What is Ocean Protocol?

Oct 16, 2020 - 5 min read

As the commercialisation of data becomes ubiquitous, corporations increasingly work to lock it away, only ever sharing it for profit or when it suits their business goals. Ocean Protocol seeks to unlock the potential of that data for use in new ways, and especially for Web 3.0. As part of that mission, Ocean Protocol aims to strengthen the ability of owners to control their data, and what it is used for, by replacing centralized servers with a decentralized blockchain.


Ocean Protocol was created in 2017 by BigChainDB founder, Bruce Pon, and AI and design expert, Trent McConaghy. Their goal was to take back control of big data from corporations like Microsoft, Google and Apple, and instead allow it to be shared and monetized freely on an exchange. Owners would no longer have to relinquish control of their data or compromise its security in order to make money from it. Pon and McConaghy assembled a broad team with experience in AI, blockchain, and big data, as well as policy and business to develop Ocean Protocol.

Ocean Protocol launched the Ocean Token in November 2017, along with its Marketplace Framework which outlines the market attributes and components necessary to deploy the decentralised Ocean Protocol data exchange. By 2018, the Ocean Token was in pre-launch distribution with 3,500 contributors in 100 countries. Ocean also launched an Advisor Program, with 40 advisors in 20 cities, and announced a partnership with IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. In March 2020, Ocean Protocol launched a decentralised marketplace, customisable for data providers. By its latest round of funding in May 2019, Ocean Protocol had raised over $28 million.

Ocean Protocol allows users to create a decentralized marketplace, composed of data assets and services that can be exchanged by users. The marketplace connects data providers and consumers and links to the data itself. It keeps an on-chain record of who owns the data, and who has purchased and shared it.

Data exchanged in a marketplace is not stored on the Ocean Protocol network itself: customers search for data sets on different marketplaces, then purchase an encrypted reference to it which can only be unlocked once certain conditions (for example, payment) are met. Accordingly, data owners retain full control of their data, regardless of what happens to it or who buys it.

The Ocean Token is the means of exchange on the Ocean Protocol network: whenever their data is sold, providers earn Ocean Tokens essentially as a reward for the services they have provided to the blockchain. There are currently over 347 million Ocean Tokens in circulation.


Ocean Protocol offers access to a broad data environment with open-source software, including the Keeper blockchain client, Parity SecretStore, and Aquarius metadata management, available for developers seeking the necessary components to develop and implement their own Ocean network.

Two main Ocean Protocol products have been developed: the Data Ecosystem Platform and the decentralized Data Marketplace. The Data Ecosystem Platform facilitates data access control so that owners are able to upload and store their data while retaining complete control when they monetize it for buyers. The platform includes the tools necessary to achieve that end, such as the Ocean blockchain, smart contracts, and software development kits.

The decentralized Data Marketplace facilitates the sale and purchase of data by connecting sellers and buyers around the world. It consists of the Enterprise Marketplace, aimed at enterprise level data providers (working, for example, in health, mobility or logistics) and of the Community Marketplace, used by the wider community to buy and sell data assets.

Ocean Protocol has seen several successful implementations. In 2019, sgCarMart integrated Ocean Protocol into its online used car marketplace, allowing buyers to access accurate, verifiable data on their second-hand car purchases, including number of previous owners or details of ongoing mechanical problems.

Ocean Protocol has further potential applications within the automotive industry. In 2020, Ocean Protocol completed a proof-of-concept with Daimler, demonstrating the ways in which the network could be used to securely share internal sales and financial data amongst international production hubs and with external procurement partners in the supply chain. Similarly, the Ocean network has shown promise in the self-driving car industry. The secure data environment created by the Ocean blockchain allows manufacturers to share and acquire the data they need to accelerate the development of their onboard self-driving AIs without fear of losing control of their intellectual property.

Ocean Protocol is also being used in the healthcare industry where data on diseases normally recorded in offline isolation can be shared and analyzed with discretion and security around the world. Most recently, the Ocean network has been used by an AI solution known as James to make crucial data on Parkinson’s disease available to global healthcare users, helping to facilitate better decision making and resolve trends across data sets.


Ocean Protocol continues to work on enhancing AI software and services and, in 2020, is seeking to develop its Community Marketplace as a complementary ecosystem to the Enterprise Marketplace, where datasets can be bought and sold freely. As part of that effort, Ocean Protocol is seeking to deploy a standalone web app, restructure its data tokens for simplicity, and integrate incentives and staking into its Data Marketplace.

Ocean protocol is also seeking to engage community funding for software development on its core applications and infrastructure, for work on its Data Ecosystem, and for the introduction of incentives, such as grants, to encourage users to supply data to the network.

Part of the Ocean Protocol funding plan is the Ecosystem Development Fund which is intended to help developers build projects with Ocean. 20 million Ocean Tokens have been allocated to the fund, earmarked for developers, startups, and service providers building projects on the network. The Fund consists of the Shipyard incubation program, Ocean Bounties (managed on Gitcoin), and hacking competitions such as the Data Economy Challenge.

Ultimately, Ocean Protocol is seeking to realign the ways in which data is exploited commercially by creating an environment that relies on innovation and individual discretion to deliver fairer and more equitable outcomes. As the Ocean network grows, and attracts more users, Ocean hopes to build a new kind of data economy that is inclusive of every kind of data provider and consumer – from the individual developer to multinational enterprise interests.

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