Deloitte has used Facebook's recently released Messenger API to build an early version of a product capable of storing warranties on a blockchain and allowing users to buy insurance for items even after they've been purchased.
The minimum viable product (MVP), announced today, could serve as a bridge between distributed ledgers and the Internet of Things, but importantly, do so without users having to download any new applications.
Deloitte service designer, Frank van de Ven, wrote of the MVP on the company's site:
"It allows users to add information regarding their purchases and associated warranty information on the blockchain, by using a Facebook Messenger bot."
As of June 2015 there were 1 billion Facebook Messenger users. To let innovators build products for those users, Facebook expanded its Messenger support at its annual F8 conference in April by offering a new send and receive API that allows for the construction of custom Messenger bots.
Van de Ven explained the importance of that access by indicating that app fatigue is now high among consumers, who he says now use only around five apps on average.
"By offering our service through an existing channel we are taking away a huge hurdle in engaging new users," van de Ven said.
How the MVP works
The result of a three-day internal hackathon, the "warranty bot" lets users send an image of a specially designed receipt via Facebook Messenger. Built on the bitcoin blockchain using the Colu blockchain toolbox, Deloitte's product "unwraps" a QR code on the receipt and stores the product information on a blockchain.
Multiple warranties can then be stored in a profile accessible via a link also transmitted via Facebook Messenger. The MVP provides users the opportunity to buy insurance for the product even after he or she has left the point of sale.
By uploading the warranty to a blockchain, van de Ven says the warrant bot will let product owners transfer the warranty if the item is resold. The new owners can in-turn track the entire history of the blockchain-logged warranty.
"The ability to store assets in a safe and secure, tamper-proof way, opens up a whole new world for financial institutes, retailers, governments and other industries," wrote van de Ven, adding:
"What we've learned from our hackathon only underlines this belief."
The MVP is currently a white-labelled offering which means it doesn't include Deloitte's branding and could theoretically be employed by third-party companies once it's ready for use.
As for the Facebook Messenger interface, that feature is interchangeable, enabling use with WhatsApp or banking and insurance applications in the future should the company continue to iterate the idea.
While the MVP announced today is still in its early phases, other possible uses include making it easier for insurers to calculate the estimated total value of goods; letting insurers and banks offer the option via a widget; and letting retailers offer automated services such as product updates without a dedicated app.