Blockchain, The Sharing Economy, and You
2009 was a big year for technology. In the wake of the global economic collapse that defined the better part of the decade and drew comparisons to the Great Depression of the 1930s, new ideas and new technologies emerged that not only helped the economy recover, but they paved the way for a new economy that is as ubiquitous as it is unseen.
First, an unknown developer who self-identified as Satoshi Nakamoto, launched Bitcoin, the preeminent digital currency. It was intended to facilitate digital p2p transactions in a way that allowed individuals to subvert the traditional financial system that messed up so badly just a year earlier.
In addition, a 32-year-old Travis Kalanick co-founded Uber, a ride-hailing service that changed the way people transported themselves around cities and launched a new economy that redefined the post-recession era.
This new economy, dubbed the sharing economy, is a novel concept that gave people the opportunity to monetize their time and possessions. The World Economic Forum helpfully defines the sharing economy as a “focus on the sharing of underutilized assets, monetized or not, in ways that improve efficiency, sustainability, and community.” Of course, our propensity for harnessing our underutilized resources is primarily inspired by monetary reward, and that’s the ethos of the sharing economy.
In a way, anyone could, in some capacity, become an independent worker. The expressions of this new economy are diverse and multifaceted.
Two Ideas. One Prolific Movement.
There are consequences for Bitcoin and Uber that transcend either entity. Along with Bitcoin came the blockchain, a decentralized ledger system that could radically disrupt nearly every industry. In the recent Congressional Joint Economic Report, a bipartisan team of representatives wrote, “Blockchain technology has the potential to help the economy function more efficiently and securely.”
Even more to the point, in January, The New York Times proclaimed that “The Bitcoin bubble may ultimately turn out to be a distraction from the true significance of the blockchain.”
Similarly, Uber isn’t the final iteration of the sharing economy. It’s just the beginning. Today, Uber is joined by Airbnb, DogVacay, RelayRides, TaskRabbit, Lyft, Fon, and Peerby as only a few of the companies providing a platform for the sharing economy. Collectively, the Brookings Institute estimates that the sharing economy will “grow from $14 billion in 2014 to $335 billion by 2025.”
Initiated at nearly the same time, the sharing economy and the blockchain are perfect collaborators at a time when both desperately need a boost.
One Technology. Two Important Integrations
Currently, the sharing economy lacks a centralized ecosystem where users can easily gain access to the many opportunities available to them. There is not Amazon for the sharing economy, and that’s a serious problem.
One blockchain-based platform, ShareRing, is trying to change that. Using some of the blockchain’s most lauded features like smart contracts, digital currency transactions, and verifiable records, ShareRing is creating a marketplace of sharing services that users can easily access through a mobile app.
In addition, ShareRing uses features that are not novel but are extremely helpful. For example, a single sign-on feature allows users to create just one account to participate in an assortment of different companies that help define the sharing economy.
The blockchain is built to record transactions by creating unchangeable records. This feature can profoundly impact the sharing economy’s ability to include more things than just cars and spare bedrooms. Services like Wi-Fi, resources like cellular data, and items like tools can all be shared by using the blockchain’s decentralized network. In this way, the blockchain helps the sharing economy achieve its most ambitious possibilities.
The blockchain can bring together many disparate services that comprise the sharing economy while simultaneously expanding the industry’s offerings. As both the blockchain and the sharing economy approach their first decade, these improvements are a big deal. The blockchain is looking for its big breakthrough, and the sharing economy needs better technology to power its second decade. It’s a serendipitous combination that was bred out of chaos, but it’s creating a compelling future for everyone involved.