NEM (Cryptocurrency XEM): An Investment Report
NEM is an important Blockchain movement, with its roots in Japan. As with any investment opportunity, it is important to consider many factors carefully before taking the plunge. This is particularly true of Cryptocurrency Altcoins, given all the hype in the market. Figuring out whether the hype has merit or whether the story is actually too risky isn’t always easy from news reports, which is why analysis and research are vital. Here’s a detailed report that should help you understand various aspects of NEM better, and hopefully help you decide whether to invest or to stay away for now. This is NOT a trading recommendation for quick returns, instead, it is an Investment Report for people who are willing to purchase and stay invested for the long run.
NEM (New Economic Movement) was the brainchild of UtopianFuture, the pseudonym of the individual or people behind the cryptocurrency, giving it a similar mysterious start like Bitcoin had with Satoshi Nakamoto. Not much else is known about UtopianFuture, apart from the organizational skills that helped him or her put together a team quickly, while also organizing thousands of online stakeholders to join the fray on development. But after some controversy around UtopianFuture controlling multiple BitcoinTalk accounts to attack other Altcoins, the online handle disappeared and hasn’t been seen since.
None of this seems to have bothered/fazed NEM developers. In fact, many characterized UtopianFuture’s departure as planned. As with Bitcoin’s creator Satoshi Nakamoto, UtopianFuture’s sudden digital vanishing didn’t cripple the movement. Too many people were already bought in.
Finally, there was also some controversy about Makoto Takemiya being one of the founding members/developers, but after a lot of debate, this was put to rest by the NEM foundation which laid out their Clarification here.
Despite this initial aura of confusion, disagreement and mystery, and lack of clarity about the real founders, it is important to note that NEM seems to have been founded primarily by a group with many technical resources (similar to Bitcoin) who seem to have a lower interest in fame and the limelight. They seem to be happier creating something worthwhile and bringing a meaningful difference to the world through this platform, and appear to be focused on solving some of the rigorous challenges faced by other enterprise Blockchain solutions like Ethereum.
Starting in Jan 2014, an open call for participation towards the development of NEM began on the online forum “BitcoinTalk” The goal of the call was to create a community-oriented cryptocurrency from the ground up. However, the NEM project was not a legal entity at the time.
In July 2016, the NEM foundation made this major announcement: “The entire core team has been instrumental in NEM’s development. It has now come to a time where we are at a crossroads, a time where we need to take NEM to greater heights and be positioned at the forefront of blockchain technology. We have been under the radar for far too long. To this end, NEM will be founding a legal entity.” They followed this up with a Legal Entity vote in Aug 2016, which passed with a resounding 99.93% vote.
And finally, the NEM.io foundation was officially declared on March 15, 2017. Some research on the ticker on NEM will show that this coincides strongly with when the price of their cryptocurrency (trading under XEM) started to take off. After an initial boom in the second quarter of 2016, its value against the USD exploded around March 2017. Over a six-month period, value has climbed from 0.006 to 0.21 (USD/XEM), taking the cryptocurrency to a new level altogether.
An Overview Of NEM
It is important to note upfront that NEM is not just a cryptocurrency, it is actually a solution platform. NEM is a peer to peer platform that aims to provide services like payments, messaging, asset trading, and smart contracts. And of course, more important and relevant use cases continue to be added as development continues.
It is widely publicized and accepted that NEM has gone through extensive open alpha testing starting in June 2014, followed by lengthy and comprehensive beta testing starting in October 2014. NEM’s public blockchain launched on March 31, 2015, and it has now been running without interruption for almost two years.
NEM was built from scratch to inherently address all the issues cryptos face today, like scalability, ease of use, energy consumption, governance, incentive to use, and avoiding centralization and consolidation of power by miners, etc., and governments who become involved. The fact that NEM claims to address all of these complex problems makes it potentially a really strong and comprehensive solution.
Investors have probably already become familiar with the symbol XEM, which is the symbol used when purchasing/selling tokens for NEM. NEM is available in various denominations.
The NEM platform is hard-coded to be capped at 8,999,999,999 XEM. While this number is large, it has anti-inflation built into the design.
Two Important Features
Two of the most intriguing arrows in NEM’s quiver are its Proof-of-Importance (method of securing the network) and Multisignature. To understand these a little better, let’s start with a brief 4-minute video from an online host (Boxmining), who we thought seemed to explain this fairly simply.
While Bitcoin was based on the Proof of Work, Proof of importance is a critical aspect of NEM because it is how the system ensures all computers in the network form a consensus. It is designed so that every account on the NEM blockchain is assigned an importance score. This score influences how individual users can “harvest” the blockchain. One could say harvesting on the NEM blockchain is almost the same as what miners do on the Bitcoin blockchain. The objective is to add people’s transactions to the blockchain, in exchange for a small financial reward. As people’s importance score grows higher, they will have a better chance at getting these rewards.
In order to be eligible for the “importance calculation,” users need to have at least 10,000 XEM in their balance. Considering there are just under 9 billion XEM in circulation, achieving that goal is not overly expensive at this point. Once someone owns 10,000 XEM or more, there is a mathematical calculation taking place that computes the importance score. All of this is explained in detail in the following White Paper.
The POI algorithm determines who is allowed to generate a block (or more precisely: which generated block is considered as valid). The POI is determined based on two factors: 50% based on volume and 50% based on collateral in XEM, the Blockchain’s internal cryptocurrency. As a concept, POI creates a layer of trust within the blockchain, something that is vitally important for its success. POI also creates an elegant solution for withstanding “51% attacks” as the nodes have to be passing substantial volumes to be able to make such attack.
The NEM foundation makes a good point when it states that they rely on math (Proof of Importance) and not on wasteful mining (Proof of Work) to secure the blockchain, so companies that care about the environment should seriously consider NEM. However, the counter-argument experts have responded to that statement by saying that the Proof of Work creates higher security as it becomes increasingly tougher to brute-force hack such a system. It is also important to note that with Proof-of-Importance, the NEM founders hoped to rectify hoarding by rewarding those who support the NEM economy by transacting with others.
The second important feature that the video spoke about is the Multisignature transactions that are available on NEM. Like other multisig-enabled platforms, NEM requires multiple users to sign a transaction before it can be broadcast onto the blockchain. A multisig account prevents community-held funds from being abused. This security is particularly important on NEM, where approximately one-third of all XEM in circulation is held in community accounts.
After Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work and Ethereum’s Proof-of-Stake, NEM’s Proof-of-Importance comes across as a fresh solution, one that is well-thought-through and also well-suited for enterprise adoption and growth. Each of these algorithms is complex in its own right and has its own pros and cons (the debate rages on), but even after digging deep into it, PoI seems to hold its own and brings about several important advantages, without compromising too much on security, as discussed above. In the long run, one hopes this might be the differentiator when it comes to enterprises choosing one Blockchain solution above the other.
Technology & Design
While many investors don’t enjoy the technology part of the discussion, it is important to understand some parts before investing in something that is, at the core, based entirely on technology. We will keep this part of the report as lightweight as possible, and try to highlight only the significant parts.
NEM was originally designed as a fork of Nxt, similar to other Blockchains and cryptocurrencies. However, the creators eventually decided to create an entirely new codebase. Here are some important points to note about the NEM codebase, design, and architecture.
Open Source and Closed Source:The NEM client is open source and available on GitHub. However, the NEM server-based component (the NIS) is closed source and has an obfuscated binary. This is done to prevent decompilers from determining how it works. The soon-to-be-released Catapult update, however (scheduled for 2017), will be open source.
Namespaces: NEM has a domain naming system called Namespaces. The Namespaces system is similar to the internet’s centralized ICANN domain name system. Users can register higher level domains and subdomains, which allows one person with one domain to create many different subdomains for their different projects or outside business accounts. If you have enough XEM in your account, there’s no real limit to how many domains and subdomains you can create.
Mosaics NEM has a unique system called mosaics, which allows for Smart Assets on the NEM blockchain (instead of the Smart Contracts in other Blockchains). Mosaics can be customized to be transferable or non-transferable, divisible or non-divisible, and have personalized descriptions. Mosaics can also be customized by the amount in either a fixed capped or mutable quantity.
Node Reputation System: NEM uses the Eigentrust++ reputation system to ensure the health of the blockchain. This ensures that nodes aren’t just measured by the amount of work they do – they’re measured by the quality of work they do as well. This is done to protect the network, and it’s one of the reasons why NEM is different from proof of work systems.
Harvesting: The act of forming blocks is called “harvesting.” A harvester needs to have at least 10,000 vested XEM in an account and be running a booted and synchronized node. This ensures the quality and security of the network. After a harvester forms a block, a new block is added to the chain. Fees are delivered to the harvester’s account. Interestingly, NEM has a feature called Delegated Harvesting where users can request others to form blocks and process fees on their behalf.
The NEM NanoWallet can run on a desktop and smartphone without any problem and can be used as a boilerplate to build more complicated applications making customized apps built with it accessible on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.
Messaging: Users can include messages in NEM transactions in three different forms: encrypted, unencrypted, or hex messages. You do not need to transfer any XEM to the recipient in order to send a message on the XEM network, although you do need to pay a fee. Right now, that fee is 1 XEM for every 32 characters, while encrypted message rates vary.
Two Important Releases
Mijin is NEM’s private chain project. It is built and licensed by the Japanese company Tech Bureau Corp, NEM’s strategic partner for permissioned-chain implementations. The blockchain is being explored for use in a number of areas of the Fintech industry, where companies claim it will reduce the costs of banking by up to 90% while making banking more secure. Mijin is being tested worldwide, but it has a relatively large presence in Japan.
Soon after launching in 2015, Mijin achieved 25 transactions per second on a global network. By the end of 2016, Mijin had achieved 10,000 transactions per second (local network) and 100 transactions per second (global network). Mijin is a redesign of the NEM public chain, including its chain data structure and configuration parameters, but maintains API compatibility. This allows the Mijin chain to specialize in meeting the needs of private businesses but also allows any third parties building on Mijin to also build on NEM. In this way, Mijin and NEM work hand in hand, not only to maintain a common API specification but also to create a new ecosystem as a fusion of the Tech Bureau commercial entity and the NEM open source project.
Mijin is currently in the process of being future proofed as a new 4-tier architecture design. Codenamed Catapult, it is being implemented and written in C++. The current end-to-end prototype has been independently tested by third parties at over 4000 transactions/sec. With this architecture, Catapult will mark the beginning of an enterprise-class approach.
Catapult will have the entire architecture reworked and migrated from Java to C++ to aid in increasing performance and will be switching from the HTTP protocol to socket communication, which will help reduce latency and improve bi-directional communication. The release is slated for the end of 2017, but might get pushed to Q1 2018.
Strengths & Advantages
What better place to look for the competitive advantages of a system than their own website. The NEM foundation website states:
PERFORMANCE: How does NEM push blockchain performance further?
NEM’s blockchain platform was designed and coded from the ground up for scale and speed. NEM’s permissioned private blockchain delivers industry-leading transaction rates for internal ledgers. And its revolutionary consensus mechanism and the Supernode program ensure that NEM’s open, public blockchain can grow without ever compromising throughput or stability.
EASE OF DEVELOPMENT: How does NEM make blockchain development easier?
NEM’s blockchain exposes its functionality through a powerful API interface that can be used with any programming language, not a specific “smart contract” language. Existing business logic code can easily mate up and use blockchain where it’s strongest: secure transactions and ledger keeping. In short, configure NEM for your business, and then deploy blockchain incrementally and without forced retooling of existing infrastructure.
DEEP CUSTOMIZATION: How does NEM customize blockchain to your needs?
Unlike other blockchain technologies, NEM is built from the ground up with powerful modular customization for virtually any application. We call it our Smart Asset system. With it, NEM lets you focus on building exactly what you need, whether that’s a Fintech system, tracking logistics, an ICO, document notarization, decentralized authentication, or much more.
SECURITY: How does NEM make blockchain use even more secure?
NEM’s architecture provides an incredibly secure and stable platform through its use of Eigentrust++ and an incentivized public node network based on its two-tier architecture. The significant risks inherent in on-blockchain “smart contracts” are eliminated by providing building block customization to NEM functionality that keeps application security in your hands, not on the blockchain. And NEM’s private blockchain option allows complete control over internal data privacy when a public blockchain isn’t the right solution.
But that was the content straight from the horse’s mouth (or website). As we continued our research on various message boards, forums, and discussion sites, here is a list of advantages of the system that we came across (being reported Verbatim here, and might not stand the scrutiny of each point being dead accurate):
“NEM is indeed a lot more than 10 times more efficient than Bitcoin to secure the network. That means that basically each day Bitcoin miner’s are dumping probably more than a million dollars of Bitcoin each day to keep Bitcoin alive, but NEM harvesters barely need to sell anything at all.”
“NEM mosaics are like CounterParty built into Bitcoin, but Mosaics are better.”
“In NEM people running full nodes will get paid. They are the harvesters. Mining and running a full node are combined in NEM, not separated like in Proof of Work. In POW, miners don’t actually care about anything but the reward, and full node runners don’t actually get paid.”
“With extensive enterprise developing experience under their belts, several full-time NEM developers write and execute thousands of tests before every development cycle and release, and this gives NEM a very secure core.”
“NEM has spam protection, something Bitcoin has long needed, and NEM has node reputation.”
“Imagine Namecoin built into Bitcoin. That is Namespaces, but yet, Namespaces are a lot better.”
“Notably, mix matching and combining Namespaces (unique domains), Mosaics (customizable assets), 2.0 multisig contracts, and three forms of messaging, allows for a wide variety of application frameworks to be built.”
“Right now, Ethereum can have at most, near 15 transactions per second, while NEM can scale to hundreds of transactions per second, and has already been tested privately and independently to scale to thousands of transactions per second in the Catapult release.”
“Catapult can do around 4000 transactions/second. This is already being tested and expected in Q4 2017, but might be pushed to Q1 2018. This private network can communicate with the public blockchain that is NEM.”
We could go on, but it looks like NEM (and especially Catapult) have a lot of differentiators and strengths worth talking about. Once Catapult is released and if it does see some quick market adoption, it will go a long way in propelling NEM as one of the biggest players in the market, despite many of the industry biggies having joined the Ethereum and Hyperledger bandwagon.
One of the things to look for before investing in a venture/foundation/enterprise is the team that is responsible for the solution, their past experience and credibility, and their plans and vision for the future. While the NEM team initially was not visible, in recent times efforts have been made to make visible to the public, who ALL have been (and currently continue to be) members of the NEM foundation. The following is picked up from the NEM website and has the LinkedIn accounts for most members, thereby generating some confidence about their capabilities. We suggest you check some (if not all) to understand the strength and diversity of this team.
Founding Board Members
Kristof Van de Reck
REGIONAL HEAD, EUROPE
Clayton M. Bittle
REGIONAL HEAD, SOUTHEAST ASIA
REGIONAL HEAD, EUROPE
Market Implementation & Performance
As they say, “The Proof of the pudding is in the eating.” In the case of an Enterprise Blockchain solution, it has to be about how many enterprises are willing to try NEM (or MIJIN, Catapult, etc.) and continue to use it and enjoy the advantages and efficiencies a solution like this provides.
In a reasonably short period of time, NEM has gained some level of market acceptance and popularity through implementations in several organizations & startups. Here are some of the widely reported ones:
SBI SUMISHIN NET BANK
SBI Sumishin Net bank has conducted a test of replacing their ledger systems with blockchain technology, and it turned out to be fully applicable to their actual business.
For their blockchain infrastructure, MININ provided by Tech Bureau Inc. was used. SBI Sumishin Net bank has conducted a 3-month long demonstration experiment with Dragonfly Fintech and NRI from December 2015.
Unlike other cases where tests were done in securities systems, this time it is the application of blockchain technology to accounting systems by SBI Sumishin Net bank. Ledger systems refer to systems processing ledgers centrally controlled by the bank, and they are core systems that control deposits and withdrawals, balance inquiry, ATM, and connections with outside systems.
According to the statement, in the demonstration experiment, 2.5 million virtual bank accounts and an environment with the capacity to process 90,000 transactions every hour were built. 6 nodes were set up in AWS, fault tolerance and availability were tested, and it was confirmed that everything went smoothly. There are many cases all over the world using blockchain technology for securities systems such as non-listed securities, syndicate loan, and repo, etc., but the case of use in banking service, this is the world’s first that is publicly known.
Landstead uses NEM blockchain technology to create a registry of land and property, allowing government and citizens to co-create an open blockchain system that can be trusted and consulted by interested parties. NEM provides the perfect foundation for this project, offering payments, messaging, asset management, multi-user accounts and a naming system implemented with an outstanding core blockchain technology.
LuxTag claims to provide the first ever digitized certificates of authenticity for products (or machines, vehicles, etc.) on a blockchain that will be updatable, can have messages attached, and their conjoint ownership can be flexibly transferred. In LuxTag, these certificates are full-fledged accounts on the blockchain. Such digital token accounts are used to stop counterfeiting, track the status of the item throughout its life, and further provide post-sale big data to companies.
COMSA & the NEM Foundation
COMSA is bringing together NEM, Ethereum, and Bitcoin networks and pairing them to their MIJIN private blockchain used by enterprises, providing enterprises the ability to keep sensitive information such as accounting, supply, and personnel data off the public blockchain and kept on a private permissioned blockchain. This mixture will be key for business to adapt to the blockchain, while keeping tight access to their information and ability to use existing data systems.
PARTNERING WITH BLOCKCHAIN GLOBAL
The partnership’s first initiative will be to open a Blockchain Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to serve as an incubator, accelerator, and co-working space. In the second half of 2017, NEM plans to work with Blockchain Global to develop a cryptocurrency exchange for the NEM ecosystem. Blockchain Global previously built ACX.io, Australia’s largest Bitcoin exchange by volume.
While most of the exchanges have shifted to an electronic model and trades are conducted faster than ever before, the truth is that there is still a central intermediary in stock trading, and this is perhaps the biggest weakness of the system. Bringing the Blockchain to the system holds the promise of building decentralized exchanges in the future. The technology is based on the NEM Blockchain technology and seeks to revolutionize the way securities are traded. DIMCOIN ICO is reported to have successfully raised $14 Million.
Hitachi, a major and decades-old Japanese conglomerate and multinational, is implementing a blockchain platform onto its popular point management and rewards platform, PointInfinity. Japanese blockchain developer and bitcoin exchange Tech Bureau is providing ‘MIJIN’ its private blockchain solution to Hitachi’s PointInfinity, which sees over 150 million members on its platform. With the proof-of-concept testing, Hitachi is looking to determine the operational feasibility of PointInfinity through a significant number of transactions and electronic payments on multiple Blockchains.
Based in Singapore, the NEM.IO Foundation is a non-profit organization focusing on promoting NEM’s blockchain technology globally. At the time of writing, the NEM cryptocurrency (XEM) is currently the seventh largest in the world by market capitalization at US$1.93 billion. XEM is now trading at 0.2153 USD/XEM, up 5000+% since the beginning of the year.
The only mention/reference to funding in the past comes from some old articles (dated July 2015), which mentions “NEM (New Economy Movement) has managed to secure and an undisclosed amount of funding just a few months after their launch.” Though he was later disavowed by the NEM foundation, in 2015 Makoto Takemiya also went on record to state, “The funding is from a very high-profile group here in Japan, and we worked very hard to get their attention for a business that we want to build on top of the NEM platform. They are already very familiar with Bitcoin, but the NEM technology was solid and compelling, so we were able to make a good case for using NEM instead of Bitcoin or other projects like Ripple.”
Two other quotes from some initial un-named members that stood out, and give us a view to the thinking within the team…
“If we are successful, we can have a significant impact on the quality of life for billions of people.”
“At the end of the day, solving a problem people have is more important than increasing the market cap.”
However, as it now becomes imperative to enhance awareness and take the technology to market, NEM will need to allocate and spend on PR, as well as on marketing campaigns and partnerships. A big part of NEM’s future will be decided on how well this is handled.
A view to what they are planning is well documented in this article, which was published as late as June 2017. “NEM.io Foundation Unveils US$40 Million Global Expansion Plan.” This headline gives us an idea of the breadth of things being attempted to make NEM and its latest releases popular and mainstream.
On the negative (if this could be called one), there has also been talk about the necessity to make investments like the following, and the real benefits one could really expect from it: NEM’s investment in a Basketball Club in Lithuania. A few questions were raised about the merits of such a sponsorship. In an interview less than a month ago, the same questions were asked, and the responses from Lon Wong (President, NEM Foundation) made it clear that some experimentation was in progress.
An online thread from the NEM foundation website (which asks more people to join the foundation) about a funding from the NEM Community Fund Account to the Atraura Organisation showcases a fairly democratic process in place as far usage of funds of the NEM foundation is concerned.
However, the foundation has to be careful that with the huge growth in Market Cap, and with the resulting enormous funds at their disposal (through XEM that the foundation has harvested and owns), that the vigil on meaningful spend and transparent accounting practices, does not reduce. At the same time, it does give them the capability to market NEM well.
At the time of writing this report (Oct 2017), the last 6 months’ graph for NEM looks like this.
While this report is not aimed at Traders and hence does not delve into Technical Analysis and patterns, a quick view of the graph does give investors an idea about the type of growth NEM has been seeing as it slowly starts gaining visibility and momentum in the market. This growth also signifies that the NEM foundation, while a non-profit, has access to funds through the appreciation of XEM, and will have better ability going ahead to fund development, and more importantly market awareness and acceptance.
TECHNOLOGY & FEATURE-SET
NEM seems to have worked hard to create a great framework, with several advantages to talk about, compared to the other Blockchain frameworks developed for the Enterprise space. With their upcoming Catapult release, they might actually have a product ahead of almost anything else currently available in the market. Also, NEM seems to have a well-established testing practice, and most of the work seems to comprise of relatively defect-free releases.
NEM is the first Blockchain solution around Proof of Importance, and it will be able to pass on several advantages to its early adopters because of that. Also, its Smart Assets (Mosaics) and Domain Naming System (Namespaces) does give it several benefits over other designs.
However, one has to remember that Mijin in an offshoot of the original code-base and a private blockchain, and Catapult is yet to be released, so a small level of uncertainty does continue to exist about how well this release will work, and be accepted.
Even though NEM might have one of the better technical solution and feature-sets as far as an Enterprise Blockchain is concerned, success is ultimately dependent on market acceptance of the technology. It has to live up to its reputation on all fronts and make a real impact in the first few installs to generate greater interest for the rest.
Meanwhile, it has to handle competition from Ethereum, which is about to launch its latest release (Metropolis). There is also talk about an upcoming Plasma version (which will help scale Ethereum speeds significantly). Meanwhile, Microsoft has released COCO (based on Ethereum) as its Blockchain-as-a-Service offering off the cloud (Azure) in which it claims to have addressed the scale and speed issue already.
Hyperledger is another strong contender, under the Linux Foundation, with investments from 30 Corporates who are well-versed in the Enterprise Space (Accenture, IBM, Intel, Fujitsu, etc.) and are contributing to the design and use cases themselves. It will be no surprise if they load their consulting solutions based on Hyperledger to all their clients in the coming quarters and years.
There are others like Multichain which also have some following, and EOS which claims to have been designed for large scale.
So the Enterprise Space on Blockchain is heating up, and while there is space for 2-3 strong players to emerge (aka Microsoft, Oracle, SAP in the previous generation) beyond that, there is bound to be some consolidation or carnage. On the face of it, NEM does seem to showcase the potential to be one among the top few, but only time can tell for sure.
INVESTMENTS & TEAM
Finally, growth and success usually always boils down to the team leading the solution and their execution capabilities. The NEM foundation seems to have people with extensive (and diverse) experience at the helm, but whether they can come together to take the right decisions on all fronts, and then execute strongly as a team, is yet to be seen.
In addition to that if the NEM foundation can share and do active PR on more market adoption news there should be a much better awareness and feel about their blockchain framework. Finally, appropriate marketing in Europe, North America, Australia, and the Middle East is going to be crucial to present this as a viable (and potentially better) option to Ethereum and Hyperledger before the competition captures too much of the market share. Here are some of the events they are slated to attend shortly, which should further enhance the visibility of NEM.
Having said that, Enterprise solutions are complex in the sense that sometimes the best products can get waylaid by ones that are marketed better, or hyped stronger, or have decision makers within the enterprise with clashing interests. So it is going to be a long journey for NEM to still succeed from here, and clearly, the key is in quick and continued market adoption.
Altogether, NEM does seem to present a decent case for some investment, especially given that in a quarter or two there is an important release coming up (Catapult). However, your call whether you want to stay out altogether, invest a little or make this a significant part of your Cryptocurrency Portfolio. Whichever way you decide to go, we WISH YOU ALL THE BEST !!
The KryptoGraphe Team.