We recently went to the Shanghai Ethereum Meetup and met with a number of project leaders that are working on innovative ways to use Ethereum to bring cryptocurrency to the masses. We may have had to trudge through the maniacal downtown Shanghai rush-hour traffic and a bone-soaking rainstorm to attend this exciting event, but it was definitely worth it. One interesting entrepreneur that we met was Adel Shahin, one of the co-founders of ATN, an AI-as-a-service marketplace that has become incredibly popular in Asia. We had a chat with Shahin about his project and where things are going for them in the next five years.
AI and Blockchain, Hand in Hand
There is little doubt that two of the hottest technologies around today are AI and blockchain. So bringing them together in many ways seems like a match made in heaven. But how can these two disparate technologies be combined?
According to the ATN white paper, the AI industry today is currently suffering from the classic problem of over-centralization. Specifically, the paper notes that the AI industry is mostly run by major players that “tend to isolate themselves from the competition in an attempt to secure their competitive advantage through technology development and access to big data.”
Not only that, but highly-researched and well-designed AI can cost millions of dollars. As such, it may be simply beyond the reach of smaller players. One of the key goals of ATN — which stands for AI Technology Network — is to open up this marketplace to buyers and sellers of all sizes. That way it’s not locked away and only in the domain of the current heavyweights like Google and Facebook.
In addition to operating on Ethereum, the tokens that ATN will use to power its platform will eventually be tradeable across different blockchains. The white paper lists that tokens will be available on Ethereum, QTUM, RSK, and possibly other chains. It appears that this will work by offering an exchange of sorts that allows for 1-to-1 swaps of the various tokens within the ATN platform.
One of the design goals for this set up was to allow those who have decentralized applications on alternative blockchains to potentially integrate an AI service through ATN. For instance, if a developer makes an app that runs only on QTUM, they could choose to use QTUM-based ATN tokens to pay for the AI services that they acquire through ATN.
Our Interview with Adel Shahin, Co-Founder of ATN
Robert DeVoe: Could you tell us, what is ATN all about?
Adel Shahin: We’re taking a holistic AI approach. What I mean by that is you can share data, you can share algorithms, you can share existing applications or even computing power. So we’re trying to get everyone involved to kind of build the AI community and build the AI world.
RD: How will your business model work? As in, how will you make money?
AS: We are still discussing with our customers how they want to pay us, but typically the way this would work is per transaction. So we integrate UN, there would be a setup and integration fee, and then as the transaction happens we would take a clip of the tokens.
RD: How would you describe your target market?
AS: Everyone and anyone! Basically, we see it as like three key players. The AI application providers, the people with existing AI services, voice recognition, image recognition etc, and they would sit on one side. The other side would be the AI buyers, so people like banks, buyers, factories, anyone looking to implement AI into their business would jump to our market place and see what’s available and then they can integrate that into their business.
The third stakeholder is kind of the computing guys or the geeks, anyone with spare computing power, spare data they want to release, anyone who wants to build random services, they would be the third stakeholder. But we suspect they will come organically.
‘By 2030, AI Will Contribute $15.7 Trillion to the Global Economy’
RD: Why should people be excited about ATN? What are the potential applications?
AS: Really anything. But the reason you should get excited is AI is the hottest topic at the moment, and decentralization is the other hottest topic. So them coming together should be a big deal. It’s been forecast that by 2030, AI will contribute $15.7 trillion USD to the global economy based on a PWC report. The earlier you jump on the revolution, the better.
The people who are sitting out of AI now are kind of putting a target on their head.
RD: Where are you based?
AS: We have a single office in Singapore, and a development house in Shanghai. We have a registered company in Singapore. A foundation. At the end of the day we are an ope- source project, we need developers to jump on board and sell what they have. We make our cut on the bottom layer.
RD: Do you think Singapore is a welcoming place for cryptocurrency companies?
AS: They are actually, they really are. I don’t know regulation-wise, but from a community perspective there are a lot of incubators, a lot of co-working spaces that are focused on blockchain. They are super welcoming, in terms of people. They are massive for AI. Their government announced $150 million to be spent in the next five years on AI development and awareness. They have AI events every few days there.
Data will be the focus of the next phase. We see the core of building AI is good data. So we are focused on structuring the data, bringing it together, and making sure it’s available for developer
ATN has an interesting business plan as far as offering AI as a service and not just as a product. What’s yet to be seen is whether or not there will be sufficient interest in this type of market for a blockchain specific AI company, at least this early on. Timing, of course, is everything in business.
What could prove to be most interesting about ATN is their product offering being targeted at all different sizes of decentralized organizations and DApps that could benefit from AI — a product that could be otherwise out of their reach for financial or industry secrecy reasons.
ATN still has a few steps left before they are fully ready for prime time. But for now, they appear to be making the right moves and could be there in short order. In any case, our thanks go out to Adel Shahin for taking the time to chat with us at the Shanghai Ethereum Meetup.
What’s your take on ATN? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Images via Robert DeVoe, Adel Shahin