Could you give us an overview of Hydro Labs and the ecosystem you’re aiming to build?
In 2018, the team began working together on the open-source side of the Project Hydro cryptocurrency ecosystem. We soon realised that we shared the view that blockchain and DeFi, in their current form, are too complicated for most people to use, and something had to change on the product side if we were ever to see mass adoption.
However, while we were able to work on the open-source protocols in a somewhat loose structure, this was not ideal for creating and releasing products. It was clear that the only way we could achieve our goal was to create our own company, Hydro Labs, which we did in early 2019.
We understand that it’s not just the people who have never used blockchain who are waiting for more convenience and ease of use. Even the most seasoned crypto enthusiasts have doubts when making tedious transactions and interacting with blockchain.
Whether it’s correctly calculating gas fees to avoid failed transactions, establishing a reliable connection to hardware wallets, or being sure that the person we are paying is the proper recipient, Hydro Labs’ products are designed to break down barriers and bring blockchain and crypto payment solutions to the masses.
Hydro Labs offers a full product ecosystem, consisting of digital identity-linked payments, remittances, and decentralized file storage solutions, at the core of which is the digital identity solution (ERC-1484), which allows for an interoperable DeFi ecosystem.
Our product ecosystem includes our mobile app Hydro Pay (payments, identity, and remittances) and our web-based app Hydro Vault (advanced crypto storage solution with blockchain-based 2FA).
These products were built to be easy-to-use solutions for the growing DeFi movement. Each of the products have also been built to be modular and customizable for use in licensing to large enterprises and government institutions.
We believe the way forward involves bringing together the best parts of the decentralized and centralized worlds and we are positioning our tech to be this bridge.
Hydro Pay is now live, could you tell us more about it and the problems it aims to solve?
In June 2019, the Hydro Labs team released Hydro Pay, the first publicly-released, gasless, non-custodial mobile crypto payments app enabling transactions between users’ identities. In order to make the user experience as simple as possible, we built the app to leverage the power of meta-transactions, meaning that users can transact on the Ethereum network without having to hold ETH, or worry about MetaMask. The app was groundbreaking and represents a big step away from clunky, hard-to-navigate, cryptocurrency payment systems.
While the launch was successful – generating a surprisingly large number of downloads and users – we soon realized that the lack of speed and scalability of the Ethereum network was going to be a significant challenge going forward.
In some ways, the problems were not a surprise, as we were breaking new ground with what we had built. These kinds of issues are not limited to blockchain; growing pains are natural for any technology still in its infancy.
Take streaming for example. Until the technology was refined by the likes of Netflix, streaming video across a network was only achieved by “geeks” and the “technologically competent”. Now it’s so easy that kids and grandparents can stream to multiple devices with the push of a button.
Hydro Pay was designed and built to achieve similar simplification with cryptocurrency payments – making crypto accessible to all.
You recently ran Hydro pay on the OMG Network V1 testnet, how was your experience? Any surprises?
The experience integrating OMG Network V1 has been great for the team and developers. OmiseGO has robust libraries and APIs which have allowed us to get our payments app up and running pretty efficiently. During development we integrated a few different iterations of the OmiseGO networks and environments, with each version more refined and efficient. We have been able to fully utilize the OmiseGO development channels and resources, and appreciate the great support from the OmiseGO team.
We were pleasantly surprised by the development speed and frequency of updated environment API credentials as the OmiseGO team moved their network closer and closer to their public mainnet. Their fast development speed and strong communication allowed us to make the necessary changes to ensure Hydro Pay leveraged the latest technology the OMG team was building.
What is your plan for mass-adoption? Any particular industries or businesses you’re targeting?
Pay will be launched with three primary use cases:
- Person-to-person (P2P) payments between friends and family
- Person-to-business (P2B) payments when paying for a product or service
- Remittance payments for making the cheapest, instant overseas transactions on the market.
We already have some very interesting pilots and partnerships set up and are constantly working to service more markets with our partner, Republic.
You’re one of the first to offer gasless transactions! What was the rationale behind developing it and how does it work?
Meta-transactions essentially allow something called a resolver – or a 3rd party – to cover the cost of gas (the fee required to record anything on-chain). This approach moves the burden of calculating and paying the fee from the user to a background process within the app. This means that a third party, such as a sponsor or integration partner, can cover the gas cost. This is huge because it means a user does not need to have ETH in their wallet to sign up and start making transactions.
Any time we can eliminate a step, shorten the onboarding process, and make things easier for the user is a big win for the adoption of our products and crypto overall. Our technology allows us to completely eliminate extra steps for the user when joining or transacting in our ecosystem. This allows the user to focus on getting things done, without having to invest time in learning how to navigate the tech.
How do you see the OMG Network benefitting the Hydro Pay wallet?
As we previously discussed, when we first launched the app we had some issues with the lack of speed and scalability of the Ethereum network. In fact, during the release, we accounted for around 1-5% of all the transactions on the Ethereum network during that day, and with this came a huge slowdown that brought user onboarding and transactions to a standstill. This release showed that Ethereum, in its basic layer-one form, is simply unable to cope with the real world transaction demand required by a payments app. We did get some questions as to why we released the app so early, but there was no way to undertake a real world test like we did without releasing the app into the wild.
We took what we learned from the experience and went back to the drawing board. After a lot of discussion and work we decided that we should hold back on development until we could integrate a solution that would give us the transaction throughput we required for our needs. Luckily that solution was staring us in the face with the OMG Network.
It has taken time and a lot of testing, but, by integrating the OMG Network, we are now able to provide the increased scalability and transaction speed that Hydro Pay users demand.
Crypto is amazing in that respect, everyone involved learns from each other. We have learned a ton by building with the OMG Network and believe that the success of Hydro Pay demonstrates the collaborative nature of the crypto community. Hopefully Hydro Pay will serve as an example to other developers on what can be achieved with the OMG Network and its benefits to developing layer-one apps.
For more information, visit: https://hydrolabs.org