Taxonomy Q&A: Marley Gray, TTI Part II

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Standards always have been the growing pain for each nascent technology. In the second part of a two-part interview, IntelAlley spoke with Marley Gray, chair of the Token Taxonomy Initiative, board member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, and a principal architect at Microsoft, regarding the Initiative’s early deliverables.

The TTI announced version 1.0 of the standard in November 2019. How long would you estimate before the industry sees the 2.0 release? 

Marley Gray, TTI

Now that we have released the 1.0 version, the collaboration at scale begins. Industry groups and organizations, i.e., enterprise or startup, can start using the framework to define a new token specification, extend an existing one, and also create and contribute new artifacts back into the Token Taxonomy Framework (TTF).

 This process is generically called a TTF Workshop, which is just a meeting or online collaboration by business stakeholders to work together to define a token that will have value for all of them. Or it might be an industry group, like financial services, that creates a consistent “financeable” or “insurable” behavior that can be used by anyone else using the TTF to use. 

For example, let’s say a Supply Chain consortium defines a bill-of-lading token, where they scan the paper document, store it somewhere for all to be able to access, and then create a token with the metadata for accessing the bill of lading to be shared as it passes through the supply chain. It provides them authenticity via tamper resistance and prevents paper duplication across the supply chain. Bills of lading also need to be insured, wouldn’t it be great if they could automatically correlate proof of insurance directly with a bill of lading? All they have to do is reuse the “insurable” behavior in the TTF, and they will build in from the start interoperability for insurance provider networks.

There will likely be an interim V1.5 to incorporate the tooling work that is going on in the community. The TTF is very extensible and expressive, which can make it seem complicated without the tools which put the TTF into context in an understandable visual format.

There are multiple tools for multiple end-user personas of the TTF in development. You have simple “reading” tools for browsing the TTF to understand and “window shop” the various artifacts that can be used to build a token, like parts shopping. These tools can be simple HTML reading interfaces or offline PDF or OpenXML (via Word, Google Docs, and other platforms). These are the most accessible tools to build and are in the current framework or will be in the next month. These address the learner/shopper persona.

For the business persona, we will have a token designer that is a rich, visual, drag and drop designer that provides great token design visualization for existing token specifications as well as the ability to experiment and compose a new token from the existing components (artifacts) in the TTF. This will allow someone with a basic understanding of the TTF to start building tokens for a business model they understand. This tool is more complex and is likely to be a part of the interim release.

For the workshop conductor persona, we will provide wizard-like interfaces to create new artifacts, such as property sets and behaviors, that will provide a step-by-step workflow for adding new artifacts and submitting them for review and inclusion into the TTF so that they can become reusable by others. These personas will also want to update or add to existing artifacts and can use the same wizard-like experience to add or improve artifacts and submit them for review.

The developer persona is largely serviced today with the native GitHub experience and the ability to modify the artifact’s JSON files directly and then validate their updates with the Taxonomy Object Model.  

The building of these tools and the experiences of the users in using the TTF to create new artifacts and token specifications will uncover improvements and missing elements that will need to be added to the framework itself and then reflected in the supporting tools, this completion of this process will be the milestone to trigger a V2 release. As this TTF is an open standard and the existing tools are open source, anyone can create new tools and extensions, so providing an exact timeline is difficult, but an interim release in the summer and a V2 in about a year seems reasonable.

Are you happy with the progress that the TTI has made so far? 

Yes, we’re very happy with the TTI’s progress. With the Token Taxonomy Framework, you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you need it to connect with various platforms like Hyperledger Fabric, Digital Asset, Ethereum, and R3 Corda. That’s why some of the industry’s most significant token initiatives like IBM’s FabToken, Santander’s $20 million-bond token, R3’s Token SDK, Adhara and ioBuilders’ eMoney token, and the tokens used in the Intel’ s Trusted Compute reward token system as well as Microsoft, ConsenSys, iExec, and Envision Blockchain are now contributing their token recipes.

From a Microsoft perspective and as a member of the TTI over the past year, the Azure Blockchain engineering team has been working to understand the breadth of token use cases and found that a lack of industry standards was driving confusion amongst our enterprise customers and partners. We started building the Token Taxonomy Framework to help address this confusion, establish a baseline understanding, and a path forward for our customers and partners to begin exploring the use of tokens. We quickly realized that our efforts would be much more effective if we didn’t work in isolation, so we chose to contribute the framework and partner with our counterparts across the industry to expand the TTF and seed the industry with a common standard. As the Principal Architect for Azure Blockchain, Token Taxonomy Initiative(TTI) Chair, and an EEA Board Member, I represent Microsoft in the release of the 1.0 framework and act as the chair of the TTI, collaborating with all participants to ensure that the outcome establishes a foundation to rapidly accelerate the token economy.

Microsoft announcing TTF support in Azure Blockchain Tokens simplifies this ability to define, create, and manage compliant tokens based on TTF standards.

Have you found it challenging to balance the representation, contribution, and concerns of technologists and the front office?

Using the framework, businesspeople can describe a token that completely services their business requirements, while developers can see the types of backend requirements needed to standardize the token across different blockchain networks. The resulting token specification is a readable document that anyone can understand and download for documentation or education.

In practical terms, a business user or consortium can select a base type of token and choose from contributed lists of behaviors and properties and assign them to the token, just as you might drag and drop icons on a screen. The framework enables a business person to create a token visually using a design tool without writing any code whatsoever and allows them to tell developers, ‘I want one of these.’