, by assets, the bank is ranked in the top 4 in South Korea, and is therefore well placed to implement such a system. However, it might be hard to export the technology abroad, as bigger banks may choose to implement their own system, or refuse to deal with cryptocurrency altogether.

Insurance

Sponsored by a government grant from the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning, an “Insurance Consortium” has been created, led by Kyobo Life Insurance (one of the big 3 life insurance companies in South Korea). The trial involves automatic insurance claims carried out on the blockchain – for the first time in the insurance industry. Small claims of under 1 million Won (roughly $925) will trigger the hospital to automatically send a copy of medical records to the insurer, with everything being written into the blockchain, and the claim filed and reviewed in roughly a day – something a Kyobo Life official commented on by saying: “It seems that the number of people who have been unable to claim insurance claims because they are busy and burdened is likely to decrease.” This is currently only being trialled alongside three hospitals, but Kyobo Life plans to roll the service out to all major hospitals in Seoul by Q3 2018 – already demonstrating how useful this cross-industry and cross-blockchain connectivity truly is.

Healthcare

Precision Medical Hospital Information System (P-HIS) is the name for the largest healthcare blockchain consortium in South Korea, for which loopchain will provide the technological foundation. This includes major hospitals such as Ajou University Medical Center, Samsung Medical Center, Severance Hospital, and Gacheon University Gil Medical Center.

The ability for medical data to be efficiently stored and shared between hospitals, and also to insurance providers as mentioned above, would be highly beneficial to the industry as a whole. With ever-more information becoming available to us about our health and bodies, in the form of sensors and even more radical changes such as genetic sequencing, it will become increasingly important for this data to find a safe home.

University

U-Coin (“University-Coin”) is the name of the cryptocurrency that is currently being trialled at three South Korean universities (Korea University, Sogang University, and Sohang University of Science and Technology), with a further 7 universities to be trialling it by Q3 of 2018. To begin with, the coin has fairly limited uses, for example to pay for scholarships and tuition fees, and buying snacks in vending machines on campus, but the plan is for the ecosystem to be further extended even beyond the campus, such as to local university towns and communities. Having the coin on the ICON network and introducing students – being the perfect demographic for this kind of innovation – to the ecosystem is a smart idea, even if this aspect of the project is much less interesting to us compared to the other industries.

Information on U-Coin and its technological background is limited at this point, but it is quite possible that the goal is for an entire campus management ecosystem to be built around it. How students use their scholarship funds, for example, could be tracked (and limited), and optimisation of supplies, scholarships, and fees could more easily take place, or even be automated.

Blockchain Interoperability Alliance

ICON, AION, and WAN all came together in December 2017 to form the BIA, in an effort to capitalise on the individual advantages of each project. ICON, as we have discussed, wants to “Hyperconnect the World” by building the largest blockchain ecosystem in the world. AION, as we have already written about, is looking to become a common protocol for all blockchains to connect between one another, while WAN is building a system to allow digital assets to be securely transferred and exchanged across any blockchain system; if they all achieve their individual goals, this partnership would lead to an instant advantage to all parties, as they fit together ideally. AION would potentially give ICON the ability to connect to any AION-compliant blockchain, which should grow over time and remove most global barriers for ICON.

ChainToB – “Blockchain to Business”

ChainToB is a South Korean blockchain startup, established as part of a strategic alliance with theloop, as well as theloop being an initial investor in the company. ChainToB is working on Blockchain Platform-as-a-Service (bPaaS); their ambition is to become a link between core blockchain technology and traditional business services, such as in Commerce (with coupons), Internet of Things (Flat Distributed Cloud), Medical (storing of Electronic Medical Records), or Services (real estate or gold trading). The expertise of ChainToB in these fields is likely to translate well to ICON, as ICON already employs Electronic Medical Records on the blockchain

The two companies will work together on further development of the Loopchain engine that runs the ICON network. Additionally, the two companies will collaborate in developing a blockchain-based document management platform. While there are existing blockchain based document management systems, such as Factom, having an in-house solution could be beneficial for ICON as it will allow them to tailor the needs of the system to the platform and vice versa.

Smilegate Stove – A Next Generation Gaming Platform

Smilegate Stove is the game platform development arm of developer Smilegate, who had previous success creating the game “Crossfire”, an online tactical FPS game, which grossed $6.8 billion within 9 years of first being published in South Korea. Smilegate Stove is now operating a platform where gamers can share and buy different pieces of contents that they have themselves created – a so-called C2C (Consumer to Consumer) marketplace.

The ICON team signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Smilegate Stove on February 6th 2018, in an effort to cooperate together to help build a decentralised platform (in the form of a DApp) for the sharing and trading of these virtual items, giving creators clearer rights when it comes to their own content, and giving users a better, more trust-less experience. As part of this, Smilegate will release the tentatively-named “Stove Coin” on the ICON network, which can be used to pay other users for their content, similar to how Steem Dollars function on blogging site Steemit.com.

With the virtual item trading industry for PC games being worth an estimated $50 billion in late 2017, and generally being a young industry, it is the perfect industry for ICON and Stovegate to target for blockchain adaptation.

Tink DApp – Social Credence On The Blockchain
Tink ICON DApp data summary
Tink’s categorisation of various user data.

The team behind Tink believes that our online social media profiles don’t offer enough credibility when it comes to what users claim on their digital profiles and how those claims match up with the truth. Tink allows those in the user’s social circle to anonymously verify aspects of their life, such as interests or work experience. This can enable a higher level of trust-based social networking, as well as profile monetisation by allowing users to have full control over how their profile data is displayed or hidden. This can see use cases across several areas; dating, careers, education, insurance, and many more come to mind.

The project has an innovative use case, but is also exciting as it is headed by several Carnegie Mellon alumni – a university that is seen as one of the best in the world when it comes to computer sciences and engineering. The two co-founders previously worked as CEO and Director at network security companies – which is good to see for a project that will be so heavily involved with private user data – as well as various other employees having history at Samsung Electronics, consulting firms, and Woori Investments.

A project such as Tink is highly desirable for a young platform such as ICON, as if successful, it has the ability to attract vast amounts of users due to its social nature and relatively simple usability, who may not even know they’re engaging via a blockchain-based system.

More DApps do exist, such as Blue Whale, which wants to decentralise the sharing economy, UPPSALA, a security intelligence platform for blockchain, and NucleusVision, an IoT-based contactless ID system, among others, and with ICON’s ICO platform launching, more are sure to appear over the course of 2018.

Final Thoughts

ICON has so far succeeded in building up a network of partners which is highly centered around its home country of South Korea, with South Korean financial, healthcare, and insurance institutions playing their part, and even South Korean gaming studios making the list of those involved. When you compare this with a project such as VeChain, which has targeted a more global range of partners, it is quite a departure in strategy, but we see ICON’s strategy as having its own merit; by using South Korea as a testbed of sorts, they should be able to more quickly implement their plans, as well as so far appearing to have solid backing from the South Korea government. Should the partnerships and plans work out successfully in South Korea, there shouldn’t be much standing in the way of exporting their technology abroad once their proof of concept has been executed inside South Korea.