Whiteflag Communications Parachain: Bringing High-performance Teams to the Polkadot Ecosystem

First and foremost, this project will make a positive impact, serving humanitarian organizations working in conflict and disaster zones. At the same time, this project will build publicly accessible, open source infrastructure that can and will apply to revenue-generating for profit use cases (such as those in med tech). We hope to provide the Polkadot ecosystem with the tools it needs to build use cases that balance impact and profit sustainably.

High-performance teamwork is used in medical, emergency services, and humanitarian contexts to coordinate rapid interventions to save lives. This teamwork relies on messaging that all team members are trained to recognize and react to; for example, pagers use a signal to simultaneously mobilize an entire unit of 10-15 first responders of varying roles to the scene of a motor vehicle accident.

In conflict and disaster zones, humanitarian and security actors form high performance teams to save lives. The problem is they do not have a reliable way to message each other. Cybersecurity attacks tamper with the content of their messages or shut down messaging channels. Furthermore, data siloes make messages inaccessible to some actors. At best, the consequence is high performance team members lack situational awareness and cannot effectively coordinate with each other. At worst, the consequence is security actors misidentify and attack humanitarian team members as enemy combatants.

Fennel Labs aims to launch a parachain—called the Whiteflag communications network—that will serve as a medium for high-performance team messaging and which will solve these problems: messages are immutably on chain preventing tampering, the decentralized messaging network is resistant to shut down, and the message network is public infrastructure, which means it is neutrally accessible to all actors in an operational zone.

This parachain will make use of Polkadot’s shared security. It will provide onchain and off chain messaging that can be optionally E2E encrypted. Furthermore, the network uses webs of trust and cryptographic identity proofs to protect the authentication and authorization of senders and receivers of Whiteflag messages. Finally, the Whiteflag Network leverages a purpose-driven utility token, whereby senders of Whiteflag messages need to use utility tokens to pay for the messages’ transaction fee. The purpose of this utility token is to protect the network from spam and produce a set of incentives to drive participation.

Supporting Enterprise Adoption of Polkadot:
Our project supports web2 companies by making it easy to integrate Whiteflag communications into their technologies. The Whiteflag specification was created by NGOs, government, and enterprise software organizations. Well known, non-blockchain native organizations are thus familiar with the Whiteflag specification and are comfortable using infrastructure (like ours) that is built according to the Whiteflag specification. Web2 companies can easily incorporate the Whiteflag infrastructure so that they can work with organizations using the Whiteflag network. In turn, web2 companies building Whiteflag technologies can use our parachain as a gateway to access other features of the interoperable Polkadot ecosystem.

As proof of the potential of the Whiteflag parachain, we have been building the parachain’s first daap in partnership with PAX, Save the Children, Capgemini, and Whiteflag Foundation. This dapp is a blockchain messaging application that uses a digital map to make it easy for various organizations and their respective high performance teams in conflict and disaster zones to coordinate with each other via encrypted messages. This allows for effective humanitarian deconfliction for all actors involved in these zones. We are currently piloting this dapp in South Sudan and intend to publicly launch the dapp in 2025.

Here is an overview of the daap as well as screenshots of the Whiteflag daap’s actual UI:

Supporting Developers in the Polkadot Ecosystem:
Our project makes it easy for developers to build on, deploy on, or integrate Polkadot by providing Whiteflag developers with a Whiteflag parachain and dev platform. We provide an array of reusable tools and infrastructure components for the easy, secure, and fast scaling of a diverse Whiteflag dapp ecosystem in high value sectors like healthcare, emergency services, and humanitarian sectors. Futhermore, Whiteflag developers can make use of Polkadot’s interoperability to connect other parachain infrastructure to Whiteflag dapps.

The Whiteflag dev platform makes it easy for the Polkadot ecosystem to incorporate standardized data formats used in digital messaging technologies in these sectors. Developers can take any standard for digital messaging and can easily encode it onto the Whiteflag parachain for use in a variety of daaps. For example, developers can encode standards from International Humanitarian Law, CRED Disaster Category Classification, OECD Economic Infrastructure Common Reporting Standard Codes, and FHIR—Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources. There are many more messaging standards that underpin the decision making and coordination of high-performance teams.

Fennel’s developer tools will provide an on-ramp into the ecosystem by providing familiar, web2-esque APIs and a more blockchain-native SDK for their applications to consume. This will be complemented by lower-level, more blockchain-native plugins and a Substrate-focused SDK that can be used optionally to adjust to the blockchain space from the more web2-centric model. This will allow more finely-grained control of keys and direct extrinsic calls than our web2 model, but will need more familiarity with the space.

Our strategy will occur in two phases. In phase 1, we will build and launch the public version of the Whiteflag daap described above. We aim to finish this daap in 2024. During phase 2 we aim to launch a Whiteflag parachain that will provide the Whiteflag communications network and its respective infrastructure to the Polkadot ecosystem. We aim to begin phase 2 at the start of 2025. It is also during phase 2 that we will begin our process of decentralizing the network, ensuring we do so carefully and with close cooperation with all organizations involved. Notably, we hope to interoperate the Whiteflag parachain with other parachains in the ecosystem, such as those that specialize in digital identity, social networking, and supply chains.