These days, it seems that almost everyone is participating in the “sharing economy” in one way or another. Whether you rent a room through Airbnb or make some extra cash working as a Lyft driver on the weekends, the basic principle behind these platforms is the same. We are becoming increasingly comfortable with sharing parts of our lives (our homes, our cars, etc.) once thought of as purely personal in exchange for a nice profit.
It’s clear that there is great demand for these peer-to-peer transactions — Airbnb alone has over 4 million listings worldwide, while Uber and Lyft have significantly disrupted the lending and cab driving industries in New York City.
While the sharing economy has typically been associated with transactions between individuals, Path is looking to take this business model to new levels with a combination of big data and blockchain technology.
After all, companies need data. From optimizing website performance to fine-tuning marketing campaigns, high-quality data is essential for making the right business decisions. The problem, of course, is that collecting such information is often easier said than done. But if Path’s business model proves successful, internet users around the world will gladly provide this valuable data in yet another twist on the sharing economy.
Path operates by taking advantage of the unused bandwidth on a user’s network. With the user’s permission, Path utilizes that extra space to perform various tasks on behalf of its clients. These tasks cover a wide range of important web activities, from performance and uptime monitoring to interaction testing and path visualization. Path’s data collection services can even be used to assist in DDoS monitoring, while data aggregation provides in-depth reports to clients.
While some tasks may only require a single node, others could require hundreds. Because data is being shared from users around the world, however, Path would always have the necessary bandwidth to perform whatever task is required by its clients.
Installing Path doesn’t require much on behalf of those who will be sharing their bandwidth, either — simply installing a browser plugin or mobile app will allow Path’s mining nodes to work in the background. Path’s monitoring activities won’t have a negative impact on a user’s normal web browsing experience. Because the platform only uses excess bandwidth, consumers won’t have to worry about unexpected slowdowns or other browsing issues while Path is in operation.
Because the information is collected, encrypted and stored using blockchain technology, the data is fully transparent. Clients don’t have to worry about the possibility of data being tampered with or deleted. In addition, the use of multiple worldwide monitoring locations provides a level of redundancy and visibility that wouldn’t be available through a traditional data center
By using the blockchain to collect insights from around the world, global brands can have the assurance that their websites function properly no matter where someone might be trying to reach them
Of course, the average web user isn’t going to hand over their bandwidth simply because a company has asked for it — especially in this day and age when digital privacy concerns continually dominate headlines. This is why Path also uses the blockchain to compensate customers for sharing their data.
The idea is simple. As Path completes various monitoring tasks on a user’s shared bandwidth, that same user is rewarded with Path tokens (the same tokens that clients use to pay for monitoring services). By essentially monetizing the sharing of this data, web users become much more likely to be willing to provide their bandwidth to Path mining nodes. Additionally, users have the option to turn monitoring on or off as desired, allowing them to maintain a desired level of privacy.
The idea can be compared to incentivizing surveys. Without any form of compensation, customers rarely respond to survey questions, even when they can make a big difference for a company’s practices. Yet even a small incentive can dramatically increase response rates — as one study noted, “Even finding a $1 bill in a paper survey has been shown to surprise the participant, generating more interest in the survey and higher response rate percentages.
In other words, providing this compensation makes web users enthusiastic about sharing their bandwidth, giving companies key insights that they would otherwise miss out on altogether.
The Perfect Match
Though consumers don’t want to give up elements of their lives for free, the success of other peer-to-peer businesses has shown that the ability to make a profit can quickly change mindsets. After all, the very concept of getting a ride from an Uber driver or staying at someone’s house through Airbnb once seemed strange and even scary to some people. Today, however, these sharing economy services are a readily accepted part of life.
Likewise, initial interest in Path shouldn’t come as a surprise. As this blockchain platform makes an impact for both businesses and everyday internet users, sharing personal bandwidth won’t be seen as strange or invasive. Instead, it will become yet another way that the sharing economy and the blockchain disrupt old practices and change the economy forever.