Day 1 Recap: Frontier FinTech Summit in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

October 29, 2019

Last week, IOHK and Cardano Foundation members joined the Frontier FinTech summit in Mongolia. On the first day of the event, the Frontier FinTech Hackathon was held to help participants understand and test a demonstration of Marlowe.

The event kicked off with an opening speech from Mr. Khaliunbat, the Director of Innovation and Technology of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia.

The hackathon event was jointly organized by: InputOutput Hong Kong, Cardano Foundation, The Science Industrial Development and Innovation Agency of Capital City, The Advanced Business School of Mongolian University of Science and Technology, Steppe Tech LLC, Innovation Center in Ulaanbaatar, IT Park and Ard Financial Group.

A total of 15 teams from banks, universities, and private companies that operate in the area of IT and finance in Mongolia joined in on the hackathon. Some notable groups were: Mongolian University of Science and Technology (MUST), University of Finance and Economics (UFE), Etugen University to Golomt Bank, and Mobicom corporation.

Lars Brunjes, Director of Education, took the lead and introduced Marlowe to event attendees. Throughout the event, Mr. Bat-Erdene Baldangombo, Director General of the Industrial Development and Innovation Agency of Ulaanbaatar helped translate Lars’ talk into Mongolian and helped participants understand the information presented to them.

Lars explained to the audience that Marlowe’s basic concepts actually stem from a paper written in 2000: ‘’Composing contracts, an adventure in financial engineering functional pearl. 1” And he continued with a simple example on how a smart contract could be used – an Escrow contract where Alice wants to buy a cat from Bob, however, neither of them trust the other. They both trust a third party, Carol, who is their trusted intermediary. The Escrow contract in the middle provides the trust necessary to complete the monetary transaction between Alice and Bob.

Lars closed off the introduction with a brief introductory talk about IOHK and the main aspects that make up the Cardano protocol and platform, as well as why certain (domain specific) languages, such as Marlowe and Plutus, are being used and what their main advantages are.

In preparation for the actual hackathon, further details on Marlowe were shared through an extensive presentation: full presentation slides can be found here. 

“I was really impressed with their passion and interest during the hackathon. I was also excited to give them a talk about smart contract languages to the people from one of the most linguistically historic countries of the world.” – Lars Brünjes, PhD

Marlowe Demo

After the talk about how the Cardano blockchain protocol and the Marlowe smart contract programming language were built. Lars walked attendees through a demo, while answering participants’ questions along the way. Questions ranged from protocol specifications to Marlowe parameters and settings. There were also a few questions regarding the other blockchain protocols, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Polina Vinogradova, Formal Methods Software Developer at IOHK, continued the demo by talking about how to use of Marlowe’s web browser interface, Blockly, to construct a smart contract and how to set certain building blocks’ parameters.

“Even though we were doing a Marlowe based hackathon here today, some students came up to me before the hackathon started and asked a lot about Plutus. I was impressed with their genuine interest.” – Polina Vinogradova

“Michael and Polina (IOHK) are hard at work…or hardly working?”

The Hackathon:

With the introduction of rules given by Michael Hueschen, Haskell Developer at IOHK, the competition began. For this hackathon, “Blockly” was used via Meadow, the browser based version for Marlowe. The hackathon was based on the same principles as the hackathon held during IOHK’s Summit in Miami. Please see the specifications and list of challenges here. 1 Participants were given the afternoon to build with Marlowe, while the Cardano Community team prepared prizes.

The final aspect of the hackathon was the pitches, where the 15 teams were given a five minute pitch time to present their assignments. The best 9 teams won prizes for the various levels of difficulty. All participants received a participation prize for their efforts and were very proud to receive them. The ada prizes were loaded and distributed using Cardano Tangem cards.

“Every participant seemed very excited and it was a lot of fun to help all the enthusiastic people wanting to know more.”- Michael Hueschen

In the meantime, Charles took time to entertain the teams that were already done pitching their ideas with some serious mathematical problems.

We have also included several brief interviews with the first prize winners below. Check them out!

Comments from Team TrailerPark: 1st prize for “difficult”

My name is Uriankhai (with hat on the right), senior student and team leader for the “Trailer Park” team. We got our name from a trailer park we saw in Germany. Even though I’ve studied Russian and Chinese, my English isn’t too good and I would like to study it more…

I don’t know much about blockchain yet, but it is a very interesting concept. It is the first time working with it and using Cardano’s programming language, Marlowe. We tried to solve the “English Auctions” problem. My teammates are actually Android app developers and are all interested in blockchain technology, as well. I’m also very interested and happy to help my teammates with the hackathon by coming up with ideas for possible concepts.

In the near future, I hope I can help the younger Mongolian generation with accepting blockchain and cryptocurrency adoption, to use it anywhere and everywhere.

Comments from Team Schrödinger’s Bit: 1st prize for “intermediate”.

My name is Tyler (bottom right) from Team “Schrödinger’s Bit”. I’m studying IT and cyber-security at the university. Blockchain has huge potential for the future of payments and financial systems: especially in the area of automation (in Mongolia). Today’s hackathon was a first time experience for me. I felt really challenged with the assignments. It was also a great opportunity to learn something new and to work as a team on a common subset of problems. I foresee the automation of payments picking up in the coming years in Mongolia.

We chose to work on the “Vickrey auction” challenge, and it was the perfect level for our team’s level and ability. It was awesome and great fun!