Beyond Protocol — The Genesis

A fast, flexible, secure, and unified IoT framework will allow the machines we rely on to serve the greater good like never before. But how? In this series of articles, we’ll examine where we came from, what we’re doing, and what’s next.

Jonathan Manzi dropped out of college.

Most people would not only be satisfied with, but completely enthralled by the prospect of attending a university as prestigious as Stanford — and not to say that Jonathan wasn’t. They’ve produced, combined, dozens of Nobel Laureates, Turing Award winners, and Fields Medalists; not to mention a few billionaires, astronauts, and a U.S. President. Stanford was certainly a quality opportunity; and as it turns out, an integral step towards the creation of Beyond Protocol.

Because of Stanford, Jonathan Manzi met Denis Benic.

A Meeting of the Minds

If you were asked to pick a set of characteristics — skills, goals, worldview — you’d want two twenty-somethings who were about to co-found a tech startup to possess, you’d come quite close to describing Jonathan and Denis.

In addition to making his first million dollars in industry by age sixteen, Jonathan Manzi was very active on-campus, headlined by serving as student government Chair of Entrepreneurship while at Stanford. Additionally, he served as an official Young Professional Delegate to the G20 Summit, the St. Petersburg International Forum, and the Ambrosetti Forum; stewarding discussions regarding the role emerging tech would play in shaping humanity’s future.

As for Denis, to say he was passionate about building hardware would be an understatement. For him, splicing together new technologies ranks right up there with eating, sleeping, and breathing — and this enduring love naturally led him to a career in tech. Prior to meeting Jonathan, he’d served as Chief Technical Officer and Lead Engineer for several Silicon Valley tech startups.

Both men were passionate about the paradigm-shifting potential offered by an efficient, refined, and thoughtful unification of software and hardware. They both saw clearly that humanity’s progress is too often bottlenecked by the natural limitations of growing too fast—with increases in raw capability matched by equally significant practical difficulties with implementation.

Simply put, having experienced such a rapid acceleration in technological advancement — one that is on the verge of a full quantum leap — our rate of progress has outpaced the rate at which we can get the most out of it. The result has been sort of a patchwork “build-as-we-go” approach to getting our various machines to work together efficiently and effectively.

This has, predictably, led to relatively disjointed set of conditions in the world of technology. Here, Jonathan and Denis saw their most immediate opportunity to reimagine and refine how things are done — the printing industry.

ink — Reimagining Modern Printing

During their time in college, Jonathan and Denis saw first-hand how important physical media was to their peer group. Formal research supported this conclusion as well:

Printing infrastructure and user-facing interfaces have made a measure of progress during the past several years, but there’s still much to be done to improve these systems — naturally, this was even moreso the case at ink’s inception in 2018. Students wanted to print more than ever before, but the available tech on-campus was archaic and in clear need of a modern refresh.

So Jonathan and Denis got to work.

ink print kiosks at a 2014 ALA Conference in Las Vegas

They conceived, designed, and built user-friendly kiosks to streamline the printing experience (click here for video demo). They leveraged emerging technology every step of the way. The ink solution was a swift success.

But even more significantly, the core elements of ink — its intellectual capital, engineering acumen, and corporate ethos —coalesced and became the seed for a project with even greater growth potential. The inflection point?

A meeting with HP Inc. CEO Enrique Lores.

The IoT Security Problem — Printers

The company we now know as HP Inc. was founded in 1939 by Bill Hewlett and David Packard, out of a one-car garage in Palo Alto, CA. From small beginnings manufacturing hardware components, over the next several decades Hewlett-Packard grew into an industry giant, and by 2007 had become the number-one computer manufacturer in the world.

HP had also become a powerhouse in the print industry, their print division alone generating nearly $21 billion in revenue in 2018. Despite their overall success and profitability, the company brain-trust had a looming problem on their hands — a big, pink elephant in the room:

Their printers were not secure.

And not just their printers — all printers. In a world of wireless everything, the single biggest security hole in the Internet of Things was the humble printer.

Go figure.

Even as recently as mid-2020, the team at cybersecurity website Cybernews successfully hacked 28,000 unsecured printers, forcing each to print out a a guide on printer security. Their post-mortem summary is telling:

In the end, we managed to hijack 27,944 printers out of the 50,000 devices that we targeted, which amounts to a 56% success rate. Taking this percentage into account, we can presume that out of 800,000 internet-connected printers across the world, at least 447,000 are unsecured.

“THIS PRINTER HAS BEEN HACKED” — The forced page-print from the Cybernews printer exploit

This more recent exploit powerfully illustrates the problem that not just HP, but the tech sector as a whole, was grappling with back in 2018 — that mission-critical hardware numbering in the millions was inherently insecure.

Enter Jonathan Manzi and Denis Benic.

The IoT Security Solution — Blockchain

Our co-founders developed a novel security solution for HP, one that would soon serve as the foundation for Beyond Protocol. The solution was founded on two key technologies:

  • Blockchain — decentralized, immutable ledger
  • Physical Unclonable Function (PUF) — hardware signatures, securely identifying all network devices

What Jonathan and Denis built in 2018 could enable printer manufacturers to securely track each of their devices through its entire life cycle — from the original date of manufacture, through the duration of product use, and finally until recycling. It also enabled secure, automatic digital payments for printer supplies (e.g. paper and ink), as well as genuine product validation for ink cartridges.

Having succeeded in creating a secure IoT solution for the leading target of enterprise infiltration — printers — Jonathan and Denis began expanding on this foundation — and Beyond Protocol was born.

So, what’s next?

In the second installment of our introductory article series, we’ll provide more details on the tech, bring you up to speed on our current status, and take a closer look at what lies ahead.

With security as a given, we can open up our devices for collaboration. Using them like threads of yarn, the dreamers among us can weave together inventions we would have never thought to conceive.

- Jonathan Manzi

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