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Crypto is breaking the Google-Amazon-Apple monopoly on user data



For decades, banks and insurance firms employed the same mostly static but highly profitable and centralized business models. Also for decades, Big Tech firms such as Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Google have monopolized user data for their profit. However, blockchain projects could significantly challenge Big Tech’s grip on user data. 

In 2015, the future of money was at the forefront of financial experts’ minds at the World Economic Forum in Davos. There, they started to seriously focus on the challenges presented by the rise of Bitcoin (BTC), digital assets and fintech. The world of finance began to realize that new technologies were upending everything in the sector, from savings to trading to making payments and cross-border and peer-to-peer transactions.

Then in the summer of 2020 came the decentralized finance (DeFi) renaissance. After a couple of years of seeing an extraordinary rise in this new concept, the machine economy started to take center stage and concern over who should own the world’s new greatest commodity, data.

Thanks to blockchain, we have DeFi, SocialFi, GameFi and a new emerging asset category: machine financialization (MachineFi), or the decentralized machine economy. It enables the owners of the billions of internet-connected devices worldwide to monetize them and developers to build decentralized applications (DApps) that draw device data for monetization.

Related: Nodes are going to dethrone tech giants — from Apple to Google

One obvious question is: Why? Why do devices need financialization or decentralized markets? The answer is quite apparent.

Big Tech has built trillion-dollar empires selling user data. Blockchain can change that by democratizing the data and machine economy.

Historically, machine economies have failed to garner traction due to the infrastructure and capital requirements needed to operationalize them. Blockchain changes that by providing users, businesses and developers with an end-to-end solution to distribute, orchestrate and monetize large numbers of smart devices as part of a unified machine network.

There are currently more than 50 blockchain projects related to the Internet of Things (IoT). There are also several traditional tech companies — such as IBM, Azure, Samsung, Apple, Google and Amazon — that are combining IoT and blockchain to power the burgeoning machine economy.

Single version of the truth

So, as we look back at 2021, we see it as the year blockchains became smart. Oracles introduced a new data source that provided facts about the real world to make them more secure and trustworthy. Agreement on the price of Bitcoin and other crypto assets soon followed, creating a “single version of the truth” that led to the growth of a whole new financial system. DeFi was the foundation for new concepts like peer-to-peer lending and borrowing, and yield farming, which opened new opportunities for investors to earn passive income. Verifiable real-world data became the proof needed for the DeFi revolution.

Everyone in the crypto space knows about proof-of-work and proof-of-stake, evidence provided to the blockchain to receive a reward or permission. If a Bitcoin miner proves they have solved a computationally intensive problem, they become eligible to be the next block producer. For Ethereum, if someone stakes a certain amount of Ether (ETH), they qualify to become an Ethereum validator.

Similarly, a “single version of the truth” from unbiased, secure machines will be proof-of-work done in the real world, creating limitless opportunities for new business models.


What if “proof” could also be generated from regular activities people perform in their daily lives? IoT devices and machines like those in a smart home, wearables, cameras and autonomous vehicles — have the potential to become “proof providers” that can use blockchain to capture the utility and value that people generate from everyday activities.

Related: Facebook and Twitter will soon be obsolete thanks to blockchain technology

Proof-of-presence could be determined from an asset tracker on a vehicle that feeds real-time GPS location information to a crowdsourced map. In the insurance space, proof-of-health can be provided by wellness data from a wearable, or proof-of-safety can be obtained from driving patterns. Proof-of-humanity helps verify people’s identity with biometric information.

Smart devices and machines on the blockchain will provide an opportunity to return data ownership to the people, enabling them to do what they wish with their property — including monetizing it. Blockchain-based IoT projects offer greater trust, security, interoperability and scalability than their predecessors, and they generate new efficiencies and business value by drawing on the data supplied by IoT devices and sensors.

Smart devices: The new machine economy

By 2030, estimates suggest IoT projects will represent more than $12 trillion in value globally. But who will own this value? Will large corporations continue to manage devices on centralized cloud platforms and be the gatekeepers of the new machine economy? We are at a pivotal moment in history. The decisions about how the machine economy evolves will reap consequences — or benefits — for decades.

A decentralized backbone, purpose-built to enable billions of machines on the blockchain, is what we need to democratize the machine economy/IoT industry and remove it from the domain of Big Tech. The IoT machine economy would require a combination of blockchain, secure hardware and confidential computing to empower user-owned devices, apps and services:

  • Secure hardware captures and signs real-world data that anyone can verify and trust.
  • Real-world data oracles then bring this verifiable data to the blockchain in a trusted manner.
  • Decentralized identity enables humans and machines to own their data as digital assets they can earn and trade using DApps.

By pairing the integrity of secure hardware with the immutability of blockchain, we can create a new paradigm for end-to-end trust to help ensure that the machine economy grows in a way that creates more opportunities for users and curbs the influence of the few large companies that would seek its control.

Raullen Chai is the co-founder and CEO of IoTeX. He previously worked for companies including Google, Uber and Oracle. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, where his research focused on designing and analyzing lightweight ciphers and IoT authentication protocols. At Google, he led many important security initiatives for its technical infrastructure, including mitigation of SSL attacks, privacy-preserving SSL offloading and enabling certificate transparency for all Google services. He was also the founding engineer of Google Cloud Load Balancer, which now serves thousands of cloud services, with 1 million-plus queries per second.

This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

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Meta ‘powering through’ with Metaverse plans despite doubts — Zuckerberg



Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is still hopeful about the company’s Metaverse plans regardless of the billions of dollars it’s sucking up from the company, claiming “someone has to build that.”

Appearing remotely for an interview at the Nov. 30 DealBook Summit in New York, Zuckerberg was asked his thoughts on whether the tech giants’ Metaverse play was still viable given its cost and the doubts cast over the platform, answering:

“I think things look very different on a ten-year time horizon than the zone that we’re in for the next few years […] I’m still completely optimistic about all the things that we’ve been optimistic about.”

He added part of “seeing things through” in the longer term was “powering through” the doubts held about its ambitions.

Meta’s latest earnings, released on Oct. 26, revealed the largest-ever quarterly loss in its metaverse-building arm Reality Labs dating back to the fourth quarter of 2020. Zuckerberg’s virtual reality has cost $9.44 billion in 2022, closing in on the over $10 billion in losses recorded for 2021.

On the earnings call at the time Zuckerberg was unfazed by the cost, calling its metaverse the “next computing platform.” He doubled down on this claim at DealBook:

“We’re not going to be here in the 2030s communicating and using computing devices that are exactly the same as what we have today, and someone has to build that and invest in it and believe in it.”

However, Zuckerberg admitted that the plans have come at a cost, Meta had to lay off 11,000 employees on Nov. 9 and the CEO said it had “planned out massive investments,” including into hardware to support its metaverse.

He said the company “thought that the economy and the business were going to go in in a certain direction” based on positive indicators relating to e-commerce businesses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. “Obviously it hasn’t turned out that way,” Zuckerberg added.

“Our kind of operational focus over the next few years is going to be on efficiency and discipline and rigor and kind of just operating in a much tighter environment.”

Despite the apparent focus from Meta to build its metaverse, Zuckerberg claimed 80% of company investments are funneled into its flagship social media platforms and will continue that way “for quite some time.”

Investments in Reality Labs are “less than 20%” at least “until the Metaverse becomes a larger thing” he said.

Related: The metaverse is happening without Meta’s permission

Of the 20% invested in Reality Labs, Zuckerberg said 40% of it goes toward its Virtual Reality (VR) headsets with the other “half or more” building what he considers “the long-term most important form factor […] Normal-looking glasses that can put holograms in the world.”

Zuck takes bite at Apple

Zuckerberg also took a few jabs at its peer tech company Apple regarding its restrictive App Store policies, the likes of which have placed restrictions on crypto exchanges and nonfungible token (NFT) marketplaces, saying:

“I do think Apple has sort of singled themselves out as the only company that is trying to control unilaterally what apps get on a device and I don’t think that’s a sustainable or good place to be.”

He pointed to other computing platforms such as Windows and Android which are not as restrictive and even allow other app markets and sideloading — the use of third-party software or apps.

He added its been Meta’s commitment to allow sideloading with its existing VR units and upcoming Augmented Reality (AR) units and hoped the future Metaverse platforms were also open in such a manner.

“I do think it is it is problematic for one company to be able to control what kind of app experiences get on the device.”