Enigma is attempting to solve both privacy and scalability issues of existing blockchains. The protocol originated from CEO Guy Zyskind’s research at MIT in 2015. Enigma acts as a second layer on top of existing blockchains, allowing for computationally intensive or private tasks to be transferred off-chain. Using this structure, nodes can prove they have completed a task without a need to see the underlying data. The team believes this will enable a type of smart contracts where data remains encrypted called “secret contracts.”
The team believes that a range of use cases can emerge from the protocol including medical research and the ability to prove specific details like creditworthiness or age, without needing to reveal underlying specifics. Because privacy is enforced through a variety of mechanisms, including client-side encryption and distributed off-chain computing, details of individuals are never exposed.
The network uses three layers; a protocol layer for private data computation, a platform layer that enables the creation of data sharing marketplaces, and an application layer where decentralized applications are built.
Currently, the platform layer is focused on the Enigma Data Marketplace, which is a smart contract based decentralized infrastructure for buying and selling datasets. Information is stored off-chain by providers and can be purchased using the Enigma (ENG) token. The goal is to eventually allow anyone, including individual users, to offer data through the platform in return for tokens.
The first application built on Enigma was Catalyst, an algorithmic trading library for cryptoassets. The application allows users to backtest and analyze trading strategies to gain insight into performance. Catalyst links to the data marketplace, where traders can subscribe to datasets contributed by Enigma and third-party data providers. Traders use ENG tokens to pay for dataset subscriptions, and data providers receive ENG in return for making their data available.
The Enigma protocol is designed to connect to any existing blockchain and transfer private and intensive computations to an off-chain network. While simple tasks can be completed on the blockchain more computationally intensive or private tasks are distributed across a network of nodes and processed off-chain. Only a subset of all nodes is assigned the task of processing data to reduce redundancy in storing data and computing tasks.
Data is managed through an off-chain distributed hash table (DHT) that stores references to the source of the information. This allows private data to be encrypted on the client side through APIs provided by Enigma. To increase privacy nodes are given only a subset of the overall data and never have access to the complete dataset.
Through a series of updates Enigma plans to integrate new features over time to expand the protocol and application functionalities.
The Discover release, scheduled for Q3 2018, aims to introduce a secret contracts engine that will execute all contract code inside trusted environments. Developing a secret contract would be similar to current smart contracts with the addition of specific logic to identify what needs to run privately in Enigma. The Voyager release planned for 2019 is set to introduce a distributed virtual machine to allow users to choose between general-purpose secure multi-party computations.
Enigma plans to finish their roadmap with the Defiant release in 2010, which will allow the Enigma network to operate its own blockchain independent from other networks. This could include moving to a native token from the current Ethereum based token. The Enigma token, ENG, is currently used to pay for data subscription services with plans to use tokens for compensating individual data providers and nodes that offer storage or computational resources.