Sixty thousand people, tattered clothes, starving and in need of help. This isn’t a third world country, it’s the homeless population in New York. Homelessness continues to be an epidemic in America, and in the country’s most populated city, it’s more pressing now more than ever. Countless initiatives have been launched focusing on food distribution, and some aim to tackle supplies. Recently, Citypak aimed to bring comfort to the homeless with the introduction of specialized backpacks designed to carry belongings and equipped for any weather setting.
Advancements have been made for physical elements, but few focus on the financial ailments of the homeless and their lack of access to resources. Financial inclusivity has long excluded those without homes. Without a permanent address and a living wage, many municipal resources are inaccessible to the people who need them the most. The introduction of the cellphone puts these resources within reach.
The stereotype of homeless people is often associated with mental illness and inept and incapable individuals, but the reality is, this group is more often than not aware, coherent, and technologically savvy. They’re just struggling to make a living wage.
Applications like Fummi based in New York have partnered with companies like Life Wireless to give phones to homeless people. By summer 2018, Life Wireless will have distributed 200,000 phones to people with and without shelter. With a phone in hand, the Fummi app allows them to receive crypto and traditional currency in their digital wallets by completing a series of tasks, like achieving financial goals or referring friends. The capabilities of blockchain allow for the distributor of cash to monitor transactions and see the destination of the money distributed. The introduction of the “trust protocol” gets rid of buyers’ remorse by allowing the giving party to ensure the money is used on worthwhile goods and services rather than drugs and alcohol. For Fummi the source of the funds is a monthly surcharge and an impending ICO.
Similar advancements are being made across the pond in the UK with the company Hypergive at the helm. Hypergive has a similar business model to that of Fummi but foregoes the free phones for a prepaid ‘care card,’ and focuses on community partnerships that will have agreed to accept their crypto coin. The app establishes a digital and physical footprint for the homeless users.
Economist everywhere have gone on the record to say Blockchain will be here for years to come. Much of the skepticism regarding the market is a question about longevity and sustainability for the crypto itself. Many believe the crytpo/Bitcoin market is all hype and speculation. This would be alarming if it weren’t its first time around.
Technology revolves around a cycle in which things are invented, forgotten, and then reintroduced years later, with new branding and new applications built on hype. I like to call this the “circle pivot.” This circle pivot starts with a primitive initial introduction, a rest period, a reintroduction, a hype period, traction, and finally, mainstream acceptance.
This has been the case for many recent business models. The first introduction of augmented and virtual reality was brought on in 1995 by Nintendo’s Virtual Boy console. The headset was rudimentary, but impressive for its time, helping users visualize the game in an immersive experience. Oculus Rift would further develop the idea years later. It’s the same case for cryptocurrency, which was introduced in 1983, when David Chaum introduced ‘Digi Cash.’ In 1998, Nick Szabo followed up with ‘Bitgold.’ The circle pivot only happened years later with its reintroduction in 2009 with Satoshi Nakamoto and Bitcoin.
This is rapidly becoming a widely accepted platform for two main reasons: the audience and the application. For crypto this time around, the underlying platform of blockchain is readily accepted for two main reasons: the audience and the application has changed. The audience of donors and investors are looking for a decentralized market that provides more transparency. The application now proves successful with the integration of e-commerce sites unlike the initial offering of Digicash. With the ripeness of the audience and application homelessness is the clear runaway of problem cases to tackle. The transparency behind blockchain capabilities of its investors allow the homeless access to funds, information and potentially opportunities they might not see otherwise. Cryptocurrency and blockchain is the solution we wish we had years ago.
While crypto may be in the hype period, Blockchain has skipped the hype phase, jumping directly to acceptance. The pivot concept lends itself to the question, what other technologies have yet to be reintroduced ? What technologies can we build off of and leverage to further the fight for the homeless. Maybe the answer is already out there. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we just need to pivot.