Proof of location, bringing the blockchain to the real world

May 08, 2019 19 min read

Proof of location, bringing the blockchain to the real world

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If GPS can be spoofed, how can we prove that you are where you say you are? XYO is solving this problem by building a network that of devices that independently verify the locations of other devices participating in the network. By building this network on top of blockchain technology the network its self will be able to execute smart contracts and provide a traceable confirmed timeline of an object's journey. 

 

 

           

 

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Arie:
Location is the most important catalysts for data, and so almost all other data becomes more valuable when you add locations and proximity to it. Without proximity and location the data is a lot harder to consume.

Daniel:
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the MapScaping Podcast. My name is Daniel, and this is a podcast for the geospatial community. Today I'm talking to Arie, and Arie comes to us from a company called XYO, and these guys are doing something really interesting with blockchain and geospatial. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Daniel:
Today I'm joined by Arie, and he's going to tell us all about what he's up to in the world of geospatial. Arie, could you introduce yourself please?

Arie:
Yes, of course. Thank you for having me on here. My name is Arie Trouw, I am a CEO and the founder of a company called XY, which a big portion of it is XYO, which is called the XY Oracle. I've been a software engineer and entrepreneur for many, many years, a couple decades now, and this is my latest endeavor that I've been working on for the last seven years now, I guess I started in 2012, so it's been a pretty long journey so far. But, we're doing some really interesting things with location and with blockchain.

Daniel:
Excellent. So, those are two really massive subjects. How are you mixing location with blockchain? Maybe if we could start off with the location bit first. What's the important thing with location? We've got plenty of location, what are you guys doing with it?

Arie:
Well, as you probably noticed the company's name XY is specific for the location aspect, it's a coordinate system. We really function actually in an XYZT coordinate system, but XY is a little bit shorter for a name. We kind of started off in a world where we were using Bluetooth devices, and IoT devices to gather real world data from the world, and location is a very, very important part of that, because where the metadata is that you're collecting is is one of the most important components of it. So for example, say with a temperature reading, where the temperature reading is is very important.

Arie:
And then also, one of the problems we ran into early on was certainty. I'm sure a lot of people have seen this with Pokemon Go for example, if a person is harvesting a Pokemon that's only in Africa, but they're not actually in Africa. How do you actually get that certainty? So, in our years of working on this, one of our challenges was always data certainty for a lot of the data we collected; whether it was location data or other metadata. And, we found about a year ago or so while working on some blockchain efforts, we found that we can use location, relative location, not absolute location, or something called proximity, but we use that as a way in blockchain to increment the certainty of the actual position of something that happened in the real world using blockchain.

Arie:
So, the location aspect of it is very, very important, because location or proximity is one of the few heuristics we found that's actually co-optable by two parties, as opposed to temperature, the temperature never reads you back, but the other party, if there's two parties exchanging radio signals for examples, they could both sign a data gram as is they were both there.

Daniel:
You said a whole bunch there, I'll just try to summarize it quickly. What I understand is that this idea of proof of location, can you prove that you were actually there, and we were talking about Pokemon Go, and we think about GPS for example, and we know that we can spoof GPS, we can trick it, we can pretend like we're there, but not really there. So, you're saying that if you can prove that someone's actually in that location, and if someone can verify that, then we have the basis for a contract maybe?

Arie:
Correct. All right, so one of the uses for this is using a smart contract where you can actually release a payment, or do some other action based on a proximity interaction between two different devices, or even a real world location. So, payment on delivery is one of the most common use cases we talk about, where having a package arrive at your doorstep, and then some crypto payment goes and fulfills the promise of actually paying for that delivery, so you don't actually pay for it until it's delivered. And, having high certainty for that is obviously very important.

Arie:
We focus generally on certainty over accuracy. Accuracy is obviously very important, but that's something which we've gotten better and better with, but many people out there Google all those companies that are working on that effort, but certainty is something which we felt was left behind in many cases. So, that's really where we went. One of our big goals is this data centric metadata cloud that we can talk about also, and of the barriers for that for us over the last seven years was the lack of certainty. Now that we've conquered, in our opinion, a lot of the certainty problems, we now have a lot of things which we couldn't do before that we can now do.

Daniel:
I think that's highlighting a really interesting issue there in terms of geospatial is that certainty. We have put a lot of resources into accuracy, and I mean how accurate do we have to be? I think that's a really interesting point, how certain are we there? Especially if we're talking about smart contracts, if we're talking about release a payment based on that we can prove ... The proof of location, that you are there, or this thing is in that location, and you can verify it, and possibly the accuracy is not really that important. I mean, if you're three millimeters off, or three meters off for that matter, the point is that the parcel, if we're talking about eCommerce for example, the delivery has been made, it is at your address.

Arie:
Correct. Correct. I think in many, many cases the certainty is way, way higher. Anywhere from logistics, to food service, to military applications, or even games like Pokemon, certainty is something which often gets overlooked, but then eventually people realize that a very accurate reading that's false is not very useful.

Daniel:
Yeah. That's true. Okay. So, we talked a little bit about the location side of it, and you're tying this to the blockchain. Why are you doing that?

Arie:
Well, so the interesting thing is we kind of have two blockchain aspects of our technology. One is the time into the blockchain as far as being able to interact with a DAP, or a smart contract. So, a person could release a payment, and that's kind of a necessity as far as it's a cool way to show what our technology does. But really, what our white papers are about is using blockchain technologies, blockchain techniques, not necessarily a big coin type decentralized ledger, or shared ledger, but rather blockchains that are actually maintained on the edge by individual nodes that aren't shared ledgers. So, these are actually independent private ledgers that we make with a blockchain, and they're cosigned with other parties as you go and interact with them.

Arie:
So, the description I normally use for people is, imagine if when you're going through the world you have to stop with every single person you run into, take out your camera, and take a selfie, print two copies of that selfie, and then have yourself and the other person sign it, and each one of you takes a copy of it, and then puts it in a sequential folder where you can't change the order of that ever. So, imagine if you have this stack of selfies that you've generated over the last say two weeks, the information about and the certainty of where you've actually been, because you have hundreds or even thousands of different people who have witnessed and signed the fact that they've witnessed your proximity to them, it's very, very hard for you to go and claim that you were somewhere where you weren't, because that data thread is co-opted by so many different data points.

Arie:
And then, their threads, if you go one more degree, their threads are co-opted the same way. So, our system works in the exact same way as that, except for we obviously realize it's not really practical for a person to go and take the camera out and take selfies. So, our devices, and our app on our phone basically does that cryptographically for you with just radio signals; so it's not a literally selfie, it's more of a figurative selfie. But, it's a much easier way to think about it as far as it's what we call bound witness, because literally we're using cryptographic signature to bind the data from two different witnesses of an event.

Daniel:
So, we're talking about a network of devices that are recognizing each other as they move around the world, and confirming the location of the other device?

Arie:
Exactly, and storing that in an auto trail that's immutable.

Daniel:
Yeah. Okay, and we talked a little bit before about eCommerce, we talked about this idea of smart contracts where the payment is only released when I can prove that that thing is at the location. In terms of eCommerce, when the package arrives at my address, and it's been verified by this network then the payment is released. What other use cases can you see for this?

Arie:
We've talked to probably 100 different potential and current partners, and use cases, and so there's many, many of them, but some of the ways that are more interesting to me are if you go to logistics again, proof of origin, one of the big problems people often have is counterfeit goods, and by counterfeit goods I mean ones that actually work, but they're not made in the correct factory. An example could be if you need an airplane part, and you want to certify that the airplane part was made in say Paris, or in Seattle by the actual manufacturer. You can use proof of origin as far as auto trail of all of the locations that this thing has checked in, and you can prove mathematically that this device at a minimum traveled through the factory where it was manufactured. Now, if the Byzantine party can actually sneak their part, their fake part, into the originating factory, and then ship it to you, that wouldn't be detectable, but it's a lot more difficult to do that than for a middleman to go and buy from a secondary or tertiary supplier, and pass it off as the original part.

Arie:
So, that actually proves that origin of it. But then, you can also prove the voyage that goes along with it. The example I often use is ice cream, because for anybody's whose gotten ice cream that has melted somewhere along the way, but is frozen when you buy it from the grocery store, it's kind of gooey inside. So, right now most logistics will tell you when the person delivers something, what's the current state of it? Is it frozen? So, if I get a delivery of a bunch of ice cream and it's all melted I'm not going to accept it into the store. But, if it's frozen, but it melted for a day while it was sitting in the sun in a truck somewhere that's bad also. With this, the auto trail, which comes along with it shows that every five minutes a reading was taken on this crate or this case for the temperature, and it shows that the temperature was maintained for a certain period of time.

Arie:
Now, ice cream may not be that important, but if you take this and there are pharmaceuticals for example that require to be kept under a certain temperature, or under certain conditions, same things there. You can verify this with these different sensor readings, see the actual locations of where it was, and the times of where it was. So, you have a very secure auto trail to show the safety of that item. I think food safety, pharmaceutical safety, those sorts of things I think are very, very important, because they're very difficult to actually certify. And then, we can even take it to more of a social aspect where if you want to verify that a steak that you're eating is actually a free range cow, you can look at the data of the cow before it was slaughtered, and how much time did it spend walking, and how far did it go? Did it actually stay in one spot on the map for a year, or did it actually get to wander around for a while? This auto trail of the life of this cow is something which you can certify, so when you get a steak at a restaurant it can be certified free range as opposed to just somebody told you that this was a farm that was free range it came from.

Daniel:
Those are some use case scenarios I'd never thought of. I must admit, the first time I heard of this and what you're doing, I thought this is going to make the best treasure hunt in the world.

Arie:
It can be used for that too. So, that's definitely one of the use cases that people definitely want to use it for. But, that's kind of the Pokemon Go model, right? Where it's a treasure hunt. So, we definitely want to use it for that as well. But, as far as practical commercial applications, there's a plethora of those as well.

Daniel:
Yeah. I mean, it sounds amazing, but it also sounds incredibly complex. I mean, you're going to have to have a huge network of devices; either that or maybe it's going to be a software solution at the end of our day where all of our cellphones just have the software installed on them, and off they go, they begin recognizing and verifying each other as we move around the world. But I mean, to get this thing up and running today, do you have this network? Is it around? Are you hooking into someone else's network or are you building your own, and if so how are you doing that?

Arie:
Well, one of the benefits that we have is we ... Prior to this proof of location crypto effort of our company, we also are a successful IoT company, so we produce over a million devices that are out in the world that are Bluetooth devices that work with cellphones. So, we're kind of starting off with a network of our own that we can lean on, and then also growing that network for our own apps through partner apps for cellphones, and then also embedding our technology in existing software and new hardware as well allows that to be expanded. But, in some of the use cases, for example if it's a logistics one, the company which is using it, as long as they put infrastructure in the areas where they want to practice they don't need a ubiquitous network all over the world, it's only for the treasure hunt type, or open area, open sandbox solutions that you really need a concentration of these things in every part of the world.

Arie:
So, as long as you have it in your factories, on your trucks, and on the routes that you care about for logistics, you can make these auto trails without having to have a whole bunch of public infrastructure. So, I think over time that will be the easiest way for commercial applications to get that going. And then, for the consumer applications, probably using apps and phone installs would probably be the primary way to be able to expand the network for their specific use.

Daniel:
Okay, so that sounds a little bit less overwhelming. I have to admit, I was thinking if I was a delivery company for example, the idea of having to cover the world with devices and make sure they're all connecting and retrieving that data from them somehow just sounded like an impossible task. But, what you're saying is that a company, or anyone looking to track items in this way could just install their own networks just in points that were crucial for them?

Arie:
Correct. Like, if you ship from a certain port to a certain point you just put them in those ports, you put them on your ships, you put them on railroad cars, or wherever it is that matters to you. And of course, the more devices there are in the world, and the more third party validations we can get, that network, even if it's a private subset of that network, that becomes more certain, because there's third parties [inaudible 00:15:18] equivalent of a person who is walking through the wilderness somewhere, and taking selfies of themself, and perhaps there's two or three people there with them and they're all taking selfies of each other, that's pretty substantial.

Arie:
But then, if you walk through Manhattan, or London, or somewhere where there's a lot of people, you can take a bunch of selfies, but if everyone else is taking selfies of you as well then difficulty of being able to fake a selfie becomes orders of magnitude more difficult. So, definitely the concentration of people and devices is ... The network effect there makes the certainty approach 100% pretty quickly when you have a decent amount of concentration. And so, it's not a linear growth in certainty with the number of witnesses that's in the area, it's actually more of a geometric growth in certainty.

Daniel:
And, where do you see this going in the future? We're all running around talking about blockchain, like we did, I hate to make this comparison, but like we did five, six years ago about big data. Is blockchain going to fade out, or is it here forever?

Arie:
By view with blockchain is kind of a little bit atypical I suppose for most of the people out there. I think the technology is amazing, it's obviously one of the reasons why I've gotten involved in there, but I'm old enough to have been through the .com era as well, for example, and I view it very similarly to the internet and the web. So, if you go back to late 90s and people who were like well, this internet thing is going to be here forever, it's going to be awesome, and people started making everything on the internet, and all these different things, but they didn't think through a lot of those things. So, if you look at the number of companies that still exist today from the.com era, Amazon for example, amazing company, worth what? Almost a trillion dollars. There's all these huge success stories, but there's also a wasteland of failed companies from the.com era.

Arie:
I think the same thing is going to happen to crypto, because just adding crypto to any use case out there is not a smart thing to do, because in some case's crypto or blockchain makes a use case worse. The example I always use for that is dating. You can take Tinder, and add blockchain to it, and now you have a slower app that permanently records your dating history for you in public. Is this an app that anybody wants? Well, probably not. So, I don't think blockchain plus anything is necessarily better. So, you have to go and find those specific use cases that makes it better, and also find the technologies that will actually scale, and be able to add features that improve a system.

Arie:
Another example I would use for that is IPFS. So, IPFS is not really a blockchain technology, but it is a crypto technology, and the idea with using hashes to be able to share data in a trustless way. I actually think IPFS is a concept and a methodology that's going to be huge, and it's going to scale really, really well for a lot of cases. Bitcoin and a decentralized shared ledger concept, I think is great for currencies, or for being able to have decentralized currencies, but does that scale necessarily to other things? Same thing with smart contracts. Using smart contracts for ICOs, or for property recording, or there's certain use cases which are great for it, but there's many use cases where ... For example, I saw a Space Invaders app written on EOS, and every single missile launch was recorded as a transaction on the EOS blockchain. Really cool proven concept, and really neat technology, but at the same time is that something which is, from a business standpoint, a thing which makes sense?

Arie:
I think there's going to be a lot of fall off from projects that weren't thought through from a business standpoint, but they're really interesting from a technological standpoint. But, you have to kind of do both of those. I feel our company has done both of those. We have a practical, and useful, and novel technology which we've created, and at the same time we're also going and monetizing that through relationships, and pushing it out there from a business standpoint. So, getting the technology and the blockchain part, and the business portion at the same time makes sense.

Arie:
[inaudible 00:19:31] for example also is a good one where they've gone, and they've been a specific solution for banking out there, and being able to transfer large amounts of money for cheaper ways than current systems. So, there are a few dozen, I'd say, projects out there that I think are really, really promising and will really, really make it. But, for us to say of the top 500 projects that 490 of them will be huge? I just don't think that's true. It's just finding those 10, or 20, or 30 that are going to be huge is the goal and it's not that easy.

Daniel:
Yeah. I want to come back to a little bit about building this network. You said you before you are an internet of things company, what's the technology your network or your sensors are built on? And, is this something I can download? Can I install it on my phone today, or is it a piece of hardware that I actually have to get from you, or can I get it from anyone? How does that work?

Arie:
Well, so we use an app for iOS and for Android, so our traditional, or we call our legacy IoT solution is a find it location system, and so basically you get a Bluetooth device, or Bluetooth beacon, and the phone acts as a bride and it sends the data to the server, so it can remember the history of where something has been, and show you on a map where those things are. Our blockchain portion, we have an app called the XYO app, there's an Android version currently available, the iOS version will be out this quarter. And, those basically by themself work and can be used to make the system. For example, at home if there's roommates, or family, and four or five people all have this app installed, the system will work just fine with that. But then, you can expand that with a hardware bridge, which we product, and also hardware sentinels that we produce to be able to gather more data.

Arie:
That's one of our biggest efforts, is to both expand our hardware offerings there, but more importantly find partners to implement our protocol on their hardware as well, so that way we don't have to make all the hardware in the system, because our goal at the end of the day is not to be a hardware company, it's to be a protocol and data company, because our fascination is with data and producing more data, making that data valuable, weeding out the bad data, and actually acting on that in a way that benefits users of apps.

Daniel:
I know, I realize we're running out of time. You're a very busy person, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. I just want to ask you one more question, is location something that you are personally interested in, or was it just the best use case for your technology?

Arie:
Well, the thing which I'm personally really interested in is objectifying of the universe and the world. So, the way I look at the world is ... I used to call it [Webel 00:22:21] where the idea is everything in the world, whether it's a person, or a computer, or an ant, or a nail, they all have metadata about them that just exists, it just is, the history. In some cases, that hasn't been recorded, and we don't know what it is, but they're all individual. So, if you decompose the world into all these different objects in the XYZT realm, that's what defines reality in many ways.

Arie:
And then, there's different versions of reality, if you look at the data which I collected in my mind, and the way I perceive that XYZT reality is different than how Larry does, or you do, or each person has their own perception of that. But, each of us interact with each other in the same our sentinels interact with each other, and we talk like we are right now all the way across the world, or in local different areas, and then we expand that data set that's in our mind. So, my biggest fascination is really data sets, and data set theory where there's data sets and how do data sets interact. But, the fact that these data sets, or at least the important data sets for most of us, are anchored, they're almost avatar based anchors in the physical reality of the world, makes location very, very important.

Arie:
So, where you are in the world and where you are relative to each other in the world really affects the ... That data point is very, very valuable and very, very important for a lot of these things. Knowing when I should call a person because where they are in the world is important, because they might be sleeping, for example. So, location is one of the most important part there. And then, on top of that, proximity, which is relative location, is one of the only things we've found that is easily co-optable by two parties. Most other sensor readings are ... They require three parties to co-opt, and so for example two different parties both read temperature, and then they both sign a data gram saying that we both read this temperature, and it's the same thing. But, one of those things you want from all those data grams is well, how far apart were these two people, and then where in the world were they?

Arie:
I personally believe that location and proximity is one of the most important catalysts for data, and so almost all other data becomes more valuable when you add location and proximity to it; without the proximity and location the data is a lot harder to consume.

Daniel:
Gotcha. Arie, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate it. Before we head off, can you just maybe tell us where we can go to find out more about you, and your company, and what you're up to?

Arie:
Oh, yes. Definitely. Please go to XYO.network, that is our website that talks a lot about our location concepts there, and this whole project. XY.company is the corporate website that owns the entire system and that sort of thing. So, those are the two websites a person should go to. And then, we also have a lot of presence on different social outlets, on Facebook, and Instagram, and those sorts of things. But, if you just search or even Google for XYO Network you'll find us all over the place.

Daniel:
Excellent. Thanks so much.

Arie:
Well, thank you very much for having me on.

Daniel:
Thank you for listening to another episode of the Mapscaping Podcast, my name is Daniel, and I just want to remind you that a full transcript of these podcasts is available at mapscaping.com, and if you would like to reach out to us on social media you can find us on Facebook and Twitter as Mapscaping, and Mapview on Instagram. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks very much, talk to you soon. Bye.


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