Fidelity Investments, the world's fourth largest mutual fund and financial services group, is looking to patent a method by which a blockchain could be used for authenticating voters and processing fair elections.
On 16th February, the US Patent and Trademark Office released an application for "Crypto Voting and Social Aggregating, Fractionally Efficient Transfer Guidance, Conditional Triggered Transaction, Datastructures, Apparatuses, Methods and Systems" (SOCOACT), originally submitted by Fidelity on 14th July, 2016.
The filing is attributed to Fidelity employees Timothy Lohe, Hadley Rupert Stern, Raghav Chawla and Christopher Scott Parsons, located in Massachusetts, and Thomas Charles McGuire, based in Ireland.
The application outlines the structure of Fidelity’s 'crypto-voting apparatus', the components of which include voter authentication, vote processing, a crypto user interface (UI), a blockchain oracle and a smart contract to direct all computational actions.
The application explains:
“The SOCOACT system could also be used for voting in places where there may not be well developed voting tabulation systems and where voting tallies are suspect. For example, it can be used to build a voting system in a developing country. By using a blockchain technology, an immutable ledger is created that records the votes of each citizen. The record would allow for unique identification of each voting individual and allow for tabulation of votes.”
In developed economies, SOCOACT could be used by corporations to hold proxy votes for events such as Board of Director elections and shareholder proposals.
Investment in the blockchain voting space has been growing. In November 2016, Overstock.com announced the acquisition of blockchain voting startup SettleMint. Governments are interested too. Earlier in the year, government officials in Moscow released plans to investigate how blockchain tech could mitigate voter fraud in the country.
Tracking use cases
Use cases for the SOCOACT system extend beyond voting. The patent application outlines a geotracking feature that could potentially be used to locate missing persons.
“Imagine there is a migration of peoples out of one country, say, in response to war or natural disaster. A non-governmental organization (NGO) could use SOCOACT to create a blockchain ledger of all displaced persons and that ledger could be used to track them through resettlement. The ledger could be referenced by individuals who could compare their credentials with those that are encrypted and stored through the ledger at a specific time and date in a bitcoin-like format.”
In addition, SOCOACT could be implemented to better track resource consumption and create a bitcoin-backed market where resources and liabilities can be traded among different parties.
“Water meters, electric & gas meters, as well as environmental monitoring devices such as C02 emitter meters can be used to inform enable a bitcoin-style transaction involving resource usage or pollution emission," the application says.
Then, by using devices to track these resources or pollutants, a "bitcoin-enabled marketplace between individuals, corporations and government entities can be created,” it goes on.
Fidelity has displayed a generally progressive attitude toward bitcoin and blockchain tech. Earlier this month, the firm announced that its charitable arm has raised $7m in bitcoin donations for charity.
The company also hosted a European hackathon last October in which it awarded prizes to participants for their blockchain-based applications.
Voting image via Shutterstock