What has happened to trust? In the wake of stolen identities, fake news and algorithmic manipulation, it has mutated like some incongruous beast into something ephemeral, like a glitch that never gets fixed. Trust, in short, is broken and governments and banks need to earn it back.
This is a consequence of our times. Online information is not reliable and with the advent of GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks) it’s hard to tell a real photo from a fake, real audio from fake and so forth. We are living through a wave of misinformation, facing myriad truths with myriad platforms to express and promote them. It’s apocalyptic.
Trust has become a much sought after and necessary commodity. Tangem wants people and markets to see that trust can be tangible. Is it possible to replace the moral notion with a concrete, physical proof of trust? Can tech make trust physical? We believe so, and at Tangem we make it our mission to set the right technical conditions to bring about a new era of trust – a socio-technical solution that aims to impact both society and business.
First, let’s have a look at the trust shift in society through history to get a better idea of our solution in context and why we’re passionate about it. Trust has evolved in four significant phases: local, institutional, platform and distributed.
The concept of trust in business isn’t new, it’s been the linchpin of every commercial relationship. Trust was first built in tight knit groups. It was local and accountability based. Trust was face-to-face: friends, family, peer groups. But when business was physical that trust relationship was much easier — trust could be earned by seeing, talking, touching. It was all a bit more tangible.
We see more evidence of this in stage two: institutions. Institutions are the product of humans, created to lower uncertainty in exchange by defining rules and standards to foster trust. Take banks for example. To first establish an image of trust and reliability banks created impressive, expensive ‘safe’ buildings in central parts of cities. The solidity and grandness of their edifice is the metaphor for their reliability and endurance — a safe haven for your money.
In the third stage of trust, we see the economic trust of the internet evolve significantly as people put their faith in platforms to perform economic transactions. Poster boys of this stage include Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, Postmates, and Taskrabbit. Their ubiquitous adoption relies on a backbone that is fundamentally trust. It has not been completely successful. Uber has a terrible track record when it comes to keeping both its drivers and passengers safe, which has led them into a biometrics and accountability argument with government bodies such as Trasport for London (TfL).
Rewind the clock to the early 2000s, the ancestral days of the Nokia 3310. That legendary phone gave us simplicity, functionality, week-long battery life and Snake — the game that trained a generation of thumb muscles with its heart-racing 90 degree turns. The concept of hailing a cab via an app was futuristic; the concept of banking or shopping on your phone, laughable and untrustworthy. But now 14 million Uber rides are ordered every day.
We’ve Come a Long Way from “Stranger Danger”
We trust complete strangers: we sleep in their beds, get into their cars, entice them into our homes and ask them to help us assemble IKEA furniture. This system is highly dependent on trust.
In a mobile-first world, trust isn’t easy to establish, but it’s more important than ever before. As the boundaries of the digital world are expanding, people’s trust is shrinking. The problem is people are both increasingly dependent on, and distrustful of, digital technology. People are using tech tools more intensively in all aspects of daily life. Collective unease is building up as privacy diminishes. A new species of digital fraud and deception comes to light weekly and it scales quickly. According to ReviewMeta, an independent site that tracks the veracity of online feedback, claims of fakery on Amazon might also be fake. On Amazon, you can’t shop for sunscreen without encountering reviews claiming the product is counterfeit. But maybe the review itself was fake, planted by a competitor? Let us not forget Oobah Butler’s infamous fake restaurant ploy to hack TripAdvisor that saw his shed become the number one rated restaurant in London.
The internet has become a low trust society — you expect things not to be what they seem. You expect processes to be laborious and you expect to get conned. It’s difficult for markets to function and economies to develop in this climate. It’s harder to find or extend credit, it’s more risky to pay in advance, transactions are slow and authenticating goods is challenging. We have let let trust diminish too much.
How do We Adapt to This Trustless Society?
In stage four, trust is enabled through blockchain technology. Blockchain eliminates the need for a trusted intermediary to facilitate the exchange. For the first time in history, trust will be established not by economic institutions, political institutions, or intermediaries. Trust will be established by technology alone.
Blockchain brings a lot of promise, but it needs to earn trust first from users. Mainstream adoption is limited by a steep learning curve. We wanted to leverage and simplicity and bridge the digital and physical by creating tangible trust once more. We want to introduce a tangible trust that can be applied to multiple verticals.
This is Our Solution
Our solution is a physical smart card which allows safe and forgery-proof storage of digital assets such as cryptocurrencies, contracts or certificates on a blockchain. The key is the card, which is an elegant solution to the problem of key management. It’s designed for everyone – physical on-boarding with zero learning curve. Just tap the card on any NFC device and instantly verify key ownership and blockchain asset balance.
The Physical Implementation of Trust
Our first application of the card was a proof-of-concept for cryptocurrencies as self-custody instruments, however our chip to chain technology unleashes limitless possibilities across verticals: security, fintech, identification, loyalty, and anti-counterfeiting. It will transform industries such as luxury goods, pharmaceuticals, passports, events, logistics, and anything that requires blockchain-based proof of authenticity. These cards can certify that your trades are legitimate and your products aren’t counterfeit, while verifying that you are exactly who you say you are.
Our aim is to be a physical implementation of trust, by bridging existing use cases for blockchain with practical, tangible products.
We believe that the rejuvenation of an old format – a physical card, with all the tech inside – encourages simplicity and transparency. If trust is the currency of life, its ingredients are efficiency, ease of use, low cost, high security and tangibility. With these ingredients we can create a new basis of trust for business transactions that will contribute to a considerable simplification and acceleration of the economy.
The disturbing paradox of our times is that investing in our trustless economy is about the most trustworthy investment to make today. We believe however that we have found a way to beat back the tide of trustlessness by building the right technical conditions to create a new era of trust that leads to fair, prosperous and open societies. Our technology augments trust, because the trust is established by the tech alone. Ultimately no society or organization runs smoothly without trust.