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Worker Nodes

Worker Nodes are a new technology developed by Energy Web that enable enterprises to construct distributed computing networks that securely execute sensitive business operations impacting multiple companies.

What are Worker Node Networks?

Worker Nodes were originally developed to solve a paradox that hinders advanced renewable energy tracking solutions like 24x7 matching and green electric vehicle charging: credibility relies on accurate, publicly verifiable results (e.g., proof that digital representations of renewables are not double-counted). But inputs from separate organizations, such as granular renewable energy production and electricity demand data, are commercially sensitive and need to remain private. Complex commercial, legal, and technical requirements often make it challenging for a single actor to unilaterally access and process all requisite data. The ability to establish a shared source of truth from segregated, individual information sources has been an ongoing challenge in multilateral settings; the challenge is even greater for energy market participants seeking to exchange and process granular data in order to procure services from distributed energy resources.
The Energy Web Worker Node toolkit solves these challenges by enabling enterprises to configure, launch, and maintain distributed computing networks that ingest data from external sources, execute custom workflows based on business logic, and vote on results in order to establish consensus without revealing or modifying the underlying data. Worker Nodes apply concepts and components from blockchain technology in a novel, enterprise-friendly architecture to provide all stakeholders with cryptographic proof that mutually-agreed rules and and processes are followed correctly, ensure computational outputs from business processes are correct, and preserve the privacy and integrity of underlying data for auditing purposes.

Why are Worker Nodes beneficial for the energy sector?

Decarbonizing the global energy sector is the most important solution to mitigate climate change. Worker Nodes can help accelerate decarbonization in two specific areas that require coordination and information sharing among multiple independent actors. The first is helping electric utilities digitize and integrate distributed energy resources (e.g., rooftop solar systems, batteries, electric vehicles, electric vehicle charging stations, heat pumps) to the grid. The second is bringing deep levels of transparency and verifiability to emerging green product supply chains—including but not limited to 24/7 matched renewable electricity, sustainable aviation fuel, and sustainably produced bitcoin.
The solutions we apply to these areas, dubbed Data Exchange and Green Proofs, are powered by a brand-new web 3 technology that has significant business value for energy enterprises: worker node networks. Each worker node network is a decentralized group of computers that jointly execute sensitive business processes that involve or impact multiple companies. Though worker nodes establish consensus about the results of a business process, they are not blockchains. Whereas the “work” performed by traditional blockchain miners or validators—validating and sealing blocks—has limited value for energy enterprises, worker node networks are fine-tuned to execute custom logic that is specific to an actual business problem. Worker node networks are only useful in cases where multiple businesses need the capability to transmit complex datasets amongst three or more parties in a way that does not reveal all data to all parties, and/or the capability to provide public verification of outputs while maintaining privacy and integrity of inputs.

How do Worker Nodes actually work?

Today worker nodes are implemented as independent off-chain computing nodes that communicate with a smart contract deployed on the Energy Web Chain. Worker nodes can be implemented in any development framework, including node.js, python, and rust.
Each worker node is programmed to execute a specific conditional logic workflow based on a predefined dataset (i.e. source and schema) and event trigger (e.g. a regular time interval, or a specific external event). Workers are given read-only access to one or more external data sources via API or message broker. When the workflow “event” is triggered, the workers initiate a round of calculation and voting (worker nodes can be configured to either poll an external data source at regular intervals, or “listen” to an external source for a specific trigger).
In the calculation step, each worker node independently executes the conditional logic based on the data it received during the trigger. Then, each worker submits its results (i.e. output of the logic workflow) to the smart contract, which collates the worker nodes’ votes into a unique voting round and keeps track of each round to maintain continuity. The smart contract defines a voting threshold (typically a simple majority, such as 2 of 3, or 4 of 7, etc.) that must be reached in order to establish consensus on the results of each voting round. Each voting round is defined by a voting ID, the number of unique votes (from worker nodes), and a consensus result. If the threshold is reached (i.e. a majority of nodes independently reach the same conclusion and submit identical results to the vote), then the voting round is closed and the result is hashed on the Energy Web Chain; this creates a connected tree of results that can be queried and validated for auditing purposes. If consensus is not reached in the voting round, the entire process from event trigger through voting is repeated; if a second round fails, a custom workflow is executed (this can include alerts, failover to other nodes, or acceptance of results from a plurality of workers).
In addition to collating the voting results, the smart contract is configured to issue rewards for workers in the pool based on performance criteria. A base reward can be issued simply for workers being available in the pool, and additional rewards can be issued based on metrics such as consistency (i.e. availability for all voting rounds), accuracy (i.e. being part of the winning consensus), and speed (i.e. being fastest to submit voting results following the event trigger).
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