We live in a digital machine economy, producing a treasure trove of data over our lifetime. When combined, the data creates a valuable commodity.
Take crowd-sourced mobility platform, Waze. Using GPS and its app, over 100 million people share data insights and information such as construction, police activity, accidents, road closures, traffic jams, and speed traps, and update roads, landmarks, and house numbers through the online map editor.
Utilising the collected information, Waze provides routing and real-time traffic updates.
Google acquired Waze in 2013. Herein lies the problem for NATIX CEO Alireza Ghods.
He contributed to Waze for years, along with millions of others. When the company was acquired, he "didn't see a single dollar. It was just the management and investors."
Analysts calculate that people lose about $500 annually by voluntarily providing personal data to tech companies. This financial loss is expected to surge to $20,000 by 2034 as data increases in diversity and value.
NATIX is part of a machine economy where people can buy, sell, and trade data. Decentralised Physical Infrastructure Networks (DePINs) connect physical hardware devices and are supported by tokenised rewards.
The Hamburg company recently launched an AI-generated dynamic map. Combining computing vision with 45 billion existing cameras, the company aims to create the largest crowd-sourced camera network ever.
Starting with mobile phones, NATIX has developed Drive&, a drive-to-earn app.
It uses AI and edge computing to collect dynamic crowd-sourced geospatial data through users' smartphones into data-processing hubs accessing road users, pedestrians, traffic congestion, road conditions, unoccupied parking spots, and obstacles on the road, all while on the move.
Users earn points for driving with the app on and can redeem these for rewards such as smartwatches, skin products, and charitable donations.
The app has over 6,000 users who have mapped over 330,000 km in over 120 countries in just a few weeks.
"With our system, we recognise early contributors by offering a share of the economy. And by tokenising infrastructure, you also get a reward if the economy gets acquired someday."
Users include bike, car, truck, bus, and delivery drivers, and in just three weeks, over 6700 registered users, mapping over half a million kilometres, with almost 8 million data points.
In April this year, NATIX raised $3.5 million in seed funding led by Blockchange Ventures.
Privacy-first camera vision
With a PhD in wireless communication and a decade of experience building IoT communications, primarily in the autonomous driving sector, Ghods and co-founder COO and CPO Lorenz Muck realised the value of mapped data.
However, there's also the matter of privacy. Nobody likes being watched. Every day companies are fined for GDPR breaches, such as the ability to identify people's faces.
Just last week, Google started sending Street View cars to capture new imagery of the streets of Germany.
Earlier efforts were halted due to privacy concerns. While Google automatically blurs faces and number plates these days, it previously only started the manual process after privacy complaints.
In response, Natix has built its proprietary AI technology to make any camera smart and privacy compliant.
Its patent-pending technology allows any camera to scan its surroundings and detect events from the size of the crowd or the availability of parking spots. Protecting privacy, prevents cameras from capturing personal data such as faces or licence plates.
Alleviating the costs of commercial infrastructure
One of the most exciting aspects of Natix is that its using mobile phone cameras. It's part of a broader trend in IoT of using existing infrastructure (like Humanising Autonomy's work with local municipalities rather than investing in new hardware.
I believe the cost of hardware (including purchasing, installation, and maintenance) is what left many smart city projects abandoned at the pilot phase.
In earlier work focused on CCTV cameras, the company realised that the cost of the cameras, cabling installation, and computation power soon add up once you want to scale. The company came up with the idea of the Natix network with the capacity to scale from mobiles to drones, CCTVs, and connected vehicles.
Crowdfunded mapping means that customers get data without paying for installing and maintaining hardware.
End-users include mapping and navigation companies, mobility services providers such as parking apps, and municipalities wanted to monitor physical street health (think potholes and debris) and inventory assets such as traffic signs.
Web3 is finally coming into its own
As someone who has written about IoT for a long time, I've long been a fan of peaq, the Web3 network powering the Economy of Things. — If you're interested in the practical application of blockchain tech in mobility, check out this deep dive into efforts by Peaq, various OEMs, and consortiums.
With offices in Singapore and Germany, peaq enables entrepreneurs and developers to construct innovative decentralised applications and DePINs tailored for vehicles, robots, and various devices. In doing so, peaq empowers users to exercise governance and earn profits as connected machines deliver goods and services within the ecosystem.
The Drive& app leverages self-sovereign peaq IDs for devices making up its DePIN to decentralise its identity stack and bring additional rewards to its users from peaq's machine reward mechanism.
Leonard Dorlöchter, the co-founder of peaq, explained that:
"DePINs can scale faster than traditional infrastructure providers, and using this model for consumer devices like smartphones amplifies this scalability even more.
We're excited to see NATIX spearhead this model for the first sensor DePIN on peaq, and its masterful use of AI for ensuring user privacy is a great example of putting this amazing technology to work for a good cause."
It's great to see DePINs providing another tangible commercial layer to Web3.
The best-known DePIN use case is the p2p wireless network Helium, where participants deploy a Helium Hotspot in their home or office for low-power IoT or cellular devices and earn Helium tokens. There's also a decentralised storage network Filecoin.
However, regarding NATIX, their primary rival is Hivemapper, a company established in 2015. Hivemapper has already secured l $21 million in funding and possesses an impressive collection of over 1 million kilometres of distinct street-level imagery.
In comparison, Google boasts an extensive database of 60 million kilometres.
Consequently, NATIX faces a significant challenge in scaling up its operations. But it's early days, and this is an opportunity for a European company to take the lead in crowd-sourced data monetisation — NATIX is emerging as a formidable player in the industry.