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Glossary of Terms

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Glossary of Terms

May 2019

Posted by

Lawrence Lundy

Partner / Head of Research

He helps inform the UK and EU on technology policy as an expert advisor to the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Blockchain; steering committee member for the AI Global Governance Commission; community member of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on AI; member of the European Commission Observatory on Blockchain; and contributor to the UK Cryptoasset Taskforce led by HM Treasury, FCA and Bank of England....read more

Blockchain Terms

Input from: www.blockgeeks.com

Posted by Lawrence Lundy - May 2019

May 2019

Posted by

Lawrence Lundy

Partner / Head of Research

He helps inform the UK and EU on technology policy as an expert advisor to the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Blockchain; steering committee member for the AI Global Governance Commission; community member of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on AI; member of the European Commission Observatory on Blockchain; and contributor to the UK Cryptoasset Taskforce led by HM Treasury, FCA and Bank of England....read more

51% attack

An attack where a single entity controls more than half of the network hash rate, allowing them to stop/change transactions, double spend and take over other mining operations.

Airdrop

A token distribution mechanism in which tokens as given away for free.

Altcoin

Umbrella term for any cryptocurrency that is not Bitcoin popular from 2009 to 2017.  

Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC)

An integrated circuit that is designed for a specific task rather than for general purpose tasks like central processing units (CPU). They are popular for deep learning and cryptocurrency mining because they are typically more efficient.  

Atomic swap

Exchange of one token for another without the need for an intermediary like an exchange. On September 20, 2017, Decred and Litecoin did the first known successful implementation of the atomic swap.

Autonomous Economic Agents (AEA)

Software programs with unique identifiers that do not need to be explicitly programmed by a human and are able to engage in economic activity.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a form of electronic cash. It is a decentralized digital currency that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries.

Block

Blocks are packages of data that carry permanently recorded data on the blockchain network.

Blockchain

A blockchain, originally block chain, is a type of distributed ledger. It is a growing list of linked records, called blocks. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data. A blockchain is known as permissionless if there are no rules as to which node can validate a record or permissioned if only approved nodes can validate transactions.   

Block Explorer

Block explorer is an online tool to view all transactions, past and current, on the blockchain. They provide useful information such as network hash rate and transaction growth.

Block Height

The number of blocks connected on the blockchain.

Block Reward

A form of incentive for the miner who successfully calculated the hash in a block during mining. In blockchains that use a mining model, verification of transactions on the blockchain generates new tokens in the process, and the miner is rewarded with a part of those.

Byzantine Fault Tolerance

The condition of a computer system where components may fail and there is imperfect information on whether a component has failed. In the case of distributed systems, Byzantine Fault Tolerance is crucial to avoid the same token being spent twice.  

Confirmation

The successful act of hashing a transaction and adding it to the blockchain.

Consensus

Consensus is achieved when all participants of the network agree on the validity of the transactions, ensuring that the ledgers are exact copies of each other.

Continuous Organisation

Pioneered by Thibauld Favre, a continuous organisation is a type of organisation that allows investors to continuously purchase a security token which is claim on future generated cash flows.    

Cryptocurrency

Also known as a coin, crypotoken, payment token or exchange token. A cryptocurrency is a digital asset not issued or backed by a central bank or other central authority designed as a medium of exchange.  

Cryptography

The practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of adversaries.

Cryptographic Hash Function

Cryptographic hashes produce a fixed-size and unique hash value from variable-size transaction input. The SHA-256 computational algorithm is an example of a cryptographic hash.

Directed acyclic graph (DAG)

A graph-type data structure in which connections between nodes have a direction and the same node is never encountered twice. A tree structure is an example of a DAG structure.  

Decentralised system

A type of system in which lower level components act on local information to achieve global goals without the coordination of a central controller.

Decentralised application (Dapp)

An application that is open source, operates autonomously, has its data stored on a blockchain, incentivised in the form of tokens and operates on a protocol that shows proof of value.

Decentralised Autonomous Organization (DAO)

A DAO is a smart contract or set of smart contracts that perform actions based on programmed rules and is coordinated through distributed consensus.    

Decentralised exchange (DEX)

A type of exchange in which cryptocurrency holders exchange with each other directly, on a peer-to-peer basis, without needing to trust an intermediary as a custodian.  

DeFi (Decentralized Finance)

The name for a movement to build financial tools on public open source infrastructure like Ethereum.

Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs)

A new type of identifier that is globally unique, resolvable with high availability, and cryptographically verifiable.

Distributed system

A system whose components are located on different networked computers, which communicate and coordinate their actions by passing messages to one another

Distributed ledger

Also called a shared ledger or distributed ledger technology or DLT is a consensus of replicated, shared, and synchronized digital data geographically spread across multiple sites, countries, or institutions. One form of distributed ledger design is a blockchain, which can be either publicly accessible or private.

Difficulty

This refers to how easily a data block of transaction information can be mined successfully.

Digital Signature

A digital code generated by public key encryption that is attached to an electronically transmitted document to verify its contents and the sender’s identity.

Double Spending

Double spending occurs when a sum of money is spent more than once.

Ethereum

An open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform and operating system with smart contract functionality.

Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)

A Turing complete virtual machine that allows anyone to execute arbitrary EVM Byte Code. Every Ethereum node runs on the EVM to maintain consensus across the blockchain.

Federated Learning

A machine learning technique whereby a central learning model is trained on distributed data sources. This in contrast with dominant machine learning approaches in which training data is collected in a single place.    

Forking

Refers to the process of creating alternate versions of a piece of software. In a blockchain context, a hard fork is a permanent divergence of the blockchain and a soft fork requires all participants to upgrade to the latest software but there is no divergence of the chain.  

Genesis Block

The first or first few blocks of a blockchain.

Governance

The process of making decisions. In a distributed systems context, this refers to how decisions can be made by as many people as possible. The concept of on-chain governance is a way for all participants in the network to vote on decisions.     

Hash

The act of performing a hash function on the output data. This is used for confirming token transactions.

Hash Rate

Measurement of performance for the mining rig is expressed in hashes per second.

Homomorphic Encryption

A form of encryption that allows computation on encrypted text so that the underlying plain text never needs to be revealed.

Initial Coin Offering (ICO)

A token distribution mechanism whereby a project sells tokens in exchange for bitcoin and ether during a contribution window for the purposes of funding the development of the project.  

Initial Exchange Offering (IEO)

A token distribution mechanism whereby a project conducts the token distribution process directly on an exchange.

Immutable

In the context of blockchains, immutability means once data has been written to a blockchain no one can change it. Seen as a critical feature of blockchains that makes censorship too expensive for most entities.  

Interoperability

A characteristic of a product or system, whose interfaces are designed to work with other products or systems without any restrictions. In a blockchain context it typically refers to tools that enable different blockchains to communicate.

InterPlanetary File System (IPFS)

A peer-to-peer distributed file system that connect all computing devices with the same system of files.

Lockdrop

A token distribution mechanism in which ETH is sent to a smart contract address to be locked up. The longer the ETH is locked in the smart contract the more tokens are provided. Currently being worked on by Edgewere.

Liquid Airdrops

A version of the lockdrop token distribution mechanism in which ETH is sent to a smart contract address to be locked up. There is a fixed period to send funds after which the smart contract creates a market in which users can earn fees from trading on the market.

Merkle Mine

A token distribution mechanism in which participants are required to stake in the network to receive tokens. Pioneered by Livepeer.   

Mining

The act of validating blockchain transactions. The necessity of validation warrants an incentive for the miners, usually in the form of coins. In this cryptocurrency boom, mining can be a lucrative business when done properly. By choosing the most efficient and suitable hardware and mining target, mining can produce a stable form of passive income.

Multi-Signature (Multi-sig)

Multi-signature addresses provide an added layer of security by requiring more than one key to authorize a transaction.

Node

A copy of the ledger operated by a participant of the blockchain network.

Non-fungible tokens (NFT)

A type of cryptographic token which represents something unique; non-fungible tokens are thus not interchangeable unlike fungible cryptocurrencies.  

Off-chain transaction

The movement of value outside of the blockchain

Oracle

A piece of software that finds and verifies real-world data and submits this information to a blockchain to be used by smart contracts

Peer to Peer (P2P)

A network design whereby computers connect directly to each other rather than a client-server model in which computers go through a server to communicate to other computers.  

Plasma

A technology to create new blockchains that are linked to one root blockchain.

Private Key

A string of data that allows you to access the tokens in a specific wallet. They act as passwords that are kept hidden from anyone but the owner of the address.

Proof of Stake

A consensus algorithm whereby new blocks are validated not by miners but by validators chosen by how many tokens they hold.   

Proof of Work

A consensus algorithm whereby new blocks are validated by miners rewarded with tokens for solving cryptographic puzzles.  

Proof of Authority

A consensus algorithm in which transactions are validated by approved accounts, known as validators.

Public Address

The cryptographic hash of a public key. They act as email addresses that can be published anywhere, unlike private keys.

Secure Multi-Party Computations (sMPC)

Privacy technique allowing different parties to express assertions about a dataset that can be verified mathematically without having access to the underlying dataset.

Security token

A type of cryptographic token that may provide rights such as ownership, repayment of a specific sum of money, or entitlement to a share in future profits. As such they are classified as a financial security and must be registered with the appropriate financial regulator.  

Self-sovereign identity (SSI)

The concept of individuals or organizations having sole ownership of their digital and analog identities, and control over how their personal data is shared and used.

Sharding

A technique whereby data is split up and stored separately. In the blockchain context, it offers performance improvements as not all nodes have to process the same transaction to achieve consensus and add a new block to the blockchain.

Sidechain

A separate blockchain that is attached to its parent blockchain using a two-way peg.

Smart Contracts

Smart contracts encode rules in a programmable language onto the blockchain and are enforced by the participants of the network.

Solidity

Solidity is Ethereum’s programming language for developing smart contracts.

Stablecoin

A type of cryptographic token designed to minimize the volatility of the price of the stablecoin, relative to some “stable” asset or basket of assets like fiat.  

Staking

The activity of putting down a token or ‘stake’ to perform an action on a network that uses a proof-of-stake algorithm to achieve consensus. If the desired action is observed, then the stake is returned, otherwise it is lost. The idea is that good behaviours are encouraged because a staker doesn’t want to lose their stake.  

State Channel

A two-way pathway opened between two users that want to communicate with each other in the form of transactions. It is used as a method of increasing the performance of the underlying blockchain as transactions only need to be entered on the blockchain when the users want to close the channel.

Token Curated Registry (TCR)

A list that is organised and maintained by votes from participants, backed by staked tokens.

Testnet

A test blockchain used by developers to prevent expending assets on the main chain.

Transaction Block

A collection of transactions gathered into a block that can then be hashed and added to the blockchain.

Transaction Fee

All cryptocurrency transactions involve a small transaction fee. These transaction fees add up to account for the block reward that a miner receives when he successfully processes a block.

Turing Complete

Turing complete refers to the ability of a machine to perform calculations that any other programmable computer is capable of. An example of this is the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

Wallet

A file that houses private keys. It usually contains a software client which allows access to view and create transactions on a specific blockchain that the wallet is designed for. Wallets are sometimes known as “hot” if they are connected to the Internet and “cold” if they are not.  

Wallet address

A place transactions can be sent to and from, represented by a string of letters and numbers.

Worklock

A version of the lockdrop token distribution mechanism in which ETH is sent to a smart contract address to be locked up and receives tokens in return. If the participant uses the tokens for the intended purpose they will recoup the ETH, but if they do not, they forfeit the escrowed ETH. Model being pioneered by NuCypher.   

Utility token

Also known as work tokens. A type of cryptographic token which can be redeemed for access to a specific product or service that is typically provided using distributed ledger technology.

Zero-knowledge proof

A cryptographic method by which one party (the prover) can prove to another party (the verifier) that they know a value x, without conveying any information apart from the fact that they know the value x. Useful for privacy applications.

Unspent transaction output (UTXO)

A concept whereby unspent transaction outputs from previous transactions are used to construct new transactions.

 

Artificial Intelligence Terms

 

Algorithm

Set of rules or a process to be followed in order to solve a problem

Artificial general intelligence

Type of artificial intelligence that would allow machines to perform any intellectual task a human being can do. Experts disagree whether or not this will ever be possible.

Artificial intelligence

Intelligence demonstrated by machines or computing systems

Artificial neural network

Computing system made up of interconnected processing elements, loosely modelled on the neural networks of the human brain

Big Data

Data that is too large or complex to be managed using traditional data analysis tools.

Chatbot

Computer program that simulates conversation with human users

Deep learning

Subset of machine learning where artificial neural networks can “learn” from experience without human involvement

Differential privacy

A set of machine learning techniques for preventing a model from accidentally memorizing secrets present in a training dataset during the learning process.

Generative adversarial network (GAN)

Type of artificial intelligence algorithm wherein two neural networks, described as the generator and the discriminator, are pitted against each other to generate original content

Machine learning

An application of artificial intelligence that enables a system to learn and improve itself through experience

Moore’s Law

Observation made by Gordon Moore, founder of IBM, that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit, and thus that circuit’s processing power, doubles every two years.

Predictive analytics

Analysis of data, often using statistical models and forecast techniques, to make predictions about the future

Prescriptive analytics

Analysis of data, often coupled with the running of optimization or simulation algorithms, to map outcomes and advise on action

Robot

Programmable machine, typically one resembling a human, that’s able to replicate certain human movements or carry out actions automatically   

Software agent

Piece of software, or computer program, that acts on behalf of another user of program

Superintelligence

Hypothetical agent that possesses intelligence far superior than that of any human being

Supervised learning

Type of system in which input and output data is labelled for classification in order to provide a learning basis for future data processing

Unsupervised learning

The training of an artificial intelligence system using data that isn’t classified or labelled (as is the case in supervised learning) so that it might act on that data without explicit guidance

Virtual assistant

Software agent such as Alexa, Siri or Cortana that performs tasks or services for a user.

 

Networking Technology Terms

Input from: www.westbase.io

 

5G

5G is the fifth generation of mobile technology, not yet available but undergoing development and testing today. 5G will offer greater capacity, be faster, more energy-efficient and more cost-effective than any earlier network in order to meet the expanding network demands of technologies such as the Internet of Things. It follows 3G known as HSPA or HSPA+, and 4G also known as LTE (Long Term Evolution)

AAA

Authentication, authorisation, and accounting (AAA) is a framework for intelligently controlling access to computer resources, auditing usage, enforcing policies, and providing the required information for billing services.

AP

An access point, or AP, is a station which transmits and receives data in a wireless local area network, connecting the users within the network and also serving as the point of connection between the wireless and wired network.

Application Programming Interface (API)

A set of rules that enables developers to interact with software.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a wireless technology for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Also known as BLE and Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth Low Energy is a wireless technology designed for low-power applications.  

Data Packets

In order to transfer data over a network it must be broken down into manageable “chunks”, before being reassembled at the receiving end of the communication to deliver the data in its original form. Data packets are what we call these chunks.

Domain Name System (DNS)

A distributed database that handles the mapping between readable domain names (www.duckduckgo.com) and the numerical Internet addresses (212.54.40.25).

DSL

Digital Subscriber Line is a family of technologies that is used to provide internet access by transmitting digital data over telephone lines.

EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution)

EDGE (also known as Enhanced GPRS or EGPRS) is a data system used on top of GSM networks.

Ethernet

Ethernet is the most common type of connection used for a local area network where data is transferred via cable connections.

Firewall

A network security system which controls incoming and outgoing traffic. Controlled by a rule set, a firewall establishes a barrier between a trusted, secure internal network and another network, e.g. the Internet, which isn’t “known” and therefore not trusted and secure.

Fog Computing

A distributed infrastructure in which certain application processes or services are managed at the edge of the network by a smart device, but others are still managed in the cloud. It is, essentially, a middle layer between the cloud and the hardware at the edge of the network to enable more efficient data processing, analysis and storage, which is achieved by reducing the amount of data which needs to be transported to the cloud.

Gateway

The point at which two different networks meet.

Geofencing

Allows users to set geographically based rules which can be used to perform actions or alerts on a device automatically if it is moved outside a dedicated area.

Gateway GPRS Support Node (GGSN)

A main component of the GPRS network. The GGSN is responsible for the interworking between the GPRS network and external packet switched networks, like the Internet and X.25 networks.

General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)

A packet-switching technology that enables data transfers through cellular networks. It is used for mobile internet, MMS and other data communications.

GPS (Global Positioning System)

A satellite-based radionavigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Air Force.

Internet of Things (IoT)

An environment in which objects including machines, people and animals are connected via a network. Data can be passed between the objects, each of which is uniquely identifiable. A real-world example could be a patient wearing a monitor that transmits health data for doctors to remotely view on their tablet or PC, rather than having to be at the bedside.

IP address

A numerical label assigned to each and every device participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. It is responsible for identifying the device and its location, and showing traffic how to reach it.

IPv4

IPv4 stands for “Internet Protocol version 4” and is used to route, or direct, traffic over the Internet. IPv4 uses a 32-bit address, meaning that there is a limited number of addresses available for devices. This led to the creation of IPv6.

IPv6

IPv6 stands for “Internet Protocol version 6” and is an updated version of IPv4 using longer 64-bit IP addresses. IPv6 is critical to the success of the Internet of Things as it delivers the volume of IP addresses required which IPv4 cannot provide.

Local Area Network (LAN)

Refers to a computer network that spans a relatively small area such as a home or business premise.

LTE (Long Term Evolution)

Another term used to describe 4G mobile technology. “4G” was originally used to follow on from 3G, but the industry later felt that it didn’t appropriately convey the progress of the technology, so they created “LTE” which has since become a more recognised term.

LTE-Advanced

LTE-A and LTE-Advanced, also known as 4G+ / 4.5G, is a newer and faster version of LTE/4G cellular connectivity. Utilising carrier aggregation, it allows LTE-Advanced enabled devices to receive data from multiple bands in the LTE spectrum, which provides a theoretical speed of 300 Mbps compared to the 100 Mbps theoretical speed you get on a standard LTE network.

M2M

Machine to Machine (M2M) refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same type.

Mesh Networks

A network design in which the infrastructure nodes (i.e. bridges, switches and other infrastructure devices) connect directly and dynamically to as many other nodes as possible and cooperate with one another.

Multiple In Multiple Out (MIMO)

Refers to the use of multiple antennas at the transmitter and receiver in order to improve communication performance.

Mobile Network Operator (MNO)

A provider of wireless communications services and is also known as a wireless carrier, cellular company or mobile network carrier. An MNO owns or controls all elements necessary to sell and deliver services to an end user, such as radio spectrum allocation and wireless network infrastructure. An example would be Vodafone.

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)

A mechanism in high performance telecommunications networks that directs data from one network node to the next based on short path labels rather than long network addresses, avoiding complex lookups in a routing table.

Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)

A company which provides wireless communication services but doesn’t itself own or control the necessary network elements, for example it may not have its own licensed spectrum allocation. It instead resells services from an MNO, although typically still has its own business infrastructure such as billing capabilities.

Network function virtualization (NFV)

A network architecture concept that uses the technologies of IT virtualization to virtualize entire classes of network node functions into building blocks that may connect, or chain together, to create communication services.

Packet Data Protocol (PDP)

A network protocol used by packet switching external networks to communicate with GPRS networks.

Power over Ethernet (PoE)

Refers to the use of Ethernet cabling to deliver electricity to devices. Within an Ethernet cable there are spare wires not used for computing purposes, which can therefore be repurposed to deliver electricity to devices which have this functionality enabled.

PSTN

The Public Switched Telephone Network.

Radio Spectrum

Radio spectrum is made up of radio waves from a very low frequency up to very high frequencies, and is divided into bands which are reserved for single use or a range of compatible uses of data transmission. Allocations are agreed internationally.

RAN

A Radio Access Network (RAN) refers to cellular networks, for example with GSM and UMTS systems.

Router

Normally a hardware device responsible for forwarding pieces of information both within and between networks. You’ll normally find a router at the gateway between two different networks.

Subscriber Identification Module (SIM)

An integrated circuit that securely stores the international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) and the related key used to identify and authenticate subscribers on mobile devices.

Short Message Service (SMS)

A text messaging service component of phone, web, or mobile communication systems. It uses standardised communications protocols to allow fixed line or mobile phone devices to exchange short text messages.

Software Defined Networking (SDN)

An approach to networking that enables administrators to manage networking services through higher-level, or overlay functionality. It is designed to make the network as agile and flexible as possible, while still retaining control.

Switch

Similar to a router, a switch has the ability to forward information within a network but cannot forward information between networks.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Used to extend a private network across a public network, most commonly the Internet.

WAN

A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a computer network that spans a broad area such as a town or county. It normally consists of two or more local area networks.

WiFi

WiFi allows devices within a designated area to connect to the Internet wirelessly. There are different types of WiFi, each of which offers different speeds and range.

 

Outlier Ventures terms

Convergence

The idea that different data technologies like artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and blockchains are merging into a single system.

The Convergence Ecosystem  

The Outlier Ventures investment thesis based around the idea of an emerging open-source and decentralized data value chain: production of data (IoT), distribution of data (blockchains), and consumption of data (artificial intelligence).

The Convergence Stack

The technology stack that is needed to realise convergence. Covering hardware, software, networking and applications, the stack underpins a confidential, secure, and accessible digital infrastructure. These technologies are vital in ensuring the benefits of technologies like the IoT and AI are shared equitably.   

Web 3.0

Typically refers to the vision of the decentralised web in which users control of their own identity and data.

Software

Software is a set of instructions, data or programs used to operate computers and execute specific tasks.

Open Source

Software that uses an open development process and is licensed to include the source code to study, change, and distribute the software free of any restrictions.

Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) Model

A conceptual model that characterizes and standardizes the communication functions of a telecommunication or computing system without regard to its underlying internal structure and technology.

Protocol
A set of rules for exchanging data over a network.

Hardware

Refers to computing hardware that includes all of the physical components of a computer. Software is instructions that can be stored and run by hardware.