The Internet of Property is going to empower people, brands and contribute to fintech across the world but what is it and why is it important? Why did I spend $22k on a game item for a game that hasn’t even come out yet — Baus, from Neon District?
First we became connected, then our things became connected, and in future our property will be connected, forming the Internet of Property.
“Ah,” I can hear you say, “but isn’t this just the Internet of Things?”
IoT = the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.
The Internet of Things is shorthand for connected devices which can act on their own rather than be attached to a larger computing device. It’s a very powerful concept which is gradually becoming more mainstream, with most consumers experience IoT through ‘smart home’ devices.
The Internet of Property is very different and as yet I’ve seen little discussion of it outside of a few curious blockchain aficionados. Even there, we use obscure terms like non-fungible token and smart contract.
Property — a thing or things belonging to someone.
The Internet of Property is about our possessions, the stuff we own. In almost all modern cultures we’re heavily defined by our possessions, where they contribute to and reflect our economic status. The ability to prove ownership is so valuable that it’s a key driver to productivity. For example, many small businesses are funded through the use of equity in a house, and many loans are secured on our property more generally. Where one can’t prove ownership, one can’t make economic use of the assets easily.
Socially, property matters too. From the clothes we wear to the cars we drive, from football strips to Gucci handbags, these things affect our social standing both within and outside of our peer network.
However, there’s a problem. At the moment our property can only be ‘shared’ within a limited environment, usually proximity based and/or with limited features. That is, proving ownership is hard and making use of it is harder, even for our major purchases. Proving ownership of our digital purchases is also almost impossible because the ownership database is privately owned by Apple, Amazon, et al. I say ownership, really I mean licensed because it’s not yours at all in the digital domain.
Imagine a future world where all the important things we owned, physical and digital, could be proven to anyone, anywhere, absolutely and definitively. In this world you could prove that you’re a Wolves fan because you could share the fact that you own a 2019 shirt and have a season ticket; that you’re a collector of Marvel toys and games, that you swear by Louis Vitton and your Instagram pic with the latest bag is legit, that Red Bull is your drink of choice, even that you really were one of Justin Bieber’s early fans!
Early fan? Prove you own the first album and get exclusive tickets!
This may seem trivial but is isn’t. This is the kind of data that companies die for and they’d be able to offer you all manner of deals and crossovers based on what you own. I’m particularly interested in how brands and game developers can offer new forms of digital property to increase engagement. People should be able to take their Nike trainers into game worlds and social media, or get priority access as true fans.
If you can prove ownership you can do other things too. You can sell, rent, securitise and even destroy the property — at least the digital representation of it. You can prove or benefit from provenance without needing someone to certify authenticity, great for collectors and early fans. In order to keep this article brief, I’m barely scratching the surface.
Now that property can also perform economic functions for us, opening up value where previously there was none. A great experiment is being done in the game Axie Infinity, where someone is offering loans and taking Axie characters as collateral — something realistically impossible to do previously.
In order to create an Internet of Property we need to have a standard, open system of ownership rights which is not under the control of yet another Internet behemoth. Decentralised technology such as blockchains are ideal to explore this new world and the offer all of the features we desire, all be it in immature form today. The Axie experiment is made possible because the first attempts at a viable Internet of Property are taking place using decentralised technology, Ethereum and Loom in their case.
In our world we don’t use the term Internet of Property, we talk about NFTs. However, they’re just the Internet of Property’s “hello world” application.
In future posts I’ll be exploring more aspects of this curious world of NFTs, as well as opening up about my crazy Baus purchase.