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The FOAM space

 

We are trying to build a service where people can generate receipts - we call them presence claims – and use them in different use cases, choosing how they want to share that data” Ryan King, CEO

FOAM
The FOAM space enables a crowdsourced map and decentralised location services making use of the Ethereum blockchain technology. Their CEO, Ryan King, joined the Support Centre for Data Sharing (SCDS) for a practice example interview to discuss how FOAM – the network they are building – was created, and the developments they observe in the field. 

The blockchain alternative to location services
To understand what FOAM provides and enables, let’s start by diving into the processes behind location services in general. Location services make use of PNT (positioning, navigation, and timing) and are covered almost entirely by the system that makes this possible on a global scale, i.e. GPS. This is the most well-used system, though alternative systems such as the EU service Galileo also exist. Making use of GPS has led to an extremely high innovation unlock. As a result, we have seen the possibility of shipping lanes, or an Uber that can pick you up. Our reliance on GPS systems is continuing to grow, but the ability of these systems to transform and upgrade is marginal. In recent years there have been concerns on the spoofing or jamming of GPS service, which has led the U.S. government to state that backup systems are needed. Currently, there are no companies that can provide a back-up of the GPS services in use; however, in the future we will likely have an ecosystem of PNT systems for different use cases. To make this possible, and to provide an alternative to one central system that we rely on, the FOAM space was created. 

The solution FOAM provides    
The FOAM space is an open-source, low-cost open network of terrestrial radios that use Ethereum blockchain technology and enables crowdsourced mapping. Blockchain technology makes it possible to store encrypted chunks (i.e. blocks) of data and chains them together to form a chronological single-source-of-truth for the data. FOAM offers a service where people can check in at a certain location, which, by design, cannot be cheated. The service provides fraud-proof certificates that are referred to as presence claims and can be shared in various applications. A protocol specifies the rules of the systems and states how you can participate, be a service provider, and be a consumer. 

To participate in the FOAM service, you need FOAM tokens (with actual monetary value). Radio operators will lock up these tokens into a service level agreement, promising uptime for users and guaranteeing the adherence to the protocol. This protocol includes rules such as regularly updating the blockchain, or, if a user interacts with you, to provide a presence claim for them. Due to these protocols, the system it is very collaborative and has a strong community-building element. Users can choose to join an existing network or set up their own, and by participating in the network users can earn rewards that are created on the basis of game-theory. Ultimately, the goal is for the system to be self-serving, fault-tolerant, and unable to spoof its users. 

The example of package delivery
Proof of location is clearly a market-need. For instance, when a customer receives a package, he or she receives a notification that the package is delivered. This is based on the proof of location from the courier. An example is Amazon, where the service uses photos as proof of delivery and users can see the house it is delivered at (i.e. on a picture). This will not tell users where a package actually is though, it only gives a visual representation of its surroundings. 

As an alternative, image a system where the payment is locked to the proof of location and the payment only gets unlocked when the location is validated. When couriers submit their location, which cannot be falsified, users can see cryptographical proof that somebody had checked into their house and left their package there. This methodology can be plugged into any use case where location is involved.

As discussed, the FOAM space consists of a network of peers that creates locations services that serve them and the FOAM ecosystem and can sustain itself with a system of incentives. Ultimately, FOAM aims to be a leading network participant, perhaps initially by selling hardware, and eventually working with real estate companies to get access to locations or working with enterprises that wish to use location services and demonstrate to them how to build a business around it.

Going forward we will witness more and more people installing radios on their roofs, testing and using antennas, and mapping different environments to build the location services network. There is a lot of spatial data and curiosity around the possibilities of blockchain. FOAM is working out how to visualise these possibilities and build interoperable systems whilst exploring how shared ownership works and what the possibilities of location service are beyond mere tracking.

 

Name 

FOAM

Sector 

Technology

Region 

Global

Countries 

United States of America

Time 

2015 - ongoing 

URL 

https://www.foam.space/

Business model  

Open-source services provider

Participants 

Ryan King

Type of organisation 

Commercial

Data sharing model(s)  

Blockchain

Core impact The FOAM space enables a crowdsourced map and decentralised location services making use of the Ethereum blockchain technology.
Context The FOAM space is an open-source, low-cost open network of terrestrial radios that as an alternative to a singular location services system.


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