Saturday, August 19, 2023

Introduction to the Beckn Protocol

Blockchain Enabled Commerce Network (beckn), as the name suggests is a blockchain enabled de-centralized protocol. It provides a specification that enables creation of decentralized networks. It also provides APIs, Data Models, Reference Architectures, Transaction Mechanisms and Global Standards for the purposes of adoption by Digital Platforms. 

Usually, a intermediary allows the providers and consumers to come together and interact by providing a centralized mechanism. Beckn provides the providers and consumers to discover, identify and transact with each other without the need for a real central intermediary. It can be thought of as a set of rules that are mutually agreed upon by several platforms that allows their users to discover, order, fulfilment and post-fulfilment activities between each other. This protocol is not specific to any sector, technology or industry. The taxonomy of any application of any industry can be represented using the standard data model of beckn.

The idea was born in Nov 2018 and the first formal transaction actually happened in Sep 2020. The open network went live in Jul 2021. The first open ecommerce network platform, ONDC went live in Dec 2021. Other protocols based on beckn, like DSEP – Decentralized Skills and Education Protocol and DHP – Decentralized Health Protocol were launched in Dec 2021.

The official website of beckn is

The beckn ecosystem had consumers and providers. A consumer is the one who will ideally want to place orders for products and services published on a platform that user the beckn protocol API calls to try and fulfil this request. There might be multiple such platform known as beckn application platforms (BAPs). To fulfil these, beckn provides beckn provider platforms or BPPs. BPPs use beckn protocol for purposes of discovery, ordering, fulfilment and post-fulfilment.

beckn ecosystem has multiple consumer platforms and provider platforms, which talk to each other via beckn protocol. This communication is facilitated via a open registry. This registry acts as the public key infrastructure (PKI) that stores public keys, endpoints of all participants of the network. The sender digitally signs the messages using their private keys and the receiver looks up the public key of the sender on the registry to digitally verify the signature. Hence, this registry is the trust infrastructure for this inter-platform communication.

The below diagram shows the beckn ecosystem architecture. The first 2 layers are the ones implemented by an organization who want to provide the server side applications for the consumers and the providers. The last 2 layers are the actual specification and support for an entity to get certified to join the network. Every entity that wants to be part of the network, must be part of one or more of the layers listed in the left column. 

In the very middle of the diagram is the actual infrastructure and security that transforms beckn compliant platforms into actual live transacting entities in an open network.

Some of the actual applications or networks formed out of beckn include the Kochi Open Mobility Network and the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC). beckn holds great promise across industries in terms of cost reduction, ease of joining, decentralized transactions, easy interoperability and an ability to build more innovative applications.

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