IoT Privacy Company IoTeX Is Envisioning the Future of NFTs

“Proof of Presence” is one way NFTs could evolve.

May 3, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:50 p.m. UTC

Dr. Xinxin Fan, head of cryptography at IoTeX, a company working to secure the Internet of Things (IoT), has been appointed Vice Chair of the Standard for the Framework of Blockchain Use in Internet of Things. A subset of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) that helps create standards for the internet, the working group is focused on creating a universal standard for the use of blockchain in the Internet of Things (IoT).

Appointments such as these generally fly under the radar. Standards bodies, which help create the guiding agreements by which the internet is interoperable, are not often considered breaking news. But the appointment of Fan is interesting not only because of the way IoTeX has quietly been working in the background with companies, but also because of how the company is developing future use cases for non-fungible tokens (NFTs). 

“The future of NFTs will involve using facts about the real world to mint digital assets,” said Raullen Chai, CEO of IoTeX. “IoTeX is pioneering this new design space to allow builders to use trusted data from trusted devices to facilitate if-then logic via smart contracts across the real world and blockchain world: if something happens in the real world then a smart contract can trigger something to happen in the digital world.”

Real-world NFTs

The NFT craze has largely focused on the art and experiential aspect. Various NFTs of digital art have sold for millions of dollars at auction and have expanded to include things like beer pong with Post Malone and a Kings of Leon album. 

At the beginning of the month, NFTs experienced a slowdown in sales. While some pointed to it as a crash, a better way to refer to it would be as a natural pullback in an inflated market. 

Jeff Dorman, chief investment officer at Arca, a cryptocurrency investment firm, wrote in a newsletter he sees further growth coming to the NFT space.

“NFTs will expand beyond current use cases such as collectibles, art and gaming into more traditional use cases,” he wrote at the time. “Companies and projects that facilitate the growth and trading of NFTs could be big winners.”

That’s where IoTeX and the work it is doing comes in. It seems to be one of the more novel uses of NFTs, one that could lead to the market's sustainability with more widespread adoption, even if the NFTs are quietly functioning behind the scene on IoT devices rather than being sold for millions. 

The idea is that an NFT, which is just a mechanism that proves something cryptographically in a non-fungible way, proves to a smart contact that you're at a specific place at a specific time. A smart contract can then trigger something to happen in the digital world. Think, for example, of minting an NFT that uses the real-world data as proof. 

Proof of presence

IoTeX is starting with "proof of presence" based on verifiable real-world data from Pebble Tracker. Pebble Tracker lets developers working with blockchain and IoT use verifiable real world data which is owned exclusively by the device holder. 

A release announcing Pebble Tracker in February described it as able to capture and cryptographically sign real-world data such as location, climate, motion and light using a built-in secure element (similar to the ones used in smartphones for FaceID and in cryptocurrency hardware wallets for private keys). 

Larry Pang, head of business development at ‎IoTeX, said the company will quickly expand into other types of data and devices. 

An outline of how IoTeX envisions "Proof of Anything".

“We call this concept ‘proof of anything,’ which can include health data from wearables or automotive data from vehicles to trigger insurance-related smart contracts and much more,” he said. “With more ‘if’ statements based on real-world data, we can enable more ‘then’ statements via smart contracts.”

In practice, that might have ramifications for insurance, for example. Having verifiable data from your vehicle or verifiable data from your health wearable could trigger financial outcomes. Alternatively, if there is verifiable data regarding a storm, a smart contract might be triggered if that storm results in damage to a house. 

Data lockers

Once gathered, verifiable data from the Pebble Tracker is then assigned to a decentralized identity (DID), which IoTeX describes as a "personal data locker." It allows users of a device to own this verifiable data exclusively, as well as to have full control to authorize their data for use by other applications from their device. 

In this case, data verifiability from Pebble Tracker enables users to not only own their data, but also have full control over how it is used. Users can choose to keep their data absolutely private (by keeping it in their personal data locker), authorize others to access the raw data, or opt in to share this data with IoTeX Dapps for various purposes. 

Those that want to use Pebble Tracker only as a privacy-preserving asset tracker device can do so, but they also have the choice at any time to utilize or monetize their data under their own timelines and preferences. 

At its core it makes data sharing an “opt-in” model rather than an “opt-out” one. 

Current trials

Right now, IoTeX is working with HealthBlocks, a private health-care service based in Amsterdam that allows users to own, analyze and manage their health data. 

The company envisions a future where different health-care wearables have secure hardware that can generate verifiable data to feed into open-source, machine-learning algorithms that could aid in predictive health outcomes or similar areas, based on data from other people also choose to share it. 

“That's really the goal of what HealthBlocks are doing, starting with that co-ownership of data and really closing the loop where you can contribute your data to one of these on-chain collectives,” said Pang. “You're going to get the HealthBlocks token, which you can then use to access those AI models or even telehealth kind of calls.”

Overall, these sorts of use cases, and proof of presence, will play an interesting role in any standards talks on the IEEE. 

“By co-creating standards with industry experts, IoTeX is committed not only to innovation in the blockchain space via our real-world products, such as Ucam and Pebble Tracker, but also the research/standards space via our leadership positions in the IEEE and IIC to help shape the future of blockchain and IoT” said Fan in a statement. 

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