By Benjamin Butz-Weidner

Anybody and everybody in the crypto community knows more than one person who either closetedly or openly thinks crypto is one or many of the following: a fraud, a bubble, a fraudulent bubble, a conspiracy, magic, and/or a fantasy. While anyone investing in crypto is expecting to be able to in a few years say “I told you so” to all of those people, we can reasonably say that there are still a number of real obstacles to bringing this “fantasy” into the fabric of our realities.

Although for many people the acceptance of crypto into the mainstream is their main priority, that view is a bit myopic. Blockchain has created a litany of cryptocurrencies that can be used to transfer wealth from fiat to crypto and back again. However, other developers and companies have applied blockchain to a number of other uses beyond just its financial applications.

Onchain is a Chinese startup with such experience. At a presentation for their new initiative Ontology, its chief architect Li Jun recounted the audience with how Onchain had previously worked with the government of Guiyang, a provincial capital home to over four and a half million people, to create a blockchain for identity verification purposes. This helps local government keep records and public services to function more efficiently.

The potential to improve efficiency comes from Ontology’s purpose and the first matter when Li began his keynote speech. In so many parts of our lives trust is the critical element: it is what makes you buy certain brands and what keeps you from clicking odd links on the internet. Ontology’s presentation demonstrated that if blockchain can help ameliorate that reality, much more is possible.

Ontology’s aim is to help implement blockchain in nine scenarios Onchain sees as areas for improvement. Once these areas have developed custom blockchains for themselves, the Ontology Network will serve as a bridge, linking far-reaching parts of the globe with a technology that lets all parties feel familiar.

While improving transparency in the financial sector is an obvious area of improvement given its current use in crypto, helping to verify people and objects; to manage equity, procedures (such as within a company or community); to make reputation evaluation easier; and to make collaboration easier while protecting content are all part of the kit-n-caboodle.

Blockchains, we must remember, are decentralized and digitized ledgers: they can be used to keep track of a number of things. But that’s exactly what they are good for: the impeccable and immutable keeping track of things. For instance, working groups such as one might find in coding and artistic communities can be prone to squabbles over content. If a group built a blockchain to keep an ongoing ledger of their work that would never be an issue, as fudging the work would be impossible. As well, a decentralized ledger cannot practically be hacked as it would require a simultaneous hacking of all the nodes, which are spread over geography and through code making that a yet unforeseen threat.

But the real use Onchain hopes to provide is a link between blockchains. Through their engineering, Onchain will implement a number of applications and protocols within the Ontology Network that will help to manage the interconnectedness of blockchains. As well, this will allow certain blockchains whose users want them to remain private to do so. Blockchains will be customized to a number of functions and users, such as keeping a legal record, a credit score, equity in company and ownership of assets.

In that regard, Ontology “is a long project and we will be for a time. [It will be] another three to five years, maybe ten years, to fulfill the roadmap we’ve drawn for Ontology,” as Da Hongfei, the CEO of Onchain and founder of the blockchain NEO, told me in an interview I conducted with him after Ontology and NEO’s presentations this Monday in Manhattan.

However, both Li and Da seem convinced that blockchain is the future and are determined to help build that world. They are not the only ones who see the potential of blockchain, and the setting for this American launch made that point less than understated. Held on the 44th floor of One Chase Plaza, the walls of the elegantly decorated space were also lined with a timeline-style history of one of Onchain’s biggest investors, the Fosun Group.

Fosun is one of the largest investment groups in China, with holdings across industries and real estate all over the world, including One Chase Plaza. Headed by a man Da explained is known as “the Chinese Warren Buffet,” the cash and clout of Fosun are more than an endorsement of Onchain’s potential: they are an advantage.

Nevertheless, Fosun’s involvement is not something that either Li or Da jump to talk about, instead focus on inspiring more people to create blockchains for their own uses, something Onchain assists in. It is also a helpful coincidence that NEO’s founder is also the CEO of Onchain: while Da makes clear that the two operations are entirely separate save for his participation, NEO tokens will be used in the Ontology network in order to facilitate the transfer of digitized assets and equity.

The NEO smart contract will help make certain financial function of the Ontology network more efficient than Ethereum (neither is it forkable like Ethereum), and a unique feature of the NEO token is that the cost of transfer is handled with GAS, a different token native to the Neo Exchange (NEX), which will be an application within the Ontology network.

Onchain is well posed to become the dominant player in China and abroad if no competition comes out to meet them. At the present, both Li and Da tell me, there is no person or group working on a project similar to Ontology that they have come across. Given the long view these two are taking they could be the early bird that gets the worm.

The world is digitizing and with that there will be increasing issues of trust. That does not have to be the case. Li started his presentation with a philosophical explanation, bringing up a picture of a black tiger figure with Chinese calligraphy on it. The statuette was cut in two: Li explained that in ancient China it did not matter who had both halves of the tiger, if they did, they had the power to mobilize an army to war. Such a simple way of verifying authority is what Li hopes to accomplish with Ontology by creating an interconnected world where blockchain(s) create(s) trust on the internet to make countless online functions more reliable, faster, and integrated.