UNVEILING OUR NEW TECH STACK: ATOM
Published on September 24, 2020
The open web is in a state of crisis. With the deprecation of cookies across Safari, Firefox, and now Chrome, advertising on desktops will only be possible within the walled gardens where audiences can be identified for activation. Mobile environments will be soon facing the same reality with Apple firing the first salvo by blocking the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) in iOS 14 software update. Slated for release sometime in the coming months, Apple has since announced that it will delay its implementation to early next year, in a bid to provide developers with more time to adapt. With that, it’s expected that the Android ecosystem will soon follow suit.
As it stands, privacy is now taking precedence over personalisation. While the jury is out on whether this is indeed what the consumers want, suffice to say that 70% of the publisher ecosystem will not be able to authenticate their audiences in the absence of their log-in information. It is advertising that pays for the internet, but ironically advertisers are not left with many choices to advertise. Overall, the value exchanged between brands, platforms and consumers will be reset in the next 18 months.
Old media standards are facing a “Tower of Babel” moment, forcing a broad swath of trade bodies to join hands to form the Partnership for Responsible Media (PRAM) to specifically focus on technical standards and privacy in response to the various changes announced by the different operating systems. With brands rallying behind industry organisations including the likes of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), WFA recently unveiled a brand-centric framework for cross media measurement—the holy grail for marketers—accompanied by a proposed solution developed in partnership with digital platforms. In this, trust, transparency and privacy-safe solutions were indicated as industry requirements. With more than 80,000 advertisers worldwide, establishing a unified voice representing the buy-side is going to be one of the biggest challenges.
In light of the above infrastructural changes, the sell-side universe is being completely reshaped. More than ever, walled gardens are increasingly becoming siloed environments, built on scaled PII with limited or absolutely no data sharing outside of its ecosystem’s confines. On the other hand, Winterberry Group has found that publishers across the globe are beginning to build ‘private’ or ‘communal gardens’ which offer scaled-up marketplaces with authenticated audiences to select participants. AdTech players are now trying to develop their own ID solutions to aid these private and communal gardens as existing techniques and technologies used in creating audience segments will be totally useless in the next 18 months. Good or bad, weak or strong, cookies have helped to connect fragmented technologies, but in a world without them, the industry is looking for a safe, secure, and most of all, compliant alternative to mitigate this fragmentation.
We believe that as a fundamentally decentralised network, the internet must be treated as such. No longer reliant on centralised infrastructures, the internet needs a distributed ledger. It’s clear that the industry is in search of the best of both the worlds: the ability to leverage the safety and security found in walled gardens, while being able to share data in a trusted environment.
With these needs in mind, brands are not able to attribute their marketing investments across the entire consumer journey—this is only going to get worse over time. Further complicated by a broad array of point solutions with different taxonomies and standards, the industry continues to see band-aid solutions in the form of customer data platforms to help brands provide a unified view of their customer. So far so good—but only for now. This may help with retargeting, but when it comes to acquiring new customers in a post-cookie world, finding new audiences in the open web is now only possible if another willing enterprise is ready to share their data for enrichment and activation. Yet, the integration of data sets within an enterprise is different from unification of data between enterprises.
Now, the choice is between an expensive, neutral, and centralised third-party or an efficient, automated decentralised distributed ledger. What will the industry choose?
At Aqilliz, we have a solution.
We’ve built a state of the art and flexible technology stack that brings the best of both the worlds—garden-like safety and security with an ability to share data in a compliant and trusted manner. Meet Atom: a unification engine that helps brands, platforms, and consumers safely and securely exchange value.
At its core, Atom brings in the best of the privacy rendering techniques to help discover audiences in the open web in a federated manner where the provenance of the transactions are decoupled as inventory and impressions while being maintained in an immutable ledger for all its participants. Atom provides an independent and immutable record of processing any and every activity between enterprises, fulfilling not only regulatory requirements, but also highlighting the need for greater collaboration. Hence, Atom provides the much needed incentive for brands and platforms to share their information by providing a fair, trusted, and decentralised marketplace.
To understand Atom, we first need to go back to the underlying architecture on which Aqilliz is built. As a marketing technology software solutions provider, Aqilliz leverages distributed ledger technology to improve transparency, traceability, and immutability in our offerings.
With the swathes of data being ingested in a single programmatic campaign, our past pilots have shown that scalability remains a key cause for concern when it comes to the applicability of distributed ledger technology in the advertising industry. We have summarily addressed this with a unique, first of its kind solution. Atom has been designed as a hybrid blockchain, designed to combine the security and scalability of a private blockchain paired with the accountability and decentralisation of a public blockchain. Atom uses Zilliqa, a high-performance, high-security public blockchain platform.
Together, the pairing of Atom with Zilliqa has enabled us to overcome some of the perennial challenges of security, scalability, and speed found in some of today’s legacy blockchains, while simultaneously serving businesses in need of privacy-compliant solutions.
How does it work?
Atom has been designed to ingest multiple data streams from any kind and reconcile, analyse and learn at optimal speed with concurrency. We broadly classify these actions as authentication services, designed to provide privacy and personalisation capabilities in a unified manner for the entire ecosystem. This is done on a permissioned ledger for any specific federation of participating partners (or nodes on the network). As the appeal of first-party data continues to flourish in a bid to uncover privacy-compliant approaches to personalisation, Atom provides the necessary decentralised layer to connect brands, publishers, and consumers across a collaborative data sharing infrastructure.
As a whole, Atom comprises many components of distributed ledger technology, spanning cryptography, smart contracts, and a consensus protocol. Atom uses state of the art differential privacy techniques that protect the consumers’ privacy with no risk of re-identification. Federated learning techniques ensure that the data does not leave the native location for any of the participants providing the much needed reassurance and compliance for safe and secure analytics. Atom is the first technology stack that integrates differential privacy with federated learning on a distributed ledger. To address requirements in the advertising industry for large data storage in a permissioned setting, we have designed and developed Aquila, a private and permissioned blockchain to facilitate immutable data storage and value transfers.
This is not another point solution, created as a band-aid to connect different technologies. Atom is a unification layer that helps all the participants in the digital ecosystem to safely and securely discover audiences in the open web and engage with them in a trusted and compliant manner.
The Atom Glossary
- Peer Nodes: Every organisation participating in the Aqilliz protocol operates a peer node, which is a node connected to the Atom hybrid blockchain. These nodes may participate in the consensus protocol in order to approve and commit new blocks to the blockchain.
- Private Query Server: A secure data storage where mutable (changeable) data can be stored. The Atom private query server prevents the export of raw data without the explicit permission of the data owner in line with data privacy regulations and implements multiple security and privacy-related enhancements.
- Differential Privacy: Differential privacy is a cryptographic algorithm that inserts statistical noise into a data set in order to obscure the individual identities of data owners. This allows data to be averaged, enabling companies to glean insights from a data set about a group of people rather than about the individual themselves. To learn more about differential privacy, read our blog post on this here.
- Federated Learning: A machine learning technique that allows machine learning models to be built based on data sets that are distributed in distributed databases. This means that data queries and machine learning can be done without data leaving the control of the federation members.
- Federation Server: A server that coordinates between multiple private query servers on the network and performs data reconciliation or federated queries. Data reconciliation could be data reconciliation through matching various raw log-level data or impression data. Federated server allows a user to parse a federated query, and the federation server will coordinate the work with disparate private query servers to obtain an output. On Atom, raw data never leaves the private query server during the process of federated queries and differential privacy is implemented to protect sensitive first-party data. Atom’s federation server is operated by Aqilliz.
- Aquila: A private and permissioned blockchain built by Aqilliz within the Atom infrastructure to facilitate value exchange. This includes activities such as the automation of payment settlement and the management of payment tokens. Every participant within a federation on the Atom network will have access to a shared ledger on Aquila by operating a blockchain node. These nodes will produce blocks that are broadcasted to their respective federation. In order to increase the security and auditability of Aquila as a permissioned blockchain, the Merkle root of Aquila will be broadcasted on Zilliqa public blockchain periodically.
- Merkle Root: When a transaction takes place on a blockchain, a hash is associated with it and is structured in a tree-like manner to depict how one transaction relates with the other. A Merkle root represents the hash of all the hashes of the given transactions stored within a block on the blockchain.
Future of marketing technologies
Aqilliz was founded to address some of the systemic infrastructure ails plaguing the marketing ecosystem—from a lack of transparency and efficiency across the digital media supply chain to the need for far more privacy-centric tools to protect consumer privacy. If the outcomes of ISBA’s report on the state of the programmatic advertising supply chain are any indication, a long-overdue change needs to happen.
With the help of emerging technologies, Aqilliz is reimagining a new vision for the future of digital marketing—one underscored by privacy at its core and equipped with the infrastructure to finally address the unique challenge of the industry once and for all.