Exclusive Interview: Omnitude CEO Chris Painter
Omnitude integrates blockchain technologies with existing databases and systems, and has struck up some eye-catching partnerships as it hits the goals on its roadmap. We speak to its CEO to find out more…
Omnitude has proved to be one of the more active British blockchain projects of 2018. It’s raison d’être is the creation of ‘middleware’ – software that acts as a bridge between back-end databases and apps that users find easier to interact with, and which perform the necessary processing of raw data to make that the case. All
The company touts its technology, which is built on the Linux Foundation’s open source HyperLedger Fabric system and will be fuelled by Omnitude’s own ECOM token, as a chance for enterprises to adopt blockchain on a ‘plug-and-play’ basis, integrating with existing IT systems rather than requiring wholesale changes to expensive infrastructure. It’s aim is to make the integration of blockchain into a business easier, cheaper and faster while reducing disruption to existing systems and workflows.
Already this year, we’ve reported on how it is working alongs caterer Absolute Taste, to provide an app that allows its diners to track the provenance of all the ingredients being used in food on their plate, and how the Blockchain-savvy Maltese authorities are looking to the company to increase efficiency in its public transport system.
Perhaps most exciting of all, especially for fans of sport and technology, is its proposed partnership with Williams F1. In a sport known for its early adoption of data capture, mining and analytics technologies, Omnitude will work alongside its technicians to secure that data, and provide better ways for them to interact with it.
Chris Painter, founder CEO of Omnitude, is one thirds of the brains and the business acumen behind the new firm. He is helping to steer the company in tandem with his other role as Managing Director of Pixel by Pixel and web design, development and e-commerce agency that he has built up himself over the last six years – half his career in the sector.
We sat down for a chat with Chris to talk more about his hopes for Omnitude, what he thinks it brings to the Blockchain sector and its plans for the future.
CryptoNewsReview: What can you tell us about how the Omnitude concept came about and, you know, the the idea of creating something middleware that links with existing systems to a blockchain?
Chris Painter: “Most of my history’s been spent designing and building connections between systems.
“Middleware software is very expensive, and it’s out of the hands of most businesses. So for me, it’s an industry that’s called ripe for disruption. Blockchain, I think, adds a major benefit to middleware technology.
“So it was kind of those things together – that’s where the idea came from. It’s an archaic industry, there are only the big players in it, they charge millions to deploy these systems – and millions to change them as well – so we’re hoping to change that industry quite massively.”
CNR: Does that involve bringing it down into the scope of smaller companies, and is that part of what you see is Omnitude’s mission?
CP: “Yeah, we obviously want to be available for enterprise, but by having the correct pricing model, we want that kind of technology to be in the hands of SMEs and so on.
“Middleware underpins the major players in pretty much every sector, but smaller players can’t afford the massive licensing fees that go along with it. I think ours is quite an easy system to build with and to use.
“Omnitude will definitely supporting SMEs.”
CNR: Do you feel it’s easier for companies understand blockchain technology as something that’s going to revolutionise the way they do business, or is just going to evolve the way they do business?
CP: “Well, I think there’s a there’s a lot of consumer demand for blockchain. Well, not so much blockchain, but [for a solution to] one of the issues that kind of dogged us all from the past few years: companies not being transparent – as you’ve seen with all the scandals that come out of stuff either being hidden, or not being publicly available.
“So I think the big revolution, that will be driven by consumer demand, is for companies to be more transparent. And, you know, blockchain technology is something that does that.
“You have computer systems running, and there’s no way of verifying they’re doing what they say they are doing. Whereas, with blockchain, you see everything that’s going in and everything is coming out. To me that’s a revelation; there’s not many companies in the past have been that transparent.
“I think the companies that adopt that first will gain much more market share than the ones that don’t – which is why I think it’s important for companies to be making plans to adopt blockchain technology sooner, rather than later – not wait and be the last one in the market to add
CNR: In terms of the partners you are working with at the moment, are you looking for companies with a certain sort of characteristic?
CP: Naturally, people adopting blockchain are the front-runners in their industries. A lot of the partners that we work with want to adopt the core principles of blockchain – transparency and mutability – they see the benefits of that.
We’re not closing the doors, though, we would love to work with any company that wants to take that kind of step. It is quite a big step, you know, to suddenly go ‘right, we’re gonna lay everything on the table and do what we say we’re doing and we’re going to prove we do what we say’.
“Anyone would want to work with a company that wants to adopt that approach.”
CNR: So what do you see as being Omnitude’s killer application?
CP: “One of the ones we’re most excited about is out data workflow builder – we’ve called it an ‘app builder’. What that enables anyone to do is to be a programmer. Anyone can go in there and start building data workflows, they don’t have to wait for an IT department to build something for them. Anyone can start innovating.
“What you’ve got there, is the people that are actually at the coalface of the technology can go and build data workflows, that build programs, that have the potential to make massive change. Rather than having the IT guys sat quite separate from the people who know the company’s problems, they they can hopefully go in and build things themselves.
“That, to me, I think is really exciting. Once you turn everyone into a programmer, suddenly really exciting stuff starts to happen.”
CNR: What attracted you to the partnership with Williams, and what can you tell us about what they are seeking to get out of working with you?
CP: “It’s quite early days, and we’re doing our discovery at the moment. I do know Williams want to embrace blockchain technology and see how it can help them. One of the good things, to me, about Williams is that it wants to win by technology, not just by throwing lots of money at it like some other teams do.
“For us, it’s great to be able to demonstrate the speed of our system and kind of one of the most data-intensive, speed-reliant environments possible.
“I don’t want to give away kind of too many details and what we’re working on. Obviously, it’s a very competitive environment as well. Hopefully in the coming months we’ll be giving more information about what we’re working with them on.”
CNR: How do you feel about and some of the recent criticism about restricted access blockchains, and more centralised models – and how it goes against what Bitcoin was created for?
CP: “I think for us, we’ve got a bit of a sweet spot between centralisation and decentralisation. We use something called sponsored nodes. Which are nodes that run our blockchain, but they’re run by third party. We don’t have access to them, they’re run by another company – Swisscom will be running nodes for us, and on behalf of all people who wants to participate in our ecosystem, while still restricting access to the data on those.
“No enterprise is going to put their data on a public publicly accessible node. Their competitors could run nodes, and so on. Even though it can be encrypted and so on, you wouldn’t want that, and enterprises wouldn’t adopt that. So we’ve got that way of getting the benefits of both decentralisation and centralisation.”
CNR: Does that allow you to develop the speed of how quickly things are processed over time?
CP: “Yes. We did some tests are the current transactions per second (TPS) we can support 3500. That’s that’s pretty damn fast already. The only thing we’ve done with our chain is that we have the ability to run sidechains, so we can scale that horizontally
“That gives us enough performance to please enterprise, and that numbers only going to go up. A lot of work is being done on speed within HyperLedger at the moment. I don’t see speed for us being an issue now, and it’s only going to improve.”
CNR: Where do you, as a representative of Omnitude, see the debate about regulation for ICOs going in the UK? Do you think that it needs separate laws, or do you think it will be policed under the same rules as share issuances?
CP: “I think it needs some regulation, But it doesn’t need the heavy hands-on regulation. The trouble is that if you’re over-regulate, you stifle innovation. Blockchain technology is a worldwide thing, any country that over regulates, the technology sector will just move away from that. So I think it’s key that the regulation’s correct.
“There’s a lot of bad ICOs and cryptocurrencies, and there’s a lot of good work being done. It’s hard to differentiate between those when you’re when you’re building regulation.
“I wouldn’t want to see it go to where kind of stocks and shares are, because that’s traditionally quite a closed model. It’s not had this open-access crowdfunding revolution that blockchain has had. It’s it’s a tough one there is some need to protect people, but without kind of over-moderating it.
“I see that you’ve got on your roadmap that you’re coming up towards exchange listings for and Omnitude, is that is that still on schedule?
“For us, one kind of thing is key is making sure that when you do list on an exchange, the Tokens’s got its best possible opportunity. The market at the moment is in a bit of turmoil, so I don’t think putting it on an exchange right now is a very good idea. But we are looking to list on an exchange within the coming weeks.
“As I’m sure you’re aware the market is changing rapidly, and it’s just trying to pick that sweet spot. We can’t delay too long, but we also want to make sure that you for the benefit of our token holders and for long-term success we try and do it as best we can.
CNR: Can you tell us a little bit about the first time you personally came across blockchain technology and what was its immediate appeal to you? Was there a lightbulb moment when it all made sense?
CP: “Well, I first I first came across blockchain about six or seven years ago. I wish I’d bought Bitcoin then; I’ve always been a tech guy, so I’ve always experimented with tech – I did mine Bitcoin, back in the day, but I forgot about it and lost that…
“In terms of seeing the enterprise use-case, and the wider use-cases for me, was probably about 14-15 months ago. In the early part of last year started thinking about it as people then started to. Especially with smart contracts and so on, it started to become less and less about being a currency and actually this entire new way of computing.”
So it’s at the point when you first sort of saw smart contracts in Ethereum that you saw a wider use in this than just being just being money?
CP: “Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think before that, I couldn’t really see the enterprise use or the computing use until that point. It’s funny you mention about the lightbulb moments, because some of our team have not come from blockchain backgrounds, so you take them through that learning curve of trying to explain the technology.
“They come from all sorts of industries, and you have to coach them on blockchain. Then after a while they get it – and then suddenly they’re become enthusiasts for it.
“All the team is now mad about blockchain, but the learning curve, I think, is quite steep. I’ve had the benefit of seeing people on the team go through that time and time again.”
CNR: Thanks very much for speaking to us.