Oracles

Summary

  • A fact can be included in a transaction as part of a command
  • An oracle is a service that will only sign the transaction if the included fact is true

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Overview

In many cases, a transaction’s contractual validity depends on some external piece of data, such as the current exchange rate. However, if we were to let each participant evaluate the transaction’s validity based on their own view of the current exchange rate, the contract’s execution would be non-deterministic: some signers would consider the transaction valid, while others would consider it invalid. As a result, disagreements would arise over the true state of the ledger.

Corda addresses this issue using oracles. Oracles are network services that, upon request, provide commands that encapsulate a specific fact (e.g. the exchange rate at time x) and list the oracle as a required signer.

If a node wishes to use a given fact in a transaction, they request a command asserting this fact from the oracle. If the oracle considers the fact to be true, they send back the required command. The node then includes the command in their transaction, and the oracle will sign the transaction to assert that the fact is true.

For privacy purposes, the oracle does not require to have access on every part of the transaction and the only information it needs to see is their embedded, related to this oracle, command(s). We should also provide guarantees that all of the commands requiring a signature from this oracle should be visible to the oracle entity, but not the rest. To achieve that we use filtered transactions, in which the transaction proposer(s) uses a nested Merkle tree approach to “tear off” the unrelated parts of the transaction. See Transaction tear-offs for more information on how transaction tear-offs work.

If they wish to monetize their services, oracles can choose to only sign a transaction and attest to the validity of the fact it contains for a fee.