Early 2017 could possibly see a big release from the Raiden Network. Raiden is the project aiming to make use of Ethereum’s payment channels to facilitate off-chain transactions. This promotes machine to machine transactions, micropayments, and enables scalable, near-instantaneous transactions.
When a payment channel is opened by calling a function in a smart contract on the blockchain, two nodes can make off-chain payment transfers through Raiden. Transacting in this manner eliminates fees that are normally paid when operating “on-chain” and allows instant value transfers since off-chain transactions aren’t bound by miners or block times. When a party wants to settle up, or if there’s a dispute, they simply broadcast a signed state message to the contract that shows who has what funds and the payment channel is closed.
Conducting transactions off-chain is great for helping to scale the Ethereum network, and Raiden’s ability to facilitate machine to machine micropayments is even better. Raiden will allow different kinds of IoT devices to interact with and pay each other, even in fractions of cents. A shipping drone could directly pay a late delivery penalty to a user’s self-opening smart window at their home, or a dirty drone could pay a Bluetooth enabled garden hose a few cents for a quick blast of cleansing water. Those are both highly unique examples, and one is certainly a less likely use case, but countless ideas are possible through Raiden.
Ameen Soleimani, a software engineer at ConsenSys, gave a presentation on Raiden at Construct 2017 (the CoinDesk hosted developer conference). In his presentation, Soleimani mentioned that work on the protocol implementation is "largely finished,” and that they’re on track to have a minimum viable product (MVP) released, possibly by the end of the first quarter in 2017.
As part of their development roadmap, Raiden has had a series of weekly Proof-of-Concept (PoC) releases since the end of November 2016. According to PoC 5, the latest release on GitHub, this is their “first PoC release on our way towards the Raiden MVP for 2017!” As of this publication, the Raiden MVP is listed as being 36 percent complete on GitHub and its due date is listed as March 31, 2017.
The issues still open on their MVP GitHub mainly concern usability, security, and some minor bug squashing. One open issue on their road to an MVP discharge is to “Use best practice security patterns in the smart contracts.” Using industry standard best practices when designing smart contracts is integral to the security and stability of any blockchain-based project, and seeing that issue on Raiden’s GitHub should increase confidence in their future success.
With several developers working on Raiden simultaneously, the community should hopefully continue to see the project push towards an eminent MVP announcement. Raiden will become an indispensable cog in the Ethereum machine and will help to foster widespread adoption of blockchain-based technologies.