Three Pioneering Web3 Projects Building Real-life Use Cases of ZK Technology


Zero-knowledge technology is one of the hottest buzzwords in crypto, a framework that, beneath all the complex cryptography, is actually quite simple: it enables one party to verify the claims of another without having to reveal any of the underlying data supporting the claim. This system of verification is known as a ZK proof.

The appeal of ZK tech is that it can pave the way for a more secure, private, scalable and trustworthy environment, ensuring users’ personal information or a company’s trade secrets are not exposed to potentially malicious actors. It’s analogous to being able to prove (to a lender, say) that you have $1 million in collateral, without having to physically hand over your bank statements.

Despite the myriad benefits of this technology, very few people in the real world understand or appreciate how it can be useful in their day-to-day lives. To ordinary folk, the mere mention of ZK proof-based protocols like STARK (Succinct Non-Interactive ARguments of Knowledge) and SNARK (Scalable Transparent ARgument of Knowledge) will cause their eyes to glaze over. Gradually though, zero-knowledge tech is coming to be seen as a potential game-changer not just in the blockchain world but further afield.

Here are five Web3 projects making ZK tech an important part of our digital lives right now.

Masa

Masa, which raised $5.4 million in a January funding round, is creating a decentralized data network on the Avalanche blockchain with the goal of rewarding users for contributing their personal data.

Described as a kind of decentralized version of Google tailored for the AI age, the venture aims to create a ‘privacy-by-default’ economy wherein individuals earn rewards for sharing their information in the Masa Data Marketplace.

ZK tech comes into the picture with the creation of the Zero-Knowledge Soulbound Token (zkSBT), a digital asset that effectively acts as a personal data storage device. The zkSBT encrypts users’ digital footprint, with holders free to shop it to advertisers and others (including machine learning engineers who need data to train AI models) on the open market.

Having already attracted 1.2 million connected wallets, 23 million permissioned data points, over 30,000 testnet node operators, and 300,000 social media followers, Masa has gained plenty of momentum over the last 18 months, reflecting growing consumer awareness around data sovereignty and privacy. Its Network and token are set to officially launch in the next few weeks.

Space and Time

AI-powered data warehouse Space and Time is one of the biggest players exploring ZK cryptography, specifically its own iteration known as Proof of SQL. This particular implementation enables Space and Time to generate a SNARK Proof of SQL query execution, which proves that both the execution was done accurately and the query and data were verifiably tamperproof.

SQL, for the uninitiated, stands for Structured Query Language and it’s the default programming language used to extract, organize, and manage database data. Popular applications like WhatsApp and Instagram rely on SQL to process and store the vast volumes of user data generated on their platforms.

In the context of user privacy, Space and Time’s ZK protocol is an incredibly valuable innovation. So much so that the company inked a deal with Google last year, enabling the deployment of Proof of SQL from the Google Cloud Marketplace. Effectively, it will allow devs using Google’s BigQuery to confirm that query results were computed accurately and on untampered data.

While Web3 devs can leverage Space and Time to help them build data-driven applications at scale, the platform also offers a ZK-compatible blockchain indexing service, indexing all major networks and storing the data in a relational state.

AdEx

AdEx is a privacy-preserving advertising platform that helps Web3 advertisers broaden their reach. Established in 2017, the company recently announced plans to integrate a zero-knowledge targeting engine into its platform in Q2.

Known as AdEx ZK, this new innovation obviates the need to collect and store user data, instead funneling the entire ad targeting and matching process directly onto the user’s device. By storing data locally in this fashion, AdEx ensures users retain complete control over their information; ZK tech, meanwhile, is employed to guarantee that no user information is exposed during the ad matching process. AdEx calls the targeting engine a “zero-knowledge in-situ data processing engine.”

The resultant benefits flow to advertisers and users: the former can continue to precision-target users with relevant ads, with AdEx charging just 7% fees to launch a campaign; while users get to protect their privacy and earn rewards for watching ads they actually curate themselves.

This shift towards a user-centric advertising ecosystem is long overdue given the ugly legacy of digital advertisers dating back to the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, which resulted in Facebook being fined $5 billion for gross privacy violations.

These pioneering Web3 projects and others like them show that advancements in ZK technology can have a meaningful effect on all of our lives. And with a recent report suggesting the market for ZK tech will reach $75 million in revenue this year – and exceed $10 billion by 2030 – don’t expect the hype to die down anytime soon.

 

 

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