The INS Ecosystem was a project aiming to create the first decentralized blockchain platform for consumer goods, specifically groceries.
The goal is to have a blockchain powered platform that will let consumers buy groceries directly from manufacturers and farmers, providing savings of 30-50% from current retail prices in grocery stores.
That was true until November 9, 2018 when the project re-branded to Insolar and expanded its focus to take in “Distributed Business Networks”.
In this review of Insolar we will take a look at the project and the surprise re-branding. We will also delve into the technology, team background and broader INS token use cases and market potential.
It was an interesting pivot because previously the project was focused on a business-to-consumer model that would lower costs for consumers and manufacturers. The new focus appears to be solely a business-to-business one, and will encompass all types of businesses, not just manufacturers and certainly not just grocery businesses.
The emergence of Insolar as a solution came from several observations that the development team made while working on INS Ecosystem, namely:
The INS Ecosystem, and now Insolar, were developed by the same team that founded Instamart, which is the largest venture backed grocery delivery service in Russia. This gives the team at INS extensive experience in logistics and retail sales, as well as in e-commerce and venture capital attraction.
Through this experience the team feels they have a handle on the problems with the current business-to-business sales channels, and believe they can deliver a market disrupting solution to the global business-to-business sales.
The rebranding of the platform to Insolar also comes with new goals. The platform is now being envisioned as a unified solution, with both generic and specific cases being developed by Insolar and third-party developers. Below are six initial goals that have been identified by the Insolar team:
The Insolar platform will be built using three key elements. Domains will be used to manage the lifecycle of contracts, as well as managing the data and security aspects of contracts. The contracts themselves will provide operability for the business connections on the platform, and Clouds will be used to provide storage and computing power.
When it comes to managing and adjusting the capabilities of Insolar to deal with different use cases domains will be the key feature of the Insolar platform. By using a variety of policy declarations that are imposed on all the domain participants we can create a wide range of features.
Domains can be used in the definition of procedures, data formats, work rules, standards or processes to implement changes. Because each domain is secure and separate from all other domains they can also be used in the initiation and management of data sets and for the provisioning and management of personal and protected data.
Finally, domains could be used to create access policies for oracles, to create cryptography standards, and in establishing the terms for the calculation of storage volume or computing power consumption needs.
Insolar will register the domains and insure interoperability between them, but they have no role in the management of the domains. Instead, each domain will define its own management criteria and procedures. The rules created by each domain will determine how domain transactions and data are stored and carried out.
Contracts on Insolar are not legally binding service agreements, but are declarations of a set of functions on the platform that guarantee compliance with rules and procedures set out on the platform. Contracts can be decentralized applications, oracles that provide access to off-chain data sources, an aggregator or other systems. Insolar has been designed with the principle that Everything-is-a-Contract.
Every element on the platform can be considered a contract, with the most basic platform features being represented by special system contracts that allow developers to interact with the platform core functions. Contracts can be used to modify, extend and change the behavior of the system.
Insolar clouds are another element used to structure and apply business logic. A cloud in Insolar is a set of nodes that is represented by the computing power and storage providers.
Providers work based on the rules defined for the cloud and it’s possible to assign different roles to individual servers in order to provision different resources such as bandwidth, storage or computing power.
One of the key functions of the cloud is to ensure there is storage and to allow execution of the contracts in the domains that are bound to each cloud. The cloud also ensures that requests sent between contracts from different domains are managed and delivered properly.
Standard cloud implementations on the Insolar platform are done on the blockchain, but specialized implementations could be done on a single node or DBMS.
The Insolar project was co-founded by Peter Fedchenkov and Dmitry Zhulin, who were also the previous co-founders of the Russian grocery delivery service Instamart. The team currently has over 30 members with working experience across a wide range of disciplines, including investment management and banking, venture capital, crypto security and more.
Co-founder Peter Fedchenkov is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and was previously CEO of Instamart as was as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs. Dmitry Zhulin was also a founder at Instamart and is a former Vice President for VTB Capital Private Equity as well as an Associate of Rothschild.
And let’s not forget Dmitry Khovratovich, who is the blockchain and smart contract lead for INS Ecosystem. He has had previous experience developing smart contracts for several blockchain startups who successfully made it past the ICO stage.
The INS token was initially going to be the primary means of rewarding users in the INS Ecosystem platform, making the INS token a primary part of the entire ecosystem. There will eventually be 50 million tokens in the circulating supply, but currently 10 million are being reserved and another 7.5 million are being held by the team to cover operational costs and marketing.
With a fixed supply and increased usage of the network the tokens are expected to grow in value as demand increases.
Based on the information on the Insolar website it appears that INS will be used for payments on the platform, likely for services and resources. It also appears that the blockchain is moving to Proof-of-Stake as a consensus mechanism, and the INS token will be used for both staking and voting.
The token was released in an ICO that concluded in December 2017. The team raised $41.5 million, selling 30 million INS tokens at $2.54 each. The token surged higher following the ICO, reaching an all-time high of $10.93 on January 15, 2018. Unfortunately it has lost nearly 90% of its value since in the bear market of 2018.
In addition to the bear market in cryptocurrencies, INS price has been negatively impacted by delays in the development and release of APIs, SDKs, apps and interfaces. The project’s roadmap has the launch of the testnet scheduled for the 4th quarter of 2018, and if the team can deliver on time the token could see a nice pop higher.
Now with the change to a completely different focus for the platform it’s hard to say what the token might do. It received a quick pop higher just prior to the re-branding to Insolar, but has since slipped lower and is trading at $0.5162 as of November 12, 2018. That’s far below the ICO price of the token.
INS is an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum network and can be stored in any ERC-20 compatible wallet.
The INS Ecosystem project was unique in tackling an area that hasn’t seen other blockchain projects. With a focus on the $8.5 trillion grocery industry INS could had planned on delivering significant savings to both consumers and manufacturers. Groceries are an essential and recurring expense, which means the potential for this project is immense.
Now with the switch to Insolar, and a complete change in focus I’m not certain what to say about the project, the direction seems a bit less clear. To me much of the information seemed lacking in substance. The release of a testnet before the end of 2018 will help to lend a sense of legitimacy to the project.
Overall INS looked like a promising idea ready to disrupt a major global industry. Insolar on the other hand seems to be a generic knock-off of other blockchain project concepts, and until they have a functioning product, even on a testnet, I’m not convinced that this project can pass the test of time.
Featured Image via Fotolia & Insolar.io