Airbloc wants to bring a bit of trust to the data marketplace.

“As an analytics company, what we can see is that at the end of the day, users will be very cautious about sharing their data with companies,” says CEO Roi Nam. “And at the same time, companies will have trouble utilizing their data because they will be facing a lot of resistance from these users. So what we can do in this situation is make things clear.”

The DApp intends to bring that clarity by using blockchain to add transparency to data collection, from consent to monetization. Individuals will no longer have to worry about forged consents or manipulated data, while purchasers can rest easy knowing that the data they are buying is tamper-free and legitimately acquired.

Setting Straight a Misaligned Market

Founded by big data analytics firm Airbridge, Airbloc is an ambitious attempt to overcome the dangers and limitations of today’s personal data marketplace.

As it exists today, the marketplace puts all three of its stakeholders in an awkward situation. Individuals see their data rights infringed upon with alarming abandon, with devices and websites collecting and monetizing their personal data sans consent of the user. Data collectors, on the other hand, often sit on a ton of data ready for monetization, but find few legitimate marketplaces in which to sell it. Finally, there are companies that want to buy data for digital ad targeting, market research or other purposes, but are hesitant to do so because they don’t trust the legitimacy or sourcing of the data.

Airbloc CEO Roi Nam

Though legislative trends around the world are forcing users to reclaim their personal data rights, the existing centralized systems of data collection continue to breed distrust. Airbloc’s blockchain-based solution encourages participation in the market, however.

“In this market, there is a big misalignment among the stakeholders,” says Nam. “What we try to do is collect data with the users’ consent and store the data on blockchain so that we can have a very transparent user consent. Then we sell the data on a marketplace so that data purchasers can easily visit the market and buy data.”

Just a few lines of code

Airbloc’s software development kit, or SDK, makes it easy for websites or mobile apps to implement its data collection solution by adding just a few lines of code.

To illustrate how something like this might be used, Nam cites the example of a hypothetical credit card company. Since these companies store the entire transactional histories of users, histories that imply a lot about said users, it goes without saying that their data is extremely valuable. Perhaps the credit company wants to sell that data to one or several of the many companies that would love to purchase it. If the credit company installs Airbloc’s SDK to its mobile app, users will see a pop-up allowing them to give the company explicit permission to collect, utilize and monetize their transactional history.

Profits would be split between the credit card company and the individuals. The data, meanwhile, would be automatically collected by the SDK, uploaded to Airbloc’s server and exposed to the marketplace.

Airbloc is currently considering two incentive models. One would split profits between the individuals whose data is being collected and the data providers doing the selling based on a ratio agreed upon by both parties at the time of consent. The other utilizes a cost-per-action model in which individuals are rewarded each time their data is used.

No empty marketplace here

Airbloc boasts an enviable network of corporate connections, including major financial and e-commerce companies. Its enterprise clients include one of Korea’s largest e-commerce sites, GS Shop, one of the country’s largest business newspapers, the Korea Economic Daily, and one of its largest webtoon platforms, Battle Comics.

Airbloc is leveraging its network to build a new data alliance that will aggregate data upon consent. This alliance, to be announced soon, will show that the DApp’s business model works as a collaborative effort. Nam says, “What I realized is even before we decentralize things, there must a the minimum of strength to push the business itself.”

Nam explains that one potentially interesting use case of this might be identifying pet owners in Korea. Korea’s pet market, while still in its infancy, it now taking off. By looking at credit card histories, we can form complete user profiles upon consent that contain a lot of information regarding individual affinity for pets. Companies can use this information to target users for ads or push notifications regarding credit card loyalty programs for pets or recommended products at e-commerce sites. Nam says, “This end-to-end user scenario is the goal we’d like to build toward at the end of the day.”

Airbloc is currently going through the legal review phase with the big companies that make up the alliance. The product will be released after the review is complete. “I’ve seen a lot of empty data marketplaces out there claiming to be a marketplace without any real data,” says Nam. “The reason we’ve taken this big detour to build up a data alliance with all these big corporates is to actually have real substance to it.”

Building something every day

Airbloc is built upon ICON’s blockchain solution. Though location and personal connections helped get ICON selected, so did the company’s reputation and its mission of “hyperconnecting the world.”

“What I hear and see about ICON is always positive,” says Nam. “History has shown they are true pioneers of the industry. They have a proven technology and a proven record to not only just work with DApps like us but also to nurture all these DApps to achieve business implementation. I expected a lot from ICON, not only from the DApp perspective but also the business nurturing perspective, so that’s what we chose ICON in the first place.”

Building on blockchain can be a tough process. Nam notes that no one has yet to build a highly scalable blockchain solution that’s actually up and running, so everything a DApp company faces – both in terms of business model and technology – is new. There is no Stack Overflow for the would-be blockchain developer.

Still, it’s fun coming to the office every day and feeling like you’ve added another piece to the puzzle. “I enjoy the fact that we’re actually building something,” says Nam. “Even though it’s very slow, we’re building something every day. That makes me happy.”