Grantee Roundup: January 2022 – Japan Local Grants Edition!

In today’s roundup, we’re excited to feature four recipients from a recent Local Grants wave in Japan! We see Ethereum as an ever-growing, creative and inclusive playground, and it is our responsibility to let everyone keep playing.

It’s not easy to commit to public goods or novel use cases without a quick financial return, and it’s important to support the dedicated teams working to solve interesting problems, improve public infrastructure and build creative blockchain use cases. In this Local Grants round, the Ethereum Foundation is happy to shine a spotlight on a local community proactively working to demonstrate the potential of decentralized technology.

zkCREAM: Zero-knowledge Confidential Reliable Ethereum Anonymous Mixer

zkCREAM:Confidential Reliable Ethereum Anonymous Mixer is a set of protocols and dapps which enables more robust, accessible, secure, anonymous, and verifiable voting for public elections in Japan. zkCREAM is developed as a pilot program. It consists of a set of smart contracts and user-friendly interface app that allows the average general public to vote in a completely anonymous fashion while maintaining the integrity and verifiability of the final vote tallies. It also supports MACI making it more collusion resistant, reliable, and anonymous.

The team’s next focus of the development is to build both mobile and desktop voting application that are easy to use. It will showcase and leverage the use of zkCREAM in the Ethereum community. In addition, the team will develop additional voting logic layers to support other common scenarios, such as quadratic voting, instant runoff voting, and ranked-choice voting.

Ryodan System AG: Building Layer 2 with zkRollups and zkCloud

The Ryodan team works on problems of scalability, privacy, and code complexity. They take a multi-faceted approach that incorporates both protocol R&D, and building tools to make zero knowledge proofs more accessible to developers.

The zkCloud service aims to help developers use zero-knowledge proofs to write smart contracts and programs more easily. zkCloud currently supports Groth16 and PLONK proofs, with STARKs coming soon. The team is also developing an optimized zkSTARK Rust library, along with other tools to enable a no-code approach to zero knowledge-based applications.

The team is also developing a new zk-rollup, based on a design proposed by CEO Leona Hioki. The approach offers potential privacy and efficiency improvements by not requiring transaction history data for contract execution.

Startrail: Records Infrastructure for Physical and Digital Artwork

Startrail is an Ethereum-based infrastructure for recording the provenance and exhibition history of both physical and digital artwork. In addition to using ERC721 to represent an artwork or its certificate, NFC chips can be attached to physical artworks and associated with the certificate on the blockchain.

CEO Taihei himself is a contemporary artist who was inspired to use blockchain technology to solve pain points he experienced in the art industry. Since 2016, he has built a team of people from both art and technical backgrounds who are inspired by the possibilities of distributed ledger technology to solve problems of provenance and compliance in art ownership. They work with people from the art industry, such as artists, gallerists, curators and web-based marketplaces, to make sure that they meet their practical needs in operation.

The team’s next goals include open sourcing their smart contracts and expanding their infrastructure to the global market. Advocating for the rights of all people in the art industry, including artists and collectors, they hope to bring all kinds of art industry participants into the Ethereum ecosystem. Smart Lock Authentication for Physical Devices uses Ethereum to verify usage rights for physical devices. The team first explored the concept in 2020 in a joint experiment with Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) in which they trialed a blockchain-based system for automated car sharing on the NAIST campus. A “virtual key” allowed an authorized user to lock and unlock a car with their smartphone, and users were incentivized to return cars to locations where they would be in the highest demand. builds on the concept and learnings from the NAIST pilot, using digital signatures to authenticate authorized operators of physical devices even while offline. The team hopes it can be applied to many use cases to make it easier to bring Ethereum into the real world!

Famiee: Partnership Certificates on Ethereum

Famiee is a non-profit dedicated to helping all types of families access the benefits available to legally married couples through a platform for issuing partnership certificates on Ethereum. A network of participating corporations provide services for couples who hold Famiee certificates, giving them access to benefits that would otherwise only be available to legally married couples such as employee family benefits, joint mortgage applications, family discounts, public assistance or life insurance.

Famiee began issuing certificates for same-sex partners in February 2021, and plans to extend the service to include other types of families and partnerships that are not legally recognized in certain places, such as marriages where women choose to keep their original names or single mothers living together to support each other. They are currently working on a mobile app to issue certificates that meet a high standard for privacy protection, security and KYC.

Countless local Ethereum communities around the world are a big part of why Ethereum feels simultaneously global and personal for so many people. Accordingly, we are continuously experimenting with ways to support local communities around the world.

Again, thank you to all of the contributors who are promoting Ethereum adoption in the real world, and if you think you’re the next one, please head to our grants page to learn more about what we look for in the projects we fund.

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