Once limited to loaning your ladder to a neighbour, or borrowing a book from the library, nowadays, thanks to car sharing schemes, Airbnb and the rise of coworking, the sharing economy is becoming ever more popular and accepted as an alternative to outright ownership.
A survey by Nielsen discovered that two thirds of people around the world would be willing to share or rent their personal assets. The startup Slock.it has taken on the challenge of making these kind of sharing transactions as safe and as easy as possible – by combining the sharing economy with blockchain technology.
For more about blockchain and the extraordinary role it could play in making our world more socially and economically sustainable, check out our article: Blockchain: A Digital System For Real World Sustainability.
The startup offers two open source technologies that make the transactions secure by registering them on a blockchain. One is the Universal Sharing Network – that provides the infrastructure for the sharing transactions. The second is the Ethereum Computer, which allows the shared or exchanged objects to be directly integrated into the network via SoCs.
The Sharing Network
The Universal Sharing Network (USN) is based on the decentralised Ethereum computing platform and creates a smart contract for each individual transaction. This contract is automatically registered and cannot be changed without it being noticed within the network.
The USN allows users to search for objects that they need, localise them and finally, borrow them, while the owners can use it to manage the resources that they are offering within the network. Third-party providers will also have the opportunity to dock onto the network and offer their own services or items.
Bringing Blockchain Into the Physical World
The Ethereum computer can be a mini-computer such as the Raspberry Pi, which has the Slock.it software running on it – and these small computers can be directly integrated into shared objects such as cars or bicycles. The software ensures that the object is connected to the sharing network and that the transaction can be carried out via mobile phone.
Let’s take a look at how it might work in real life – you want to rent your home out to someone while you’re away on holiday. Your smart electronic IoT lock already lets you streamline the procss – you just give your temporary tenants a code to get in, rather than having to meet up with them to hand over the key. But with a normal smart lock, the tenant still has access to the apartment after the lease is over (which could technically be seen as a safety issue), and with Airbnb as a middle man, the landlord still has to cough up 15 per cent to them for their service. With Slock.it, you can completely cut out the middle man – the person renting pays the charge directly to the lock itself. When the payment has been received, the door can be opened. And the safety issue is history too, because you can change the login code as soon as the tenant leaves, and issue a new one for each new tenant.
Slock.it technology is already being used by the startup Share & Charge, and their electric car scheme that we wrote about here: Could Share & Charge Be the Airbnb of Electric Cars?
To find out more about how it works and other possible applications, check out the video below.
This article is a translation by Marisa Pettit of the original article which appeared on RESET’s German-language site.