When a package fails to arrive, who can you trust when the trail goes cold? Location tracking technology has existed in a number of forms for a long time, but it has never been reliable or trusted by everyone. This is because customers and third-parties, such as couriers, had to trust the information made available to them by the companies like DHL and FedEx. These big companies could claim a courier lost a package, and everyone would simply have to believe them. Luckily, a combination of newly available technology is about to change that practice entirely. XYO Network, FOAM, and Platin have all got exciting solutions in this regard.
Nothing to Lose, Nothing gets Lost
In most cases, ownership is location dependent. If you don’t know where something is, you don’t have it. And because you rely on and care about your things, the loss is often more than just the value. 7.19 million cars are stolen each year, and with global sales of car security systems valued at $6.5 billion, vehicle loss alone is a big issue.
Being able to trust location data for any possession will reduce the costs of loss, fraud, and insurance. Adding a layer of trust to the location of items such as vehicles, tools, leisure craft, people reviewing services, and much more is set to decrease costs and make our lives better. The National Cargo Security Council (NCSC) estimates that, “The global financial impact of cargo loss exceeds $50 billion annually.”
But when trust is built into a distributed system by securely proving the location of an item without relying on any central authority, customers can trust new businesses. We’re on the brink of seeing the corporate dominance of the logistics industry become history. So get ready to see a lot more competition in delivery companies as prices will drop and small drop-shipping online shops continue their explosion into the eCommerce marketplace.
Making Continuous Tracking a Reality
The seismic shift in the logistics industry is happening because we’re about to witness the ability to affordably trust the location of any tracked item, at any given time. If you’re running a drop-shipping business, you’ll be able to prove where your shipped item is. And instead of insuring against loss and theft, you might choose to embed a tracking device so you always know where your valuable item is.
Using a combination of technologies, our level of certainty is about to rise dramatically. And by storing, evaluating the accuracy, and discretely sharing the information on the blockchain, trust in the location data is also maximized. Using sensors and data sources efficiently, and designing systems to verify location data as well as store it on the blockchain is a challenging task. But the value of this information, the confidence that it can bring and the problems it will solve, is set to be a lucrative industry.
To give you a glimpse into the future, I’ve selected three organizations with different approaches, which all take advantage of the distributed nature of blockchain technology.
XYO is establishing a multi-layered system for integrating its over 1,000,000 tracking devices with offerings by independent manufacturers. Their ingenious system, based on zero-knowledge protocols and trustless systems, will use automated location attestation to supplement its broad range of location data sources.
This robust system will enable a high level of trust in the accuracy of location data which will enable compatible devices to recognize each other, sign certificates that they agreed on, and through a multi-layered blockchain system, have the trust in their certificates ranked. The combination of hardware and software will give the end user the maximum level of trust in an item’s reported location. This level of certainty will increase peace of mind and reduce insurance costs by preventing items from being lost.
FOAM is a new organization with a plan to incentivise a network of independent radio towers that can triangulate the location of an item at any time. This is a simple process of measuring the distance the device is from each tower based on the radio signal delay. When towers are independent, they must collaborate to determine a device’s location. Spoofing the data from one tower would just make it fail to match the data from the other independent towers. It would then not be hard to realize that the tower is compromised. And a spoofing-proof location system gains a lot of trust.
Platin is using its mobile app Platin Pocket to combine GPS and sensor data to reliably track the locations of people with mobile devices. It will then enable application users to add an extra layer of trust by providing location attestation certificates to each other when they meet. This extra layer will be sufficient proof to thwart the sort of location spoofing done by Pokemon Go players that play from home. And because the location data is so much more reliable, the app will be able to depend on location data for high-trust applications like picking up air-dropped cryptocurrencies.
A New Class of Location Aware Devices
The distributed nature of blockchain technology is perfect for establishing a high level of trust. And by using location attestation certificates or independant radio towers for location tracking, the data is worth storing in a trustworthy manner. A well-designed system, such as the one being developed by XYO, will calculate the trustworthiness of sources, reward trusted location data, and enable the controlled exposure of location information to independent parties.
With this opportunity for greater trust and more available information comes a need for new technologies that disrupt location spoofing and improve the quality of location data. Uber drivers have been found spoofing location data in order to increase fares. And location-based services that reward participants are susceptible to these same malicious practices.
Solving the problem of location spoofing and location attestation, as well as leveraging the benefits of blockchain technology, has inspired the development of a new range of devices. Smart characteristics such as being able to exchange identities, location data, and use cryptographic keys to sign attestation certificates have to be built in. Let’s look at an example:
- When a package containing a location tracking device arrives at a logistics warehouse, or the lost-and-found box at a police station, the device needs to do two tasks:
- It needs to communicate with another location-tracking device in the same place and cryptographically sign its certificate.
- It needs to then receive a similar signed certificate from the other device.
- This other device could even be in another package or a lost item.
- It then needs to communicate to a sentinel, in XYO’s case, or to the network, for Platin, on which a newly location certificate will be created.
This is new cutting-edge technology, so the ability to broadcast radio signals to independent radio towers or data gathering sentinels also need to be developed.
Rising to this challenge of automated handshaking and location attestation, XYO is extending the functionality of their “findable” devices and developing a range of protocols that utilize WiFi, bluetooth, and other technologies which will enable open participation in their system. These new compatible devices will be able to communicate with specialized blockchain nodes, such as sentinels, which will gather their location certificates. Then via Bridges (another node) the data is made available to archivists, which then collate and validate it for the final layer in the XYO system, the diviners. The last nodes, diviners, then evaluate the accuracy and trustworthiness of their sources and compete to post their results on the blockchain in response to queries paid for with XYO tokens. This open network with plentiful opportunities will enable them to locate any tracked device, at any time.
To meet this challenge in a different way, FOAM is developing devices with the ability to broadcast a powerful signal, carrying item identity and a very precise timestamp to its network of independent towers. This will enable the towers to time the radio signal and measure their distance from the device. Then by comparing these distances with the tower locations, the network will be able to provide the accurate location of the device.
The Sky is no Longer the Limit
The global GPS satellite network was introduced by the US Department of Defence in in 1973, and it is still operated by the US Air Force. Depending entirely on the existing GPS satellite network to provide geolocation services does not meet all of XYO’s robust integrity requirements. To be able to deliver the level of data integrity that they aspire to, XYO plans to supplement the many existing location data sources with its own satellites.
XYO plans to enable you to participate by investing in a share of their deployment costs, and gaining the possibility of earning a return on this investment when users pay for trusted location information. This commitment to independence and the veracity of data indicates how seriously XYO takes their role as a global location services provider.
What are we Waiting for?
The development of new devices, the establishment of location protocols, and even XYO’s use of multi-layered blockchain technology to calculate trust is a massive endeavour. Each of the pioneering companies is forging their own path, but in combination with one another, the technologies they are establishing are set to change trusted location tracking forever.
About the author:
Kirill Shilov — Founder of Geekforge.io and Howtotoken.com. Interviewing the top 10,000 worldwide experts who reveal the biggest issues on the way to technological singularity. Join my #10kqachallenge: GeekForge Formula.