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The Ripple Drop: Highlights From the Inaugural UBRI Connect and Xpring Hackathon

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This episode of The Ripple Drop features discussions from Xpring’s Interoperability Hackathon and the inaugural UBRI Connect conference, both held at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Xpring’s Interoperability Hackathon
The night before UBRI Connect, Hackathon participants had the opportunity to be one of the first developers to work with and experience Xpring’s new developer platform. Hacking until 5 a.m., Berkeley Computer Science (CS) students and developer teams from around the world, built new applications leveraging the XRP Ledger and Interledger protocol (ILP).

The developer platform offers a set of tools, services and programs that makes it easier for developers to send and receive payments in any currency, across any network. According to the SVP of Xpring, Ethan Beard, the platform helps remove the pain and friction from integrating money into apps. 

“What we set out to do with Xpring was to build tools for developers and enable them to easily tap into the power of the digital asset XRP and ILP,” said Beard. “We want to make it simple to add money into their app, no matter where their app is or what programming language they’re using.”

Beard explained that when developers previously worked on the XRP Ledger or ILP they would need to write dozens of redundant lines of code to access the technology. With the new software development kit (SDK), that burden is lifted.

“Previously a developer had to write 100 lines of javascript for example, in order to just do a simple transaction on the XRP Ledger,” Beard explained. “Now, using this SDK, an IOS developer who writes in Swift can actually use ten lines of code and do the exact same thing.”

The winners of the Hackathon did just that by leveraging the new SDK to build a powerful app using ILP. Undergraduate students from Berkeley’s Blockchain at Berkeley Club, Ayush Aggarwal and Eric Hou, built a transfer payment solution that leverages QR codes and the power of Interledger to send money and avoid the friction they experienced using popular apps like Venmo.

“The first thing is privacy. [Apps can submit user data] into social media, which we find concerning given that we don’t have a stake in that data,” said Aggarwal. “The second thing is that money isn’t really ours, because it’s on Venmo’s servers. So we wanted to use venmo to solve those two problems.”

Hou explained that using ILP and QR codes allowed their new app to have almost universal accessibility across platforms and devices, while maintaining the privacy of each user.

“Since everything is based on QR codes, any device that has a QR scanner can use the app,” said Hou. “So when you scan this QR code there is a secret there and the website will go ahead and parse that secret and handle it automatically.”

UBRI Connect
In October, the University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) had its first annual conference, UBRI Connect. The event brought together UBRI participants from around the world to share their research and discuss new projects being started in blockchain, digital assets and FinTech.

Faculty and students from 40 universities and over a dozen countries convened at the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley. 

According to Senior Manager of University Partnerships, Lauren Weymouth, the event came at the request of the initiative’s participants who wanted to connect and learn what other schools were working on.

“We received a lot of good feedback that they not only wanted to collaborate with Ripple, but they wanted to be collaborating with each other,” said Weymouth. “So we formed this academic convening so we could get everyone together in one space.”

The event kicked off with a keynote by Ripple CTO David Schwartz and the formal announcement of Xpring’s new developer platform tools.

In addition speakers from UBRI-sponsored universities, speakers from Xpring partner companies such as Forte, Coil, SendFriend and more took to the stage to share the work they’ve been doing.

Critically, the event allowed participating universities to get together and share the new curriculum, courses and research they’ve done in the last year. 

UBRI Connect 2020 is already on the horizon and will take place in London at the University College of London next fall.

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