Back in October, Decrypt reported on Ernst & Young (EY)'s intentions to get businesses operating on the public Ethereum blockchain. Today, EY revealed it has made a big step forward in building the technology required to make this happen.

The main tool it has released is called Nightfall, a way of making private transactions on the Ethereum blockchain. It uses complex cryptography, known as zero-knowledge proofs to keep transaction information confidential—a necessity for business payments. But the cryptography involved put a strain on the payments. They were far too expensive, originally costing $100 per transaction. EY brought the cost down to $9 but this still wasn't cheap enough.

Now, Nightfall offers private transactions for just $0.24 per transaction.

"That's a 40X improvement over where we were six months ago," EY's global blockchain lead Paul Brody, told Decrypt. "At $100 per transaction, not a lot of use cases are enabled. At $10 transaction, a lot of use cases are enabled. At $0.24 per transaction, we can scale and enable nearly every major business to business process."

Part of the success can be attributed to a technique known as batching, where multiple transactions are brought together. In this case, each private transaction broadcast to the Ethereum blockchain can be made up of 20 transactions. He said, "I think it makes EY the very first company to do batching on the public mainnet—which is key for both scaling and privacy. "

Brody argued that this could be an important step in the development of scaling Ethereum—allowing it to process more transactions per second in the short term. (Ethereum has a long term roadmap to upgrade its consensus mechanism over the next few years but it's quite a radical and ambitious move). He added, "It's also just a huge major math effort, zero knowledge proofs are considered key technology for scaling the whole Ethereum blockchain."

One benefit of Nightfall is that it has been released free of charge into the public domain—there are no licensing fees or other fees associated with using the technology. By doing this, EY hopes to ensure better uptake of Nightfall, with the hopes of enabling businesses to transfer ether (ETH) and Ethereum-based tokens privately on the blockchain.


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