Zug, Switzerland – dubbed Crypto Valley by Ethereum co-founder Mihai Alisie – exists at the forefront of blockchain and FinTech development. From serving as the Ethereum Foundation's headquarters to hosting a variety of pilot projects, such as the recent blockchain-based voting system, Zug has entrenched itself within the cryptospace as a welcoming destination for technological innovation.
The most recent advancement coming from the Swiss valley is a crypto bike-sharing pilot called AirBie, which launched today, November 14. The service is paired with uPort's eID program, a system that allows Zug residents to register their identities in the form of EDCCs (aka smart contracts) to the Ethereum blockchain. Users' eIDs also serve as wallets, allowing them to approve Ethereum transactions.
AirBie works like Lime's bike- and scooter-sharing service: An individual finds a bike, unlocks it with the AirBie app, and then parks it when finished riding. The key differences, though, are (1) the app is connected to uPort, meaning individuals must have valid eIDs to ride, and (2) they pay for the service with cryptocurrency rather than credit cards. Thus, this use case combines two applications of blockchain technology: identity verification and payments.
The AirBie team ultimately aims to enable the internet of things (IoT) through blockchain. Important to attaining this goal, the crew believes, is building real-life blockchain applications that reach various users. AirBie's bike-sharing service is simply the first stop along the company's roadmap for further blockchain and IoT innovation.
For example, the team plans to enable any bike owner to use the AirBie smart locks (which are the crux of the service) so that these individuals can rent their bikes to others. Bike owners would also be able to issue credentials to determine who can (and who cannot) rent their bikes. Although bike-sharing is a specific use case, the renting model AirBie is pursuing could apply to apartments and hotels as well.
uPort's eID program has already allowed Zug residents to access online government services (like the voting pilot), but the system's integration into the AirBie service marks blockchain's role in fulfilling individuals' everyday needs, such as transportation. The uPort team maintains that AirBie's launch today "is a big milestone for the future of urban mobility and smart cities built around citizens' rights to privacy and control of their identities."
The adoption of IoT-enabled applications and, at a much greater scale, the development of smart cities are two goals for many folks in the cryptospace. Companies like Blockchains LLC and Ping An Insurance Group plan to build smart city infrastructures, and existing locations like Dubai aim to use blockchain to become "smarter," so to speak. (Disclosure: ETHNews is a division of Blockchains Management Inc., which is the parent company of Blockchains LLC.)
Use cases like AirBie, although relatively small in scope, demonstrate the potential for blockchain to reinvent our everyday lives – and the possibility of a future full of smart cities.