Proof of Location: What If You Could See and Collect Cryptocurrencies in the Real World? [Interview with Platin]

Imagine if cryptocurrencies were “airdropped” into the real world around us.

Imagine you could use your smartphone to find and collect cryptocurrencies at major events like the Olympics. Or search for discount Starbucks tokens in the local mall.

Think Pokemon Go!, but instead of finding and catching Pikachu, you’re looking for crypto.

That’s the vision of Platin and the revolutionary “proof of location” concept.

Looking beyond the playful side, Platin also threatens to disrupt traditional location services with a secure and private way to manage location data.

Block Explorer editor Ben Brown caught up with Platin founder Dr. Lionel Wolberger ahead of the project’s ICO launch to discuss how it works, privacy, and the choice to launch an ICO.

Platin Proof of Location

Ben Brown: Can you describe Platin in a couple of short sentences?

Lionel Wolberger: Platin is a lightweight, secure and verifiable Proof of Location (PoL) protocol on the blockchain. It is poised to disrupt a wide range of markets around the globe from automotive to banking and from retail to humanitarian aid.

BB: Is it fair to compare the basic functionality to Pokemon Go? – Being able to “capture” digital assets in the real world through augmented reality?

Lionel WolbergerLW: Bingo. Pokémon Go! is a good comparison, as it illustrates Platin’s capabilities and market drivers. In Pokémon Go! The user hunts and captures digital assets in the wild, interacting with a rich, tangible asset — a monster — that has a fixed location on the map. 

But Pokémon Go! can be fooled by installing a fake GPS application, so that people sitting in Moscow can pick up monsters in midtown Manhattan. Platin’s proof of location can enact this immersive experience, while preventing the spoofing.

Furthermore, Pokémon monsters are caught in just one way. Platin enables many ways to interact with and collect monsters– I mean, digital assets. Each asset is encased in a smart wrapper that can be customized to enact various experiences, according to need. 

For example, a smart contract can require a collector to perform an action, complete a task, watch a video, or answer a question before the asset can be collected. 

Digital assets can also be geofenced meaning they can only be used in a certain, pre-defined area. These customizable digital assets can provide solutions for many use cases and can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual or organization.

BB: Can Proof of Location subvert the way Google, Facebook, etc. use and collect location data?

 LW: Many companies use blanket consent to access and sell location data from their users. That robs individuals of the choice to share, sell, or hide their personal location data. With Platin, individuals can take back control of their location data. Platin allows each person to decide how much information they will share and with whom even giving them the option to profit from their location information the way big companies do currently.

 That said, we cannot stop people from giving location data to GAFA. We see the recent changes due to GDPR as a step in a good direction. At the same time, cyber attacks are rendering such broad data collection as “toxic” and a liability, driving corporations towards data minimization, selective disclosure and progressive trust privacy-enhancements. 

BB: How might Starbucks use a commercial airdrop using Platin?

 LW: Platin is the ultimate foot traffic generator. Say, for example, there is a location where Starbucks patronage is slow during the hours of 2 to 4 PM. Starbucks can create branded tokens that are geofenced to only be redeemed at that single location and only during those slow hours. The tokens can be given a specific value and sprinkled in a high-traffic area. If tokens aren’t collected, they go right back into Starbucks’ virtual wallet, allowing them to be redistributed later.

 Or maybe Starbucks is planning a big launch of a new Frappuccino. They want to leverage social media and generate a more organic buzz than the standard marketing campaign would. 

The Starbucks social team creates a digital version of the frapp with a smart contract wrapper saying that the user needs to share their token collection on their social channel and show that post to a barista to receive a free Frappuccino. Suddenly, social feeds are flooded with people finding frapps in the wild, collecting them, and redeeming them for a delicious new drink. 

Starbucks could even partner with influencers to make sure drops are picked up by people who will make a big impact.

BB: What exactly is “proof of location” and how does zero-knowledge proof work?

 LW: The location-based services market is projected to grow into between a 10 and 40-billion-dollar market by 2020. This projection is based on current state-of-the-art which means insecure location claims with fake GPS applications that are freely available. 

Secure location claims have the potential to impact countless industries. For example, one online financial services provider working with Platin reported that 80% of their registrants abandon the process once they are required to provide proof of residence. Delivering a secure, digital way to prove a location claim can reduce that figure.

Platin coins in the atrium

 Secure proof of location is made possible via smartphones running Platin’s secure protocol. We harness traditional location protocols (GPS and fraud detection) along with incentivized distributed ledger technology (DLT) to mitigate and prevent spoofing that plagues Pokémon Go! and other AR/MR applications. In addition, our system’s verifications conform with the standards-based approach of the World Wide Web, ensuring broad adoption of this protocol.

The protocol uses three completely different methods of ascertaining, validating and cross-checking location data–we call them the three pillars of security. 

The first pillar refers to sensor fusion. Platin makes use of on-device, location-relevant sensors such as GNSS (e.g., GPS, Galileo), Bluetooth, WiFi, and cellular-network observations. Both Android and iOS allow for these sensors to be “fused” in a robust manner to counter simple spoofing attacks. 

Behavior Over Time, the second pillar, is the analysis of user behavior over longer periods of time. This enables anomaly detection techniques via advanced machine learning algorithms, particularly reinforcement learning, and return an assurance that the history of behavior is within expected ranges. 

The third and final pillar is “Peer-to-Peer Witnessing,” an application of decentralized blockchain techniques that enables users to act as witnesses for each others’ locations through the use of short-range communication techniques such as Bluetooth, WiFi, ultrasound, and camera. Platin envisions that most of this interaction happens without any user involvement.

Platin’s team are experts in zero-knowledge, and our recent report to the W3C contains a detailed explanation. See https://w3c-ccg.github.io/data-minimization , excerpt below:

The children’s “Where’s Waldo?” illustrated book series helps us to understand [zero-knowledge]. In these books a distinctively dressed man appears only once on each page, wearing a striped hat. Readers are asked to scour the page and locate him. We can understand the three enablers by examining Where’s Waldo one step at a time.

      A Secret: For the new reader, Waldo’s location is a secret. The illustrator knows it, and the reader doesn’t. The reader is encouraged to search the page and find Waldo, but that is a difficult task. Some readers give up and ask someone who has already found Waldo to show them his location. In essence, they are asking another reader to reveal the secret. Once found, a reader could keep the information secret by circling Waldo in red and storing the book in a safe. This amounts to storing the secret for future use. Secrets are essential to crypto. They are usually called keys, and they must be managed carefully.

  A Difficult Task: Waldo is difficult to find on the page. The reader has to search everywhere and mistakenly identify many Waldo look-alike characters before reaching a satisfactory conclusion and finding him. Yet when he is finally discovered, or someone points Waldo out, it’s easy to see where he is. That’s why it’s a fun task. This difference between the difficulty of conducting the task and the ease of verifying the task lies at the heart of cryptographic enablers.

  A Zero-Knowledge Enabler: Can you prove you found Waldo without revealing the secret of his actual location on the page? There is a simple way to do so. Take a rectangular piece of white cardboard that is much larger than the book. Cut a hole exactly fitting Waldo to reveal his silhouette only, nothing else. You can now show Waldo to anyone, peeking out of the cardboard. Yet the cardboard is wide and opaque, hiding the book thoroughly, so a verifier has no idea where Waldo is on the page. The puzzle was solved, and someone verified the achievement, without revealing any knowledge of how to solve the puzzle. The secret is still safe, the task still just as difficult as before.

The “white cardboard” enables the zero-knowledge proof. In Platin, the “white cardboard” is a mathematical equation that hides the user’s exact location.

BB: Your ICO launches this week, but are you worried about ICO fatigue in the space?

 LW: It can be concerning, watching the market stall the way it has and entering bear-like hibernation. However, without sounding too full of ourselves, we really believe we’re creating something lasting and revolutionary. 

Cryptocurrency isn’t going away, and neither is blockchain. By giving people a secure and tangible way to collect, share, and use digital assets, we are opening the world up to a multitude of possibilities. People have been recognizing this in our project, and it’s brought a big wave of enthusiasm. We are in this for the long haul, and our supporters really gravitate toward that approach.

 BB: Platin also introduces a token, PTNX, can you explain its utility?

platin_pin PTNX LW: The PTNX protocol token is the gas that powers the proof of location system.

 The power of incentives in Platin’s Proof of Location protocol is one of the foundational insights that led to us founding Platin. Incentives are based on game theory models. They both encourage actors to nurture Platin’s strong, safe, peer-to-peer operation and discourage bad actors by punishing those who act maliciously.

 Let’s examine some of the players in the Platin ecosystem and how they use and are incentivized by this token:

    An “airdropper,” someone placing an airdrop–needs to provide PTNX to fuel and power the system.

    A “claimer,” someone claiming an airdrop. This person triggers the system to use the PTNX funded by the airdropper. It flows through the system incentivizing nodes participating in the proof of location process.

    An “adjuticator,” a node adjudicating a proof of location claim gets paid PTNX in exchange for this service.

    A node committing blocks to the Platin Plexus gets paid PTNX in exchange for his service to the system.

    A peer-to-peer witness gets paid in PTNX in exchange for the service of enhancing the proof of location claim.

BB: Can you tell us about your history in the cryptocurrency space and how it lead to Platin?

LW: My experience with cryptocurrency and blockchain began back in 2011. I was working at Cisco Secure Video with some of the world’s leading cryptographers,  included the inventor of Public Key Cryptography himself, Prof. Adi Shamir. 

We were all aware of bitcoin and admired its innovative structure, but did not see it as having any application to our business. It wasn’t until two years later that I got an opportunity to professionally re-engage with its technology when I participated in a special request on behalf of the Internet Identity Workshop to lead a committee and investigate blockchain’s suitability to forming a distributed identity system. 

This work was done in close association with Doc Searls, Joyce Searls and other doyens of the Identity space. That committee led to the spawning of an industry (e.g., Evernym, Sovrin) and I became fascinated with the potential of this new way of working. Even then, I had no direct application in my day-to-day work. Until I discovered that my colleague and friend, Allon was similarly fascinated by it. 

I hung out with Mason at Cornell University alumni events–we both studied there–and I always admired his drive and passion for the projects he developed over the years, particularly XPLace an online marketplace with hundreds of thousands of users and multi-million dollar annual turnover. We soon converged on the idea of making the coins more real, more tangible, more LOCATED, and Platin was born.

Conclusion

Platin piques interest for its playful use of real-world cryptocurrency airdrops and augmented reality. But there’s something more powerful going on here too. The platform threatens to disrupt the way we think about location services, making them altogether more secure and private. 

Platin’s ICO launches on Sunday 28th October with 30% of PTNX tokens made available to private and ICO investors. 

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Ben Brown

Editor, Block Explorer News

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