To keep up with the times and keep up with the current technological pace, the French electric company EDF established a subsidiary called Exaion two years ago. The Web3 specialist develops blockchain-based solutions on behalf of EDF and other external clients. Co-founder and CEO Fatih Balili presents his goals to Alliancy: to provide access to a low-carbon sovereign blockchain.
alliance. How did you come up with the idea to create an Exaion?
Fatih Balili: Before creating Exaion, I had many lives as an entrepreneur or even a financier – such as my position as Investment Manager at EDF Pulse Ventures, focusing on digital technologies, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and blockchain. My role was specifically to fill the gap in the EDF racket in terms of emerging technologies. Exaion’s offering focuses on three types of services: blockchain as a service, 3D cloud computing and edge computing.
How do you experience the growing interest in Web3 that is emerging today?
We are dealing with a marketing term that includes technologies we have already invested in such as 3D cloud, blockchain or even a decentralized data center with edge computing. All of these technologies combined are actually equivalent to what’s called Web3.
In the same way, the metaverse is nothing more than augmented reality and we didn’t wait for its interruption to collaborate on this topic with animation and production studios. Last year, Exaion, for example, signed a partnership with Nvidia as part of its “Inception” program, which accelerates the development of startups on Web3 and blockchain.
In Exaion, Nvidia graphics cards are also used, not for bitcoin mining, but for developing “smart contracts” and managing infrastructure capable of ensuring the stability of our blockchain protocols. We have also partnered with Hypernet Labs to democratize our supercomputing activities: our cloud offering is now available via the Galileo web app.
How do companies deal with the topic of blockchain?
We want to position ourselves as a trusted partner in the development of corporate blockchain projects. Before hitting the market, there were only startups dedicated to very specific projects that sometimes had a hard time adapting their offerings to a client’s business needs.
Often, brokers mobilizing a project of this type have differences in terms of the technical projection of the project. Ultimately, this resulted in an unworkable PoC (proof of concept), and eventually companies became convinced that it was not possible to manufacture a blockchain.
At Exaion, we have our own data hosting infrastructure in Normandy, and we are unaware of the protocols used. On the other hand, this blockchain-neutral approach favors protocols that are less power consuming than those used for bitcoin mining.
Can you give us some use cases?
We can cite clients like Casino who implement “smart contracts” in their operations. We are also collaborating with Forge, a subsidiary of Société Générale that just participated in the issuance of 100 million Euros of debt securities on the Ethereum blockchain on behalf of the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Recently, we also finished publishing a use case on behalf of French customs in order to better identify and therefore tax biofuels crossing our borders with more accuracy. For EDF, Exaion is working on energy traceability, peer-to-peer exchange of redundant power as well as blockchain reliance on the authenticity of official documents to combat financial misinformation.
Read also: EDF relies on reliable data to better analyze threats
You say you’re environmentally responsible thanks to 3G protocols and consensus through Proof of Stake (PoS)… Can you tell us more?
We use the open source Tezos protocol that allows us to develop smart contracts from decentralized ledgers (blockchain) around cryptocurrency. Thus, Proof of Stake (PoS: Proof-of-Stake) is guaranteed and makes it possible to distribute consensus among all stakeholders. This protocol has proven itself and allowed, for example, movie actors to launch their own cryptocurrency (“KlapCoin”).
According to a PwC report last year, the Tezos protocol has made great strides in terms of reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption. The energy consumption of Tezos is equivalent to an area of 17 people.
We are therefore proposing a more environmentally responsible blockchain, compounded by the fact that the French energy mix is very low carbon compared to the rest of the world. But our efforts don’t stop there and we are constantly striving to innovate in recovering excess heat from our data centers and reducing the energy required to cool them. We got an average of 40 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour and that part is mainly offset by planting trees.
There is no hidden greenwash in our approach: we do not plant trees to compensate for Bitcoin mining in China. We are really fortunate that in France we get low-carbon and inexpensive electricity, as well as favorable climatic conditions – for example, EDF has installed data centers in Normandy to ensure better cooling.
Exaion inherited the genes EDF imparted in its responsible approach to the environment, its mission of public service, and the shape of its sovereignty. It is also not for nothing that General de Gaulle in the 1960s gave the EDF a mission of stronger autonomy thanks to nuclear power – which today continues into the digital age and joins the European cloud supremacy project.
Read also: “Nuclear Renaissance”: digital technology that supports the five-year ambitions
In a video interview with Sébastien Borget, co-founder of the metaverse The Sandbox, the latter shared the need to ensure that the metaverse is decentralized, as opposed to closed systems that Gafam like Meta wants to deploy… Do you share this conviction?
Yes, decentralized use cases on the blockchain are often hosted on the Gafam cloud. We must contribute to the emergence of a European Web3 that respects our values. But for that, we need other actors like ourselves to achieve true decentralization. So Europe should prefer more massive investments so that we can establish ourselves internationally.