The sharing economy is everywhere: Airbnb, Uber, and DogVacay brought it to hotels, ridesharing, and dog vacations. The idea is simple. Thanks to the Internet, rather than relying on big companies for all goods and services, people can rent directly from other people. These marketplaces are just getting started and people are imagining entirely new frontiers.
Take for instance BitMesh, which is asking: Why not take the sharing economy to purchasing Internet? Most people don't use up their entire data plans. People work from 9 to 5 during the day or go on vacations, and even while using the Internet there is often extra bandwidth floating around.
Furthermore, BitMesh sees an opportunity for bitcoin here. The team is building a platform for buying and selling extra Internet bandwidth. Price and time frame will be dynamically negotiated on the platform. The hope is that it will lay out another cheaper option for Internet. BitMesh is supported by Boost VC, the accelerator that helps Bitcoin companies get off the ground.
Why bitcoin? Well, partially because Bitcoin supports smaller transactions. Bitmesh CEO, Andrew Donley, told Cointelegraph via email:
“Bitcoin is not only ideal technology - it is essential for BitMesh to function. The availability of micropayment channels affords connected peers to buy and sell internet a granular level in a secure, trust-less manner without the need for a third party or escrow.”
Apparently before cryptocurrency, these types of businesses weren’t possible, but it might be feasible now. And then, of course, bitcoin is global and could serve instant transactions. The thriving sharing economy is the result of falling transaction costs.
Donley explained how the project started with a group of friends bouncing cryptocurrency ideas at an informal weekly meeting:
“Eventually we landed on the idea of implementing a meshnet in our town. We specifically were trying to figure out a way to incentivize adding a mesh network to local businesses and the idea for BitMesh was born.”
The proof of concept implemented in Python demonstrates how the price negotiation would take place.
One important question is: Who would use it? Most people already have a connection at home and a mobile data plan. Although lazily making extra money off of unused bandwidth has obvious appeal, would it be easy enough to buy it? In the eyes of its developers, BitMesh would cradle a highly competitive marketplace. It would be another option for purchasing Internet.
Another hurdle is that competition could rattle Internet Service Providers—especially if BitMesh is piggybacking off of their infrastructure. How would they ask regulators to respond? We see many negative responses today as Uber and Airbnb, for example, are targeted by rattled taxi companies and hotels around the globe.
The opportunities for bitcoin in this space are vast and multidimensional. Bitcoin could play a role in the sharing economy in more ways than one. Rumors are swirling that Airbnb and Uber - the symbols of the sharing economy - might accept bitcoin now that its mobile payment processor Braintree supports bitcoin payments in private beta.
People have speculated that bitcoin could be the currency of choice in many other markets, while allowing people to earn extra cash while the machines do all the work. Machines could even pay other machines with little human help. Swiss researchers floated the idea of the Internet of Things as a vast data marketplace with bitcoin at the center. They gave the example of Nike paying sensors that were tracking jogging people in Central Park. In the future, maybe bitcoin will be the machine's preferred medium of exchange. How about a webcam haggling with a Raspberry Pi? Or a washing machine paying for detergent in the Internet of Things.
BitMesh seems to be a step in this direction. Donley ended with a few words about the ambitious potential scope of the project:
“In the future I imagine users installing BitMesh onto any consumer device (laptop, phone, networking hardware, etc) and being able to transact with peers.
“We are still discussing a phased approach and what might be the best product to enter the market with.”
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