Professors and faculty from MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and several other universities are reportedly collaborating on a new cryptocurrency that has its eyes set on scalability and performance. Bloomberg originally reported the project, which has been dubbed Unit-e, last Thursday. By the end of the year, Unit-e will take on Bitcoin in the areas of speed and cost―but will the new coin succeed?

What Is Unit-e?

Unit-e is intended for use in everyday transactions, just like Bitcoin is. However, Unit-e’s target speed is an astounding 10,000 transactions per second, and to accomplish this goal, the development team has redesigned a number of key blockchain features. Unit-e relies on a completely new consensus mechanism, and the team has also invented new types of sharding and payment channels.

Of course, these technical accomplishments will be moot if Unit-e fails to approach the popularity of Bitcoin itself. Furthermore, Bitcoin is hardly the only competitor: other major blockchains, such as Zilliqa and Ethereum 2.0, have promised transaction speeds that are comparable to those promised by Unit-e. Meanwhile, other crypto projects such as the Lightning Network and SegWit are attempting to improve Bitcoin’s performance through augmentation.

The vast array of competition means that Unit-e is essentially locked in a scaling arms race. Joey Krug of Pantera Capital, the firm that is financing Unit-e, is concerned by this. He argues that if scalability does not become widespread very soon, cryptocurrency will be “relegated to ideas that were nice,” but ultimately failed. Nevertheless, at a time when most new blockchains take on niche focuses, Unit-e’s willingness to compete on scalability alone is quite daring.

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Academia and Crypto

Unit-e is largely notable due to its academic ties. However, these connections are not quite what they seem: Unit-e is being developed by an NPO called Distributed Technology Research and has received financial backing from Pantera Capital. This means that the faculty of various universities is developing Unit-e in a seemingly independent manner: the universities themselves do not have any clear ties to the Unit-e project.

Nevertheless, major universities have been known to play a role in crypto development, although their contributions are largely unsung. MIT, for example, has assisted with blockchain projects like the Lightning Network, and it also discovered a critical flaw in IOTA’s hashing algorithm last year. Stanford, meanwhile, has created a center for blockchain research.

Unit-e will undoubtedly benefit from some of the best academic minds, but that isn’t necessarily enough to set it apart from other crypto projects. The sheer amount of altcoins in existence means that it is harder than ever for new coins to break into the top tiers of the market. Then again, projects with fewer credentials than Unit-e have risen to prominence before―meaning that Unit-e’s ultimate fate is anyone’s guess.


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