What Is NEO?

NEO is a blockchain developed to fully digitize assets and identities through smart contracts for the overarching goal of achieving a smart economy. In the theory behind a smart economy, digital assets and digital identities are seen as being essential to improving the quality of life for everyone.

NEO aims to automate digital asset management through smart contracts, with the eventual goal of building a distributed, network-based, smart economy system using decentralized applications.

Key Takeaways

  • NEO is a blockchain ecosystem designed to be used to build a smart economy.
  • NEO has two native tokens. NEO is used to establish ownership and management roles in the blockchain, and NEO Gas is used to pay for transactions on the blockchain.
  • NEO defines a smart economy as one that uses smart contracts to manage and secure digital identities and assets.

What Is Cryptocurrency?

Understanding NEO

NEO was founded as AntShares by Da Hongfei and Erik Zhang in 2014. It was rebranded to NEO in June 2017. It is a blockchain-based platform that supports two native tokens, NEO and NEO Gas, and enables digital asset and smart contract development.

NEO originally described its smart economy system as:

Digital Assets + Digital Identity + Smart Contract = Smart Economy.

Digital Assets

Digital assets are not only digital property but are also physical assets tokenized by transferring their value to the blockchain and having it issue a token for each asset. Tokenization creates a decentralized, trustworthy, traceable, and transparent manner for asset management, free of intermediaries and the associated costs.

Users can record, buy, sell, exchange, or circulate various assets. NEO also supports asset protection because they are registered on its platform, giving them a validated digital identity and security.

Digital Identity

Digital identity enables verifiable key information about participating individuals, organizations, and other entities that exist in the digital context. Securing individual information through blockchain, consensus mechanisms, and encryption methods is essential the more digital our lives become.

NEO and NEO Gas are not minable cryptocurrencies. There will only be 100 million NEO, 50 million of which went to fund-raising supporters, and the remaining 50 million are for developers, cross investments, and contingencies. NEO Gas is awarded for blockchain work and transaction fees. However, you can purchase NEO on exchanges.

NEO uses the Public Key Infrastructure standard as a guide for managing identities by creating encrypted private and public keys used to verify identities. Digital identities can be verified using facial recognition, fingerprints, voice, SMS, and multi-factor identification methods.

Smart Contracts

Smart contracts are code that automatically execute transactions and agreements between different parties. Smart contracts remove the requirement for third-party involvement because transfers are automatically completed. Smart contracts also allow traceability, transparency, and transaction irreversibility.

How Is Neo Different From Bitcoin and Ethereum?

NEO maintains a clear distinction from other standard blockchain platforms in its focus on being regulatory-compliant and a development platform for decentralized applications. It also uses a different consensus mechanism than Bitcoin and Ethereum, called delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance (dBFT).

Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance

Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance is a newer development in consensus mechanisms. Rather than use a system like proof-of-work where random numbers are generated in a competitive bid to open a new block on the blockchain, dBZT designates nodes in consensus rounds using a "staking" method similar to proof-of-stake consensus to achieve a majority agreement of two-thirds.

To address the issue of non-reliable validators (the Byzantine General Problem), consensus nodes with NEO Gas staked are randomly chosen for consensus rounds to validate transactions and open new blocks.

The NEO dBFT is capable of achieving 1,000 transactions per second (TPS) , compared to Bitcoin's much slower three to seven TPS.


While digitized assets and smart contracts are popular on the Ethereum blockchain, the third key feature of what it calls “digital identity” separates NEO from the rest. Every participant operating on the NEO platform must have a unique digital identity that can be verified.

Ethereum is designed to be scaled for any application a person can think of, be it new currencies, non-fungible tokens, decentralized apps, or something as of yet uninvented. NEO is focused on a smart economy concept.


Bitcoin was created to be a decentralized digital currency and uses the proof-of-work consensus. It has one cryptocurrency that is used as a reward for mining—the process of validating transactions and opening new blocks on the chain. The NEO network is less dependent on processing power for validation, so transaction costs and times are much lower.

Is NEO a Good Crypto?

Whether NEO is a good crypto depends on your risk tolerance, cryptocurrency outlook, and what you intend to use it for. It might increase in value, or it might not. NEO is designed to grant ownership and voting rights in the network but also has a market value.

How Many NEO Coins Are Left?

There were 50 million coins issued to project backers, and 15 million are held for contingencies. In addition, there are 20 million being used to incentivize developers and 15 million for cross-investing in other projects. No other coins will be issued, but NEO is available on some exchanges.

What Is NEO in Crypto?

NEO is a cryptocurrency used to incentivize development of the NEO smart economy blockchain.

Investing in cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings ("ICOs") is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.

Article Sources
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  1. NEO. "Neo White Paper."

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