VeChain Digital Asset Report: Introduction
VeChain is a blockchain-based smart contract platform which mainly focuses on business applications related to supply chain management including quality control, inventory, and tracking.
Launching its mainnet in 2018, the project has been at the forefront of partnership development. VeChain became a portfolio company of PwC’s incubation programme and currently works on proofs of concept for some of the world largest car manufacturers, including Renault and BMW.
However, this success in partnership development had almost no effect on the token price, which followed the rest of the market, continuing its drift to new lows. The market downtrend reflected the overall low adoption in the blockchain space, and VeChain was not an exception.
Nevertheless, the project has already integrated some enterprises on its platform and currently works on pilots with many others. VeChain network is actively growing, which hints the increasing adoption.
With that said, the project has every chance to succeed, as long as VeChain team will transform its pilot projects into viable solutions for the enterprise world.
Part One: The Business Case
VeChain Market Opportunities
VeChain targets several markets. Although it has a smart-contracts platform with dApps, its primary focus has been on the supply chain industry, and on delivering Internet of Things solutions to the market.
The supply chain is a massive industry that can directly benefit from blockchain technology. According to IBM, the implementation of blockchain could save the logistics industry approximately $38 billion yearly. VeChain is already working with different brands actively developing blockchain tracking systems, whether it is limited edition luxury bags or services history of cars.
VeChain also introduced a solution for fighting against counterfeit goods, by creating the VeChain NFC chip. The chip can be embedded almost in any product, while the customers can use their smartphone to scan products to ascertain their authenticity. The estimated losses due to counterfeiting of luxury consumer goods amounted to $98 billion, while the amount of total counterfeiting globally has reached $1.2 trillion, in 2018.
As a smart-contracts platform, VeChain also supports dApps and token launches. Although the ICO market is in a downtrend right now, the market for distributed applications is trending up and expected to lead the adoption and growth of the blockchain industry in the future.
From a market opportunity perspective, the biggest threat to VeChain is coming more from traditional players, than from crypto projects.
In the crypto space, the competition from supply management oriented projects is currently minimal, due to the fact that the market is gigantic, while the present players cannot cover even a small piece of it. The projects are not really competing, instead working in parallel on pilots for different industry leaders.
For example, IOTA joined the MOBI initiative, with some important names in the automobile industry such as Groupe Renault, BMW, Ford, and General Motors, to implement DLT technology that would track vehicle service history, identity, data, and supply chain. Similarly, VeChain is working with Renault and BMW on concepts that could bring blockchain in their supply management.
The same situation is happening with Waltonchain. Although it is losing the competition to VeChain and IOTA in terms of partnerships development, it serves many of the same purposes. The project is similarly looking to implement RFID chips into different products to track them on the blockchain.
However, due to the general lack of adoption for the above projects, the technological differences between them do not play an important role. In fact, there will be no market leader for supply management in the crypto space until we see a real working case that scales at least in one industry.
VeChain is also competing as a smart contracts platform. The competition here is much stronger, with established market leaders Ethereum and EOS. However, VeChain is only taking its first steps in that market, and it is too small to be considered as a serious player.
Competition in the Blockchain Space
Although the competition in the blockchain space is minimal, in the traditional space, there are players that pose a real threat to VeChain.
IBM in cooperation with shipping giant Maersk is already offering their global trade blockchain platform. Up to 94 firms have already signed up for the platform, including ports, logistics companies, ocean-going carriers, etc. IBM is also working with Unilever and Walmart to identify new areas where the global supply chain can benefit from blockchain. IBM is so dominant in the enterprise market, that according to the survey, 65% of companies say they would choose IBM to deploy the technology in their own business.
SAP has also been active in the supply chain market. It is already working with pharmaceutical, tech, and shipping companies on an automated blockchain-based supply chain tracking system.
In fact, large players such as IBM and SAP have all the resources to dominate the market, by introducing blockchain solutions to their large customer base.
Competition in the Traditional Space
From the market opportunity perspective, VeChain is facing stiff competition from the traditional players. Although the market is big, and current players are still largely exploring the opportunity, it may be difficult for VeChain to compete with enterprise giants like IBM and SAP.
VeChain network (VeChainThor) utilized the Proof-of-Authority consensus protocol. There are two types of nodes that form the backbone of the system:
- Authority nodes – used to validate blockchain transactions.
- Economic nodes – do not participate in the consensus, but thought to provide stability to the system.
Economic nodes require a minimum of 600,000 VET to gain access to the smallest node. The node owners are rewarded simply for staking tokens, which provides stability for the ecosystem.
Authority nodes (also called Authority Masternodes) have to hold a minimum of 250,000,000 VET and require a full KYC and application procedure. In total there are 101 Authority Masternodes (AM), which is a fixed amount. The VeChain team is trying to attract large enterprises to become Authority Masternodes holders. For example, in May 2018, DNV GL announced that it became an Authority Masternode for VeChain. The company provides risk management and quality assurance services, and has more than 14,000 employees in 100 countries.
Having large companies operating AMs not only adds reliability to consensus but also helps with business development; AMs, as stakeholders, become interested in the success of the network.
The problem is that, in case of VeChain, the authority of AMs for the most part cannot be verified, instead users are required to simply trust that the team is acting in the best interests of the community.
This leads to the fact that VeChain is not aiming to become fully decentralized. Instead, it has a centralized governance team that is elected by the decentralized community. For any project that is aiming to work with different businesses, there is a need for a centralized point of contact. So, this is could be a reasonable way to attract enterprise adoption.
The project is governed by VeChain Foundation, which committed to the development of the VeChain ecosystem. The Board of Steering Committee is the governing body of the VeChain Foundation. It lays out the development strategy and selects functional committee chairs to oversee the operational units of the Foundation.
Currently, the Foundation is funded with the capital initially obtained through the ICO. However, it plans to obtain its own funding sources, and drive revenue (non-operational income) from research and development results, product sales, patent transfers or licensing, academic exchange and contribution, etc.
The Foundation Steering Committee is elected every two years by the VeChain stakeholders, i.e. large VET holders, Smart Contract Owners or Authority Masternode holders. Major voting rights are spread between major beneficiaries of the ecosystem, which is reasonable since they have a financial incentive to act in the best interest of the ecosystem.
The table below summarizes the minimum VET holding requirement for each category of stakeholders in order to participate in the voting process.
There are three fundamental subjects that stakeholders will be voting for:
- The Board of Steering Committee
- The modification of the fundamental consensus mechanism or technical parameters
- Other subjects that the Board of Steering Committee deem necessary for general voting (funding proposals, etc.)
Prior to each vote, the Foundation will announce detailed rules such as voting authority counting day, voting day and minimum participation rate. Stakeholders will be able to sign up for the upcoming vote on the voting platform VeVote. However, the platform is still under development, and the release is planned for Q1 2019.
However, if we exclude Binance wallets from this list, top-10 addresses would account for about 15% of all supply, which is relatively low.
At the same time, VeChain has taken the leading role in terms of partnerships development. Currently, the company is working on pilots with close to 20 enterprises, which could be the first step towards the wide adoption of the network.
The company operates with a Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) model and sets up all the necessary infrastructure for its customers, with a degree of customization depending on the needs. This smoothens the client onboarding process and helps to expand to different industries.
Such a strategy allowed VeChain to partner with many well-known brands.
VeChain became a portfolio company of the PwC incubator programme in China. PwC’s extensive network should help VeChain accelerate the development across the Hong Kong and Southeast Asia markets.
The project has also been working with H&M subsidiary Arket, testing VeChain to secure product data traceability in the value chain. The test was made on a wool beanie from the autumn 2018 collection, and customers could actually use VeChain to verify the authenticity of the product.
VeChain Product Tracking Pilot
The full video is available here.
In fact, VeChain is actively developing a system for tracking limited edition luxury goods. According to the team, one of the well-known luxury brands (the client is not disclosed due to NDA), is already a paying customer of VeChain.
VeChain has also been actively partnering with large enterprises, such as the People’s Insurance Company of China (world 20th largest insurer according to Forbes), DNV GL (a global quality assurance and risk management company), etc.
In partnership with DNV GL, VeChain developed MyStory, a blockchain powered digital assurance solution. Italian winemakers were the first to implement the solution. Using the dApp, consumers can trace the true story behind the bottle by scanning the My Story™ QR-code. The consumers have access to the wine’s timeline and locations from grape to store for every bottle.
VeChain has also been working closely with BYD, one of the largest Chinese car brands on a proof of concept for tackling carbon emission imbalances. The developed application will move data of millions of cars, buses, trains, and other vehicles onto a VeChain public blockchain platform.
Such active partnerships development helped the project grow a large community. However, VeChain numbers are lower than what IOTA, Ethereum or EOS have, which can be explained by the fact that the project is relatively young. It also does not have a developed dApp ecosystem, with a smaller games and DEX offering compared to EOS or Ethereum.
Community Involvement Comparison
The number of active addresses did not significantly increase during the past 2 years, which indicates that the project is not moving forward with in terms of adoption.
VeChain transaction activity is measured by the number of Clauses. A transaction can have many clauses or transactions bundled inside a transaction. For example, a transaction can have 100 recipients, so that would be 1 transaction/100 clauses. In general terms, the number of clauses is equal to the number of transactions. This number keeps increasing since September 2018, which may hint the increasing adoption of the blockchain.
The team is reporting working with many enterprises, developing pilots. As long as the project will be able to convince clients who are testing pilots to continue to use the platform, it can become one of the first networks to begin solving real problems for real businesses.
VeChainThor Blockchain utilizes a dual token economic model with VeChain tokens (VET) and VeThor tokens (VTHO). This model avoids an obstacle that many DLT networks face: the cost of using blockchain dramatically increases when the token valuation goes up.
The dual token economic model prevents transaction fees from being directly dependent on the volatility of the price of VET tokens, making the blockchain more suitable for business transactions and enterprise use.
VTHO is generated via holding VET and enables users to make transactions at no extra cost if they hold VET tokens for long enough. This should increase the demand for the VET token, if the team realizes its adoption plans.
This incentive mechanism is also applied to nodes that support the ecosystem:
1. Authority nodes – directly participate in the consensus. They receive the highest VTHO production rate and voting rights, 30% of VTHO daily usage is rewarded to Authority Masternodes. A minimum of 25.000.000 VET is required to apply for the AM status. Moreover, Authority Masternode owners need to prove that they can make a significant contribution to the VeChain ecosystem and require full KYC compliance.
2. There are also Economic Nodes that do not participate in the consensus but provide overall stability to the system:
● Mjolnir Masternode – a minimum of 15.000.000 VET required. 30 day maturity period.
● Thunder Node – a minimum of 5.000.000 VET required. 20 day maturity period.
● Strength Node – a minimum of 1.000.000 VET required. 10 day maturity period.
Economic Nodes are rewarded with a portion of VTHO generated by a pool of VET set aside by the Foundation. The allocated VET in VTHO Reward Pool reduces by 2.5 billion every 6 months, until further notice after 29 Feb 2020. Currently, there are 15 billion VET in the VTHO Reward Pool. The reward is distributed to the Economic Nodes and does not replace VTHO that is also generated by held VET tokens.
3. The Foundation has also created an X Reward pool (5 billion VET) that rewards the third type of nodes – X Economic nodes. X Node status is only granted to those who supported VeChain during the early stages of development.
● Mjolnir X Node – a minimum of 15.600.000 VET needed. 90-day maturity when upgrading from a Thunder X Node
● Thunder X Node – a minimum of 5.600.000 VET needed. 60 day maturity period when upgrading from a Strength X Node.
● Strength X Node – a minimum of 1.600.000 VET needed, 30 day maturity period when upgrading from a VeThor X Node
● VeThor X Node – a minimum of 600.000 VET needed, no maturity period.
Each Node is represented by a unique Token on the blockchain, so it can be transferred to a different wallet, or even sold to another user. The reward distribution is presented in the table below.
VeChain Node Rewards
Besides staking, tokens are used for several other purposes in the ecosystem:
Fees – current default transaction fees are equal to 21 VTHO (0.0053$). It is also possible to increase the priority of the transaction, by increasing the fees. Users can either purchase VTHO on the exchange to make a transaction, or they can hold VET on their wallets which will automatically generate VTHO.
Governance – large VET token holders (minimum 1,000,000 VET) can participate in community votings.
Both tokens are drastically different in terms of the function they serve, total supply, and inflation.
VET token represents smart money or value-transfer medium. It enables value circulation within the ecosystem. There is 86,712,634,466 VET in total, and the team is not planning to issue more VET.
VTHO token represents the underlying cost of using VeChain. Each VET generates 0.000432 VTHO per day. The team has all the power to adjust the velocity with which VTHO tokens are generated in order to stabilize its price. Currently, there are almost 8.5 billion VTHO tokens. The average daily VTHO supply growth is 37.3 million, while the average daily burn rate is 139.9k. The tokens are burned when there is a payment transaction or contract execution. 70% of burned tokens are destroyed, while 30% goes as a reward for Authority Masternodes.
Such a system allows controlling the fees that users pay on the blockchain and makes it convenient to use the network. At the same time, it initiates the demand for VET token, which would be necessary in order to use the network.
The token economics model used by VeChain looks well thought through. It allows enterprises to use the network while having the grasp of the operating costs. The future demand for the token only depends on the ability of the team to attract more enterprises on the network, which still remains work in progress.
The main force behind the adoption of VET is VeChain Foundation. The Foundation is represented by the Steering Committee, which is elected every two years. The current Steering committee is represented by the founders of the project.
Sunny Lu – Sunny is the CEO of VeChain. Prior to starting VeChain in 2015, he worked as CIO in LV China. He has experience working as an IT executive in Fortune 500 companies for over 13 years.
Jay Zhang – Jay is the CFO of VeChain. Prior to joining VeChain Jay has experience working in PwC and Deloitte for over 14 years. He was the lead designer of VeChain governance framework.
Kevin Feng – Kevin is the COO of VeChain. Kevin has over 12 years of experience working in PwC CN/HK region. He is an expert in cybersecurity and privacy and has been driving the development of blockchain services of PwC.
Jianliang Gu – Jianliang is the CTO of VeChain. Has over 16 years experience in hardware and software development and management. Worked in TCL, Alcatel, and Blackberry as a hardware editor. Has more than 149 patents in Mobile communication.
The team has been working for VeChain since 2015, and after the ICO in 2017. The CEO has good connections in the luxury industry. He worked in Louis Vuitton for over 5 years and can build a business in that industry, offering anti-counterfeiting services with VeChainThor.
The core team consists of 14 people. Some of the team members have connections with PwC China, which should give direct access to large corporations, and ease of business development.
The structure of the team mimics the regular corporate structure. The Board of Steering is elected by the main stakeholders of the system. The elected team appoints all the other executives including technical, operational, marketing leads.
Such structure gives the power to large stakeholders of the project and allows the community to change the team if they are not satisfied with the way the project is managed.
Part Two: The Technology Case
VeChain has created its own blockchain platform, named VeChainThor. Its architecture is based on a four-layer structure:
- TouchingPoints – the project uses a series of NFC and RFID chips in order to connect to the world and collect data that would be transmitted to the blockchain. TouchingPoints serve the function of arms and eyes of the VeChainThor blockchain.
- Connection – transmits data captured through sensors to the blockchain.
- Blockchain core – is responsible for carrying on the transactions on the blockchain.
- Applications and Services – provide the infrastructure services to simplify and standardize application development along with common protocols and interfaces.
The system allows asset digitalization through VeChain Identity (VID) technology. VID is written on an NFC or RFID chip that is embedded in the product. By utilizing VIDs, consumers, manufacturers, or any other supply chain partners can track product movements on the blockchain through their supply chain.
The system supports the “Proof-of-Authority” consensus algorithm. PoA consensus algorithm is a modified version of PoS. However, instead of staking monetary value, it requires a validator to put its reputation at stake. This solves the shortcomings of the PoS algorithm. In PoS different validators can value their stake in the system differently, comparing to their total wealth. This may affect their desire to act in the interest of the network.
The VeChain network uses 101 validators (Authority Masternode) in order to produce and validate blocks. Authority Masternodes (AM) has to go through a strict KYC procedure authorized by the VeChain Foundation and VeChain community. There is no requirement of communication between AMs, while every AM has an equal chance to be selected to produce blocks. AMs owners put their identity and reputation at stake which gives them additional incentive to behave and keep the network secure.
However, there are several problems associated with such a consensus algorithm. The network remains centralized and dependent on the VeChain Foundation since it plays a major role in choosing Authority Masternodes. Moreover, AM owners do not pose any other risk besides “reputational” in case of their fraudulence or any other misbehavior. This is concerning for the community, since the Foundation does not disclose the identity of AMs, and for the general public, most AMs are anonymous.
To attract outside developers, VeChain is developing a smart contract platform. Currently, it only supports Solidity, but the team is working on adding additional programming languages such as Rust. In 2019 the team is also planning to add smart contract templates, SDKs and turnkey package templates to make it more convenient to develop on VeChainThor.
VeChain GitHub activity has been quite healthy during the first half of 2018. However, it lowered during the second half of 2018, right after the launch of mainnet on July 30. This is explained by the fact that the team has finished its major development phase and now is focusing on actual real-world implementation of the platform.
During 2018, the project also obtained 38 blockchain patents, and was ranked 10th in a newly compiled “Top-100 Blockchain Enterprise Patent Rankings”.
The team did not provide any technological roadmap for the future development of the network. However, from the updates, it’s known that the team will work on improving blockchain core and surrounding services, launch more enterprise applications, etc.
From the scalability perspective, VeChain shows good results. Its developers are stating that the chain can handle a maximum of 10,000 TPS. However, it is currently capped to 50 TPS; the team plans to upgrade it with the expansion of the ecosystem and demand from users, stating that technical indexes such as TPS should be a support for the ecosystem, rather than the goal.
Nevertheless, high scalability is a really important feature for VeChainThor, since the project is planning to work with enterprises.
VeChain has developed an enterprise blockchain solution for the supply chain. However, in order to make its blockchain scalable, the team had to sacrifice decentralization. This adds additional risks to the sustainability of the overall system, since the main entity acts as a central point of failure.
The detailed roadmap for the project is currently absent since the project has completed most of its tech development. However, the project published the outlook for 2019.
The general idea behind the development in 2019 is to grow the transactions with business value and build infrastructure services around the VeChainThor blockchain.
For dApp developers, the project is planning to provide developer documentation, smart contract templates, SDKs and turnkey package templates. These are essential components needed for basic applications, including wallets, token issuance, data storage, etc. This should increase the interest from the outside developers to the blockchain.
To increase the interest from the outside developers the team is also organizing a VeChain developer conference — VeChain Summit 2019 scheduled on April 18 at Fort Mason, San Francisco.
The project is also planning to further expand its partner network. Taking previous successes into account, this should not be a problem for VeChain.
VeChain is also working on the legal side of the blockchain industry, trying to educate different governments and help with regulations development. The work in this area will be continued in 2019.
The team completed major technological milestones in 2018. However, in 2019, the project will have to show the real implementation of its technology. The pilots would have to be transformed into real business adoption, otherwise, the value of the network would remain dependent on overall sentiments on the cryptocurrency market.
Part Three: The Investment Case
VeChain and its rivals have very similar price charts. All of the coins have experienced a steep drop in price since November 2018. Although the project experienced increasing activity on its network, this did not lead to the price increase, which reflects that most of the token holders remain highly speculative
VET trading volume is dominated by VET/USDT, VET/BTC pairs. The considerable amount of fiat volume may reflect that the token is actually being traded by the enterprise players, which do not want to be exposed to the volatility of BTC and ETH.
The volume numbers have remained relatively stable after the peak volume in September. However, during the peak volumes on the market, VET trading volume remains stable, which reflects the fact that the coin is still out of the general public radars for the most part.
Daily volatility numbers show a similar pattern to the overall market. VeChain largely remains dependent on market sentiments.
The VET token price has been moving entirely with the market during the last year. The token price remains highly speculative, and current adoption levels are not sufficient to move the price higher.
VET / USD Short-term price analysis
In the short-term, VeChain/USD remains bullish with the cryptocurrency still trading above its key 200-period moving average on the four-hour time frame.
The recent rally in the cryptocurrency has created a bullish inverted head and shoulders pattern on the four-hour time frame, with the mentioned time frame also showing the potential for an even larger inverted head and shoulders pattern to take shape.
Technical indicators have corrected lower following the recent reversal in the VET / USD pair, bulls ultimately need to defend the 200-period moving average in order to maintain the short-term bullish bias.
The MACD indicator on the four-hour time frame is currently neutral, although downside pressures are building. The RSI indicator on the four-hour time frame is neutral; short-term bulls should look for the indicator to start forming lower lows.
However, Traders should continue to monitor the bullish inverted head and shoulders pattern on the four-hour time frame; if the pattern is invalidated a heavy sell-off in the VET / USD pair is likely to occur.
VET / USD Medium-term price analysis
In the medium-term, VeChain has a bullish outlook after the cryptocurrency broke above a neutral wedge pattern on the daily time frame. If price continues to trade above the wedge pattern, we could see a technical reversal in the VET / USD pair back towards the November 15th, 2018 trading low.
The VET / USD pair had been trapped inside the wedge since the start of the year, the breakout is a positive development, with bulls now needing to rally price above the December 2018 trading high. VeChain is also holding above its 50-day moving average, which continues to signify that bullish momentum is building across the daily time frame.
The MACD indicator is trending lower on the daily time frame following the recent reversal in the cryptocurrency, although a bearish MACD line crossover has yet to occur.
The RSI indicator on the daily time frame remains bullish, although it is starting to correct lower after moving into extremely overbought territory.
Still, the recent wedge break remains the most important development over the medium-term, any sustained reversal back inside the wedge pattern would shift the VET / USD pair’s medium-term outlook.
VET / USD Long-term price analysis
The weekly time frame shows that VeChain has recently broken above a wedge pattern and also now trading above its key 10-week moving average. The cryptocurrency has been under heavy selling pressure since the November 2018 and has recently been in a period of sideways consolidation. If buyers can maintain pressure above the wedge pattern and also the cryptocurrencies 10-week moving average, we may start to see the VET / USD pair attempting to stage a sustained recovery higher. Looking at the upside, the cryptocurrency has dual resistance, with the August 2018 trading low now coinciding with major trendline resistance on the weekly chart.
The Stochastic indicator on the weekly time frame is also signaling that a potential bullish move may be underway, with the indicator attempting to recover higher. However, traders should also monitor weekly price closes around the well-defined wedge pattern on the weekly time frame. Multiple weekly price closes above the wedge should be taken as a bullish sign.
After a sustained period of downside pressure, VeChain is finally showing signs that a potential upside recovery back towards levels not seen since November last year could start to take shape over the medium and long-term.
The four-hour time frame chart really illustrates well the possible dangers that lurk ahead for the cryptocurrency if the recent bearish reversal starts to gather pace. Bulls ultimately need to reignite the series of bullish inverted head and shoulders patterns lurking across the lower time frames to push the VET / USD pair away from the danger zone.[/vc_column_text]