All Things Location

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  • 1.  Crypto-Spatial

    Posted 08-01-2019 08:59

    The promise of blockchain is to enable secure and verifiable transactions between two parties without intermediaries, such as monetary transactions that would require a financial institution to hold or distribute funds. Blockchain is the distributed ledger that records each transaction. Bitcoin, as an example, is peer to peer currency and transactions are recorded on the blockchain.

    In the geospatial world, digital map data is collected by a few well known companies such as Apple, Google and HERE. Users pay for use of these data by allowing advertising to be served or by allowing personal but anonymized data to be captured during use. 

    Two companies are looking to disintermediate digital map data using blockchain whereby location is a shared asset that is open and free, and does not rely on proprietary data formats or schemas.  FOAM and HYN.Space are working on standard for location in the blockchain. As I interpret their objective,  they believe there is a need to create "location as currency" in the blockchain. In addition, their claim is that many places on Earth do not have addresses and are therefore not capable of being easily located, while attempts like what3words are limited by the fact that it uses a proprietary schema. As such, FOAM is developing crypto-spatial primitives and according to their blog, "the Crypto-Spatial Coordinate (CSC), which is an open and interoperable standard for location in Ethereum smart contracts."

    Take for example real estate transactions that require substantial security and verification. The State of Ohio has investigated using blockchain for real estate and land title deals where such transactions occur between counties. So, where privacy and verification is essential, blockchain is an appealing technology. HYN.Space expresses this concern:

    People have increased concerns of misuse of our location data - we have no transparency on how data were monetized - often by the third parties in control our data. There is no true user privacy in front of map service providers that even pseudo-anonymous data can be cross-referenced with other data to identify the user . There is a saying that neatly summaries this state of play, "if you are not paying for the product, you are the product.

    Certainly, as blockchain is used for secure transactions, location is an embedded and essential component that too must be secured as part of the transaction. More to come.

    Joe Francica
    Boulder CO