In today’s digital age we give away our personal data without too much thought in exchange for services.
Yet since the Facebook controversy surrounding Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of people’s personal data, we are now beginning to question where exactly that valuable information is going. The likes of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) have taken steps to give consumers back control of their data. However, while these are small steps in the right direction, can more be done in a decentralised manner that enables us to manage our own data effectively, particularly as the Internet of Things (IoT) market continues to grow?
For one Swiss-based company, they believe they have the answer in how a person’s data is managed. Located in the Crypto Valley of Zug, Streamr, a blockchain-backed data platform, is creating an open-source network for the free and fair exchange of the world’s real-time data.
Last month, the company became the first blockchain project to win the Plug and Play Global Innovation Award for Performance from Europe’s biggest innovation platform STARTUP AUTOBAHN, for their pilot project with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which was established to drive data monetisation.
Streamr has since joined MOBI, the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative ecosystem, along with BMW, BOSCH, General Motors, Ford, and Renault to make mobility services more efficient, affordable, greener, safer, and less congested. Other companies Streamr has partnered with include Nokia and OSIsoft, an application software for real-time data management.
Speaking to Bitcoindicate, Shiv Malik, head of communications and strategy at Streamr, said that it’s important to “regain control over our data” and “to recognise the inherent value of this information that has for too long been ignored.”
“It is high time that we get the chance to control how our data is used instead of passively allowing companies and governments to take this information or it being exploited by corrupt organisations unbeknownst to us,” Malik added.
How, though, is Streamr delivering this change?
The amount of data we are generating is growing in tandem with the growth of the IoT and connected devices. According to a 2016 report from IHS Technology, the IoT global market will grow to 23.14 billion devices in 2018 to 30.73 billion in 2020, and 75.44 billion in 2025. With an increase in the number of connected devices, Streamr note in their white paper that this will produce huge volumes of timestamped data being generated by sensors and connected devices.
To get on top of that Streamr’s vision is to deliver unstoppable data to unstoppable applications. Its partnership with HPE saw real-time vehicle data being collected. Using sensors it gathered information on monitor fuel consumption, location, acceleration and gearing, which was sent straight to the Streamr Marketplace. This is a single interface for real-time data delivery on the Ethereum blockchain, which is making data streams tradeable.
Take a car, for instance. In the near future a person’s automobile will be producing data related to traffic congestion, the quality of a road, or what petrol prices at the stations they pass are. In turn, a driver will need to obtain data on where they should avoid congestion, redirected traffic, and road repairs.
What’s important is that all of this data is tradeable. The control, however, is given back to the person with the sole decision down to them whether they hand that information over to highway agencies, smart city operators, or fellow drivers. As Malik states, data trading will eventually become the norm.
“I think everyone who knows this industry knows that in the very near future, data trading will be the norm for everything, not just people’s web browsing habits (which is why Google and Facebook make billions) or financial markets (think Bloomberg), but for everything,” he added.
Streamr is incentivising user participation through a built-in mechanism for data monetisation. Through its crypto DATA token, machines can sell their data, get paid, and then purchase the data they require.
“A global market for real-time data emerges, with built-in data provenance, encryption, and access control,” Streamr’s white paper reads.
However, rather than simply acting as a way to supplement a person’s income, Malik explains that through Streamr people will be able to benefit from a host of services they can’t access right now.
“If you want lower insurance because you really are a great driver, currently the car manufacturers aren’t able to take your car’s data and send it to insurers in a seamless fashion,” he said. “Streamr will make third-party trades like that as easy as anything, allowing everyone to profit.”
Over the next year the platform is focusing on two major developments: decentralising its network and its community bundling feature.
Even though the network ports real-time data around the globe, the team run it by themselves. According to Malik, within a few years they are hoping to be at a place where anyone with the right computing specs can help run the network by running a broker node and earning DATA in the process.
“We’re very much hoping to make visible milestone progress on this within 6-9 months,” he said.
The community bundling feature will be a tool for the Marketplace that allows data buyers to purchase multiple feeds from the same gadget type, but different owners. Malik uses the Fitbit as an example. When a person sells their data it’s sent to the Streamr Marketplace, but for buyers the value will be in purchasing this data when it has been combined.
“So we need a way of bundling these products together,” he added. “But then when buyers purchase these feeds in one bundle we also need to ensure that the individuals providing the information, receive their payment in return. And of course, all of this has to work at scale i.e. millions of gadgets.”
Streamr is also working on a clean air project in London, which according to Malik, could revolutionise the way communities fight pollution. Working with their Smart Citizen partners they are working at creating fine grain pollution monitoring coverage.
“That is information which residents, local government, and research bodies can subscribe to on the Streamr Marketplace and associated apps,” he said. “And of course, we know that what gets measured (and measured in real-time) gets done.”