After interviews with Qtum, Loopring, Bytom and many other Chinese blockchain projects, last week, China Crypto News arranged an interview with ATN and spoke to Hope Fan, Director at ATN (AI Technology Network). Not very well known among the big public yet, ATN is building a decentralized marketplace for artificial intelligence as a service. In recent months, AI has been quite a buzzword in the blockchain industry and many new players are entering this space.
‘However, the market for AI is currently dominated by big players and it is difficult for small and middle sized companies or even independent developers to get involved. This is mainly because in order to develop and train AI based models, one needs access to big data and a large amount of computing power’ says Hope Fan.
ATN tackles this issue by creating a marketplace where in the future they can connect companies that offer their AI services and finished products; users will be able to just connect to an API and use it. This also includes companies or people that provide computing power and resources, or people who provide big data. It will enable independent developers or relatively small companies that are trying to build on top of existing AI infrastructure to access this market.
Hope Fan adds, ‘From a business perspective, people need to seek out each other for partnerships or to use each other’s resources. So by creating a decentralized marketplace, we provide easier access to everybody. By using blockchain, no single entity is keeping all the data and algorithms on their hard drive or server, so there won’t be a single point of failure’.
Besides making the market more accessible for smaller players, ATN’s solution will also offer the opportunity for the big players to generate extra revenue and potentially get access to technological benefits, as random people are contributing to the whole system. Ultimately, ATN aims to address the lack of informational liquidity.
Hope Fan describes the atmosphere within the company that of a start-up, with mostly Chinese employees in their 20s or early 30s and relatively loose hierarchy. ‘We currently have about 25 people on the team, just over half are developers. Currently we only have an office in Shanghai, but we have been staring at Singapore for quite some time. We are considering opening an office there, because there’s a large AI and blockchain community that we can sort of go through for developing our technical community and overseas presence’, says Hope Fan.
“Where I consider ATN different from the other players, is that for us we are seriously focused on achieving our technical vision, and the AI marketplace is a key focus for us.”
– Hope Fan, Director ATN
The young team, however, is led by an experienced leadership team. One of the founders used to lead the AI Department at Huawei and he took great interest in blockchain. During a blockchain conference in 2016, he ran the idea of a decentralized AIaaS marketplace by Dan Larimer, the founder of Bitshares, EOS and Steemit. They discussed a potential cooperation, however, this didn’t come through as Dan Larimar needed to focus on EOS.
The current version of the roadmap of ATN does not show into too much detail what we can expect in the upcoming period, yet the whitepaper gives more insights. According Hope Fan, currently the team of developers is mostly focusing on deploying the AI market as soon as possible. He further explains, ‘at ATN we focus on the technical side of our product first. We want to have the first-mover advantage in terms of launching our marketplace. There are many other blockchain projects related to AI and they have been doing a great job spreading the word about their project, but this does not necessarily mean that building their products has been the main priority. We realize however, that marketing and growing our community are crucial elements for ATN to succeed in the crypto space. The problem till now is that our team have been mainly China focused, and it will be one of my responsibilities to change this in the near future. We are actively looking to bring our presence to more international blockchain conventions and media platforms. Our initial focus abroad will be on the Asia-Pacific, while we gradually extend our reach to the US and Europe. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, we want to build up a strong technical community. For example, we have plans to organize developer conferences in order to attract more technical talents that would like to contribute to ATN.’
In China, ATN has much more things going on. Its Chinese Telegram group is very active and counts almost 9,000 members. Furthermore, ATN’s industrial applications affiliate, ATMatrix, is doing very well and has established many partnerships with corporates and investors, and has even been featured on CCTV. The newly released ATN website also shows many (corporate) investors, including big names such as Qtum, INBlockchain, iExec Foundation, Eric Gu (Metaverse) among others. ‘Most of them are early investors in our project. Besides financially investing in ATN, they also let us utilize their network. It opens many doors for us to talk to the right people, especially inside China.’
As mentioned before, ATN is not the only blockchain project moving into AI. The most well-known projects are Singularity Net and DeepBrain Chain. Hope Fan says, ‘Besides these projects, there are also more Chinese projects in this area, like Matrix AI and Bottos. They have all done a very good job at marketing, for us that is an area that we have been lacking. Where I consider ATN different from the other players, is that for us we are seriously focused on achieving our technical vision, and the AI marketplace is a key focus for us.’
Another issue ATN has yet to overcome is its token allocation. The current circulating supply is a bit over 21 million out of a total of 210 million. ‘This is indeed a bit of a stumbling block from a crypto investor’s perspective, however we are currently deciding on the most appropriate means to release more tokens into circulation. We are currently engaging private investors to sell up to another 30 percent of ATN tokens, and we are actively applying for more listings on liquid cryptocurrency exchanges. Moving forward these steps will be crucial to increase the accessibility and liquidity of our token’, says Hope Fan.
The corporate backing of ATN definitely gives it the necessary credibility as well as knowledge and network to develop into the right direction. It will be interesting to see whether ATN can be faster than its competitors and the first party to enter this market with a working product. If they manage to do so, the current challenges with the token economics and liquidity will most likely be much easier to solve.
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