Deciphering the A, B, C and Z of deep tech

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Deeptech Times spoke with On Lee, CEO and CTO of GDP Labs, on the sidelines of the Malaysian CIO Network (MCION) Conference in Penang to understand what zero-knowledge proof (ZKP) in cryptography is and the key problem it is trying to solve, and why there is a need for the A, B and C of deep tech to converge so as to push boundaries and revolutionise industries.

NOTE: Responses have been edited for clarity and style.

Tell us about GDP Labs and what it does.

GDP Labs is part of GDP Venture. We focus on emerging technologies, specifically A, B, C – AI, blockchain and cryptography. What do we do is, a few things – One, we help our sister company, we monitor the emerging technologies. For us, we also incubate a couple of start-ups based on these technologies.

What is zero-knowledge proof (ZKP) in cryptography? What is the key problem ZKP is trying to solve?

Zero-knowledge proof (ZKP) – If I put this in simple terms is stating something is true with the prevailing actual information. It can solve many things, especially solving privacy and security issues that we are facing today in the digital world.

One thing that is interesting about this technology – It was invented by two professors from MIT and we believe one of the applications is for decentralised ID, but it can do more than just decentralised ID. For example, for payment, for healthcare industry. It is applicable to especially government and regulatory industries.

How is ZKP different from any other cybersecurity solutions available on the market today?

The key difference is this is using a very advanced cryptography proven by mathematics without human intervention. So, it’s a kind of trust-less system, and fully automated and very objective because it is mathematics based. In this way, it can enable a lot of other things we cannot do before, and one of them is for blockchain applications such as Ethereum for example, they use these for layer two, and that is becoming more common now to increase scalability. 

And for decentralised ID, we use it to improve privacy. I think we are just scratching the surface as we learn more about this, we will find more applications on this particular emerging technology.

Let’s talk about AI. What is GDP Labs doing when it comes to A.I?  

This is very interesting. As I said earlier, we focus on ABC. AI alone cannot stand by itself, cannot run by itself. Blockchain cannot run by itself. Same with cryptography. So, it has to be a convergence of these ABC and other technology to make it useful to give end-to-end solution to the customers.

What we are doing for ABC now is for example looking for a way to combine these AI, blockchain and cryptography, including zero-knowledge proof, to provide solutions to our customers in many industries. For example, for this Gen AI stuff, we are applying for privacy where we pre-process the problem and then the output also we post process it, to make sure all of those are private and safe before we actually give the answer. 

What do you hope to achieve at today’s conference?

I’m hoping to raise more awareness about zero-knowledge proof as well as decentralised ID because at this particular conference, many of them are in the privacy and security business, and are aware of it already. So, I just wanted to share what is the emerging technology that is coming out in this industry that will help us to move forward.

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