#SundayInterview. How to revolutionize sharing economy?

We do not however, see ourselves as competitors to Uber or Airbnb. If anything, to me we would make excellent partners, by helping them manage the inevitable disintermediation of the sharing economy once the Universal Sharing Network is up and running – says Stephan Tual COO, Slock.it UG, in Bithub.pl’s #SundayInterview.

Slock.it was described by Cointelegraph as possibly the first practical application of the very new concept – Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO). But what exactly is DAO and what are its applications?

Stephan Tual: I’d like to clarify this, as this is completely incorrect, false and misleading. Slock.it didn’t get known because of the DAO, not did it launch it. Slock.it was already making headlines well before the DAO. We have been active for over a year and half now (we incorporated the company in November 2015). We were the first to launch a physical implementation of blockchain technology, the first to roll it out to the general public (shareandcharge.com/en). We are about to announce a broad program called the Universal Sharing network which will make it the first scalable development of blockchain + IoT implementation, ever. We are privately funded and have no and never had any intention to do an 'ICO’.

The community that did launched the DAO even describe the moment of its creation on their forum: „The DAO itself was actually instantiated on the web on 30 April 2016″… „Slock.it however did not instantiate The DAO itself to begin the creation phase”, adding „the Slock.it team got behind an effort to release the code to the wild and thus facilitate the possibility of a „pure DAO” rather than a Slock.it DAO. Slock.it felt it important that the The DAO have the right to not choose them as Contractors, and be able to choose anyone for various Contractor roles. A Slock.it DAO would not have been a „true” DAO as it would have been excessively centralized. DAOhub simply utilized that code and integrated it into the DAOhub website to enable token creation from an Ethereum protocol address for The DAO contract”

So, how was it launched? Again, quoting from the same article, the following was the exact process:

„The bytecode was placed anonymously on the blockchain from the open source repository GitHub code by several accounts, at several addresses. The bytecode of a number of those addresses was verified to be correct, matching the source code and compiled source code output. Two of those instances were addresses created through exchanges, deemed to therefore perhaps be one notch even more anonymous. A coin flip ensued to select one of the two, and voila the bytecode of address 0xbb9bc244d798123fde783fcc1c72d3bb8c189413 became the address of The DAO. That particular address was then added to the daohub.org website to begin the DAO creation phase”

You can see the full process of the „The DAO” launch and the 'pushing of the red button’ on this thread after much scrolling on the DAOHub „The DAO” subsection.

That’s not to say that we aren’t innovating on the DAO concept. Recently we announced the Siemens DDO, The first Fortune 500 company using the DAO Framework

Here’s my opinion on why DAO are the future for many companies and here’s a video explaining their benefits in simple terms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJrPW3254wg

Your focus is on sharing economy. So far it’s been more of a talk and less of a fact with corporate intermediaries. Are blockchain based platforms endangering market giants like Uber and enabling sheer peer-2-peer economy carried out by individuals?

ST: Thank you, it’s absolutely correct that our focus is on the sharing economy. We do not however, see ourselves as competitors to Uber or Airbnb. If anything, to me we would make excellent partners, by helping them manage the inevitable disintermediation of the sharing economy once the Universal Sharing Network is up and running. It will be an autonomous, self-onboarding, decentralized network where companies and individuals alike can register then rent or sell any object that can be locked.

That being said, it’s true that there will certainly be an impact. Slock.it disrupts the billions dollar disruptors by enabling anyone to rent, sell or share their property without middleman. The unused bicycle in the shed gets a new lease on life. Parking spots can be sublet on demand. Apartments and office spaces become fully automated. Slock.it bridges the blockchain and the physical world by making smart contracts enforceable: it’s the future infrastructure of the Sharing Economy.

To quote the prestigious Nesta institute: „simultaneously cracks the challenge of trusting strangers in the sharing economy while ripping up the rulebook for how those same platforms make their money” (source)

But why is our technology useful? Well, leveraging blockchain nodes embedded in connected cars, homes, shared white goods, etc, Slock.it strives to improve the experience of sharing items by:

– Making trusting the other party as unnecessary as possible
– Handling secure direct P2P payments
– Providing a mechanism of deposits, and eventually, full blown insurance
– Freeing the users from having to coordinate with each other to hand over keys
– Enabling both owners and renters to find each other
– Supporting almost any objects including cars, lockers, apartments, sheds, office space, etc.

And because it’s build on top of the Ethereum blockchain, Slock.it is always on, suffers no downtime, features cryptographic security by default, requires no login or signup, and can be audited by anyone.

You talk about renting on demand and fully automated services. Is it something that can be brought to life the easy way or does it require a lot of new technology and a lot of tech-savviness from participating parties?

ST: This is definitely something I believe we’ll see as the 'new normal’ at some point, but not just yet. Our technology allows for direct, cost-effective payments between objects, as well as doing away with costly centralized servers outlay. Ultimately, this provides a better customers experience as all transactions take place instantly and without bureaucratic contract.

You’re right that it will take a lot of coordination between parties to become a reality. This is why I look forward to initiatives such as the Trusted IoT Alliance, of which we are a Founding Member, and the dozens of integration with everyday objects we are currently working on.

This brings to mind the subject of autonomous objects. To quote examples brought up on your site 'an office door can open itself when paid, while a fridge could order its own repairs’. This probably requires some technological advancement but the question here is: do we really want objects to become autonomous, that is operating beyond our will or sometimes against it? As in the door example – eventually the door won’t open when not paid.

ST: Yes, we do. Naysayers claimed the internet was going to be a terrorist haven and tried to ban encryption. The same luddite claim full automation will enslave us when in fact it will liberate us from the clutches of aggressive, privacy invading marketing campaigns. Please check this article I wrote  – essentially, quoting from that article:

„The washing machine, since it’s running Android, could make use of its sensors to capture the type of cycles, loads frequency and load weight, which — put together — define your usage. This is the type of granular data marketers would kill for. But instead of sending this data back to the centralised mothership for processing and targeting, the washing machine would keep that information where it belongs: within itself, in your home, encrypted, accessible to no one but its owner. ”

„It can then, using the same process it leverages for ordering spare parts, order detergent at a frequency that’s ideal for you. But because the machine is now both autonomous and aware of the moving price of detergent, it can also identify the best deals, make a decision to buy bulk, switch suppliers, in short, become the lean and mean detergent purchase engine that’s operating as close as possible to the economic optimum.”

Across a wide range of applications, the various blockchain networks can enable device autonomy and independence, putting an end to both the targeted marketing uncanny valley and rent seeking behaviour by the wannabe Googleplex of this world.

When people start dealing with one another in a direct way online tax institutions are becoming wary. Obviously we have eBay and Airbnb and it works somehow but we’re talking about much bigger scale here. Do you see a challange for Universal Sharing Network in this regard?

ST: I think people should be far more worried about two facts:
a) currently all your reputation is siloed betwen services. The good you do on airbnb is never reflected anywhere else than airbnb.
b) your reputation is owned by these companies, not yourself, which if you think about it for a few minutes, is quite simply outreageous.

We ourselves do not intend to provide such reputation system, preferring to work with partners such as Uport to integrate existing ID and reputation solution. Ultimately, the Universal Sharing Network is a customer acquisition platform that’s both open and open source: it’s only natural to integrate with systems such as etherisc to provide insurance for esxample, rather than reinvent the wheel every time.

Interviewed by Przemyslaw Cwik