Singular Systems’ debut Blockchain development project.
13 June 2017

Singular Systems’ debut Blockchain development project.

Our development team unpacks their expedition into the new and exciting world of Blockchain development.

There are many software languages around. The beauty is that a large part of them differ only by syntax, and it is still relatively easy for a developer to read, understand and develop in a language different to the one you have started out or already gained experience in. Many concepts are directly transferable, and it is a matter of finding the equivalent to what you've been doing, just in another language. There are also an unfathomable amount of (mostly) freely accessible training material that could teach anyone how to get a basic software program up and running.

Developing on the Blockchain is different.

Recently, one of our clients, in the crowdfunding industry, tasked us with integrating to the Blockchain. With a large volume of high value investments, having irrefutable proof of these transactions was a logical step in establishing trust with the investor base. The objective was to utilise the fact that once a record is written to the Blockchain, it could not be altered or removed in any way.


At first we tried to get an understanding of how the Blockchain works. We started reading a few books, and spent a lot of time researching online. A lot of books and articles focused on the potential of Blockchain, and how it would disrupt various industries. These articles briefly glanced over more complex issues such as the inner workings of decentralized and distributed ledgers and how they actually work - all replacing more technical detail with predominantly blue images connecting multiple computers, wallets or countries – just Google "Blockchain" and see the images that show in the results. This did not really help us in starting our development. During these sessions, it became clear that even though we had read many books and online articles, we still needed to learn more of the fundamentals of the technology - concepts that most books and articles have completely avoided exploring.

By this time we had a good idea of the potential of Blockchain but we needed to start coding.

We joined a few Blockchain Meetups in Cape Town. There are many Meetup groups and they are a lot of fun! We made a habit of cornering guest speakers after the events, and asking them technical questions regarding development on the Blockchain. In most cases, the guest speakers were visionaries or startup founders, who at that point in time were not in a position to give advice regarding specific development practices.

We found it common practice during meetings and discussions for people to say that they understood something, when in truth the knowledge was more superficial. Nobody wants to look like they are impostors during these meetings. Similarly in the online environment, the questions we had were not getting answered on the usual forums where responses were immediate and the customary technical books people would normally read were not steering us into the right direction either.

Finally, after much research, we were referred to a local Blockchain visionary. He was different in that he had developed an actual Blockchain application and was an experienced R&D developer. After getting more detailed information of what we were dealing with, and reading Andreas Antonopoulos' book called “Mastering Bitcoin”, things now started getting easier - using proper terminology and asking specific, direct questions assisted greatly.

Our success.

We have since successfully completed our first Blockchain software implementation - the implementation required us to write a cryptographic digest (HASH) of a clients' transaction to the Blockchain. This was a custom Proof of Existence application, integrated with the clients' online portal. We provide the investors with a certification that the data existed at that time, and permanently validate the transaction on the Blockchain even if the client’s portal is ever compromised. No actual data is revealed on the Blockchain, but a client would still be able to prove that they had the data that lead to this HASH, thereby demonstrating ownership.

Some final notes.

We also found out the hard way that a lot relies on ‘miners’ – external entities that work on the Blockchain for financial reward – and that they hold the power to process your transaction or not. Unconfirmed transactions are difficult to deal with, and the unpredictability regarding the length of time before your transaction gets confirmed by miners as well as unpredictable transaction costs are something that could cause parties to consider alternatives to specific Blockchains.

To sum up, it was a great experience. The Singular Systems development team has met some incredibly talented developers and entrepreneurs, total rock stars walking among us in the streets.

Luno (previously BitX), are world leaders - it is difficult not to feel proudly South African when you look at what Marcus Swanepoel and developers such as Carel van Wyk have achieved.

The Blockchain has many unknowns, it is constantly evolving and politics play a role.

Without a doubt, the Blockchain is alive.