Michiel Mulders

@michielmulders

Meet Platin’s Proof of Location — A secure and verifiable location consensus protocol

Platin is an innovative project that was born in Israel, one of the biggest innovation hubs in the world, especially in the blockchain sector. Using a Proof of Location protocol on their own blockchain, called the Plexus™, Platin makes it simple to verify a location claim. Their protocol is lightweight and safe, consuming very little energy making it ideal for many diverse use cases.

What is a protocol?

A protocol is a set of rules in which computers communicate with each other. The protocol says what part of the conversation comes at which time and prescribes the format of the communication. It also says how to end the communication.

Most people are not aware of how many different protocols they are using. When accessing websites via your favorite browser you are using the HTTP protocol which describes how websites are requested and transferred from servers whereas the SMTP protocol is responsible for delivering emails to the right recipients.

Let’s take a look at a legacy protocol in another area: geography. Protocols in geography have focused on unique identification for places. We tend to identify places using postal codes or latitude/longitude, and the internet has given us an amazing amount of information to help us find where we need to go. GPS devices allow extremely fine location services which were only available to the military a couple decades ago, giving rise to people geocaching and exploring new terrain. Vehicle navigation and traffic redirection has improved as a result of this as well.

Why Platin exists

Today’s geolocation tools cannot offer reliable and trusted location verification services. It is possible for attackers to spoof other people’s GPS devices and it is trivial to fake a device’s location on the client side. Probably, you are familiar with the game Pokemon Go where children (and adults) made use of geolocation spoofers in order to play Pokemon Go in cities like Melbourne or New York where you could catch Pokemons anywhere around you. This is a very innocent example, although, GPS spoofing can be used in far more dangerous cases like spoofing the location of an ambulance which can cause the death of a certain person.

Besides that, GPS has some other limitations: It requires at least four beacon signals to be overhead, which makes indoor localization nearly impossible. Urban density and skyscrapers also cause difficulties in receiving four messages and the issue of multi-path signals occurs within the vicinity of high rise buildings. Further, for a device, it can take multiple minutes to acquire an accurate coordinate.

When it comes to power consumption, GPS is a drain on the battery and is not feasible for low powered Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Lastly, GPS is a highly centralized, non-encrypted system, without a proof-of-origin.

Meet Platin — Proof of Location

The Platin project has forked the Ethereum blockchain in order to modify the Solidity smart contracting language so it becomes a location-aware language called Solidity GEO, which is used for requesting and defining secure location proofs on the blockchain.

Our internet is being abused by large data companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. These companies collect and sell our precious location data in order to finetune their ads. Platin’s blockchain gives back control to the users over their location data as they own the data on the Platin blockchain and can choose to whom it can be exposed.

Platin users can even earn money when sharing their data with large data companies while maintaining the control over their data. In addition, the whole Platin concept is GDPR compliant.

Zero Knowledge Proofs

Typical obfuscation methods just aren’t enough. Any security specialist can tell you that these strings of numbers and letters can be connected to particular individuals after just a bit of detective work. That’s why Platin uses Zero Knowledge Proof (ZKP) technology to convey location details in the form of tamper-proof credentials. However, these credentials can be verified for authenticity, making them a much more secure way of determining location. In addition, Platin’s platform allows for ZKP Operators that can meet different privacy needs and match a range of security assurance levels depending on the system being deployed.

Part of the power of Platin’s protocol is based on its use of zero knowledge proofs. These three words seem to contradict one another. “Proving” a fact must require “knowledge,” and certainly more than a “zero” amount. Yet these words “Zero Knowledge Proofs” were chosen quite carefully by the mathematicians who crafted these amazing, almost magical acts of secure, privacy-preserving communication.

A technical definition of Zero Knowledge Proofs reads in short, “A Zero Knowledge Proof (ZKP) is a method by which one party (the prover) can prove to another party (the verifier) that she knows a value X, without revealing the value itself.”

This is a very useful way of sharing information without disclosing the actual information and is employed in other blockchains such as ZCash, where senders, recipients and transaction amounts can be completely blinded. Platin nodes use ZKP to achieve similar blinding regarding location information. For example, a node can prove that it is within a large region, say the state of California, without sharing its actual location. More elaborate ZKP applications can prove that a node met all the conditions of a contract, without revealing anything else.

Digital assets made real with location claims

Digital assets are called virtual because sometimes it’s hard for us to imagine them as anything but an abstract concept. Platinum breaks down that barrier by giving digital assets a real, fixed location on a map. Just as you are currently sitting in a certain space, a digital asset could easily be sitting right next to you. All you need is a smartphone to reveal what’s right there. That helps everyone no matter how tech-savvy to get introduced to cryptocurrency using Platin. And crypto is just one type of digital asset — digital documents are another. Virtual assets with a real spatial location become so real, you can collect them by holding out your device. This ability to present digital assets in a simple and clear way has many potential benefits.

Use Cases

1. KYC and Address verifications

Banks and other financial institutions need to follow strict KYC and AML guidelines. One of the criteria is validating the location of the user. In traditional systems, a user has to upload a utility bill to prove he physically lives at a location. However, such utility bills can be easily spoofed.

A bank can airdrop some PTN coins at a physical location the user has to claim within a fixed timeframe for secure verification of physical presence. The validation of your address will be recorded anonymously on the Platin blockchain to prevent a user from repeating this claiming process each time he has to prove his location.

2. Track and Trace of supply chain

Nowadays, consumers are very skeptical about where their food is coming from. There is a growing need for secure track and trace systems that can proof each location of the end product. Implementing Platin’s Proof of Location is the solution to this problem.

3. Humanitarian Aid

Since disaster relief efforts can be quite expensive, it’s important to keep improving the ways that money can be donated and distributed. Platin is beginning to build relationships with relief organizations like IsraAID and the Swiss Red Cross to create simple decentralized donation systems. Donors can easily drop coins in geo-fenced locations and those in need can collect the cryptocurrency and put it straight into their digital wallet.

SolidityGEO

Platin’s SolidityGEO extension of the Solidity language, leverages the already codified Simple Features standard (ISO 19125) on its smart contracts. Using SolidityGEO smart contracts can handle map, place and region data with capabilities to store it, curate stakes associated with places, express consensus around this data and so on, in various levels of precision.

Platin vs FOAM

The key differences between Platin and FOAM become clear when you look at core competencies and interoperability. A key core competency is security. Platin’s CTO has decades of experience with secure cryptographic systems, and their advisory team includes security experts at world-class universities such as the Technion and ETH Zurich. Platin’s whitepaper goes into details about how their software security will work, and they have announced a new Zero Knowledge proof at the recent TechCrunch in Zug.

The two differ in interoperability as well — basically, Platin, which is the only hardware agnostic proof of location protocol, can use FOAM’s curated data and beacons, as well as Bluetooth beacons and any other sensor data, since Platin uses Sensor Fusion. While FOAM will have to wait for curated beacons to begin operation, Platin can be used without any such deployments.

The bottom line

It’s not that we distrust existing geolocation tools, however, we can ask the opposite, why would we trust it? Nonetheless, Platin’s Proof of Location protocol offers many possibilities for future use cases like commercial GEO airdrops (see video below).

Want to have a chat? Join the Platin Telegram group to stay current with news about Platin at: t.me/platinio

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