FOAM: A mesh network that will help get rid of GPS? Or another $500M ICO scam?

Hi, guys. Today I’d like to change the format a bit and do kind of a step-by-step white paper review. I hope you’ll like it! Feel free to share your opinion on both the format and my thoughts.

Here is the whitepaper link —

Quote: “The FOAM Crypto-Spatial Coordinate (CSC) standard is a registry that enables the blockchain to act as a registry of spatial contracts and, by extension, allow spatial contracts to be queried and displayed on the Spatial Index Visualizer (SIV).“

My thoughts: OK, we’ve got some protocol to put geodata into the blockchain and an app on top of that to visualize the data.

Quote: “There are no open user experience standards for visualizing geospatial data from a blockchain.”

My thoughts: Yes, that’s correct. But who the hell needs to put the geodata into the blockchain!? OK, let’s continue.

Quote: “Currently there is no reliable and trusted location verification service. It is problematic to rely on GPS and it is not a viable tool when a smart contract needs to execute autonomously on spatial information.“

My thoughts: What? A Google autonomous-driving vehicle _can_ rely on GPS but smart contracts can’t? OK, let’s move on, and maybe I’ll be able to understand why such a high resolution and “reliability” is needed. And how FOAM will help us get rid of GPS.

Quote: “Crypto-Spatial Coordinates are Ethereum smart contract addresses with corresponding addresses positioned in physical space that are verifiable both on- and off- chain.“

My thoughts: OK, so we’ll end up with a smart contract that says, “The smart lock I am attached to is located in drrehu19f (NY, Central West Park, Building 123, etc., etc.).” Then we can verify that somehow.

Is this some sort of ZIP code attached to the smart contract?

Why would smart contracts need attached geo coordinates?

Quote: “The main achievement and contribution of this design would be allowing users to interact with the Ethereum blockchain and deploy smart contracts with geospatial parameters from within a web browser.”

My thoughts: Hmmm…. Why would I need that? But the next quote answers this question.

Quote: “The general design of the SIV is to enable a vast number of potential applications across different markets, for example a user interface for a decentralized ride-sharing ecosystem that empowers drivers and passengers to transact without middlemen, a control panel for blockchain-based supply chain management, or a spatial bounty game that may have similar elements as Ingress, Pokemon Go and CryptoKitties.”

My thought: The Pokémon Go example is awesome, and I can imagine FOAM as a good technology for doing that.

But the D-Uber example is a tough one. In the case of D-Uber + FOAM, the product would look like this:

  1. We have a lot of cars;
  2. We have no problems with the blockchain scaling (say we use some second-level super-hyper Raiden Network solution plus sharding);
  3. Each car has a smart contract attached;
  4. Each car has a current position (geotag) that is frequently changing;
  5. We want the map (cars->locations) to be open for anybody. (That’s why we put the data into the blockchain;
  6. And that’s why we use a protocol to publish and update the car coordinates?
  7. We end up using FOAM CSC?

FOAM could be used for that, but their D-Uber use case is different, I think. Let’s continue.

Why use CSC to store and retrieve geodata instead of a just a simple 50-lines-of-code solution?

Because of what?

Why as a developer can’t I use a simple mapping (geotag->address) instead of some special FOAM protocol? Every map app uses standard geotags, not FOAM-encoded identifiers. So the FOAM team is thinking it will force the whole Decentralized community to use its invented ZIP index for smart contracts. Also, in the case of D-Uber, I don’t have a clue how FOAM will make the D-Uber crypto economy better.

Another FOAM use case: Points of Interest (POI)

The FOAM team wants us to curate POIs using a Token Curated Registry (i.e., Curation Market). This is good. So the idea is that you start a list such as “Top 10 Manhattan restaurants” and eventually the community will be able to populate and curate/moderate it. You’ll end up with a list of top restaurants.

I really believe in TCRs — they’re a rare case of a good working crypto protocol.

This FOAM use case is at least easy to understand and prove.

Still, a POI TCR can be built using any geodata format and coordinates retrieval system (GPS, GLONASS, whatever). Manhattan restaurants have nothing to do with smart contracts, and they probably don’t have attached smart contracts. So even in this use case, CSC is not useful.

A replacement for GPS? But how? And why?

Quote: “Any user can verify off-chain if a CSC is where it claims to be by visiting the location and verifying the information on the blockchain.”

My thoughts: OK, so we have to go to New York and check if this smart lock is installed in the building? Is that what they call off-chain? OK, but then they want us to put the info into the blockchain, saying “Yes, the lock address is correct and verified by us”?

So they want the crowd to go and verify the lock address but never use GPS? I still don’t get it. My questions are as follows:

1. What will the (smart lock address) verification process look like?

2. How will this system not rely on GPS?

3. Why don’t we want to use GPS?

Here’s how Question #2 is answered by FOAM:

Quote: ”Zone Anchors can arrive at a consensus on whether something is located at a certain point in time and space based on the radio beacons.“


Ah, now I understand the D-Uber scenario!

1. They want us to put a lot of beacons in our towns.

2. The community will verify that those beacons have the correct geo-information attached — that’s what FOAM calls Proof of Location.

3. A D-Uber car driving through the beacons will get its position not from GPS, but from the beacons (through the smart contracts).

My final thoughts

Ok, they want to build or already built:

  1. FOAM protocol (the CSC) — a standard for storing geodata in the blockchain
  2. ProofOfLocation (decentralized consensus) verification process
  3. (can be thrown out) SIV — visualization app on top
  4. (can be thrown out) TokenCuratedList to curate POIs on top
  5. (what? What? WHAT?) “MESH NETWORK” to get rid of GPS??????

I don’t think that a lot of smart contracts will really need to have geodata attached. Some of them need that, like smart locks or Uber cars for example.

But just ask yourself: do you need geodata in your Dapp?

I need more information about how the FOAM crypto economy will work. Intuitively (without any math), I don’t think beacons will receive a lot of fees. FOAM has a token velocity reduction idea (“You stake your FOAM tokens in order to do something”) that’s good for the token price, but still….

I don’t agree with claims like “GPS is bad and we should get rid of it” or, “If we can get rid of GPS, we should.” Yes, GPS only works from time to time in big cities with skyscrapers, but still, this problem is synthetic and far-fetched.

I’m 99% sure this will end up as a “We need $500M+ to build beacons, so we started an ICO” kind of thing. Or better yet, “Our crypto protocol incentive model will give the beacon owners and verifiers a ton of fees, so our company is worth $500M already, so we started a huge ICO. And don’t forget our TokenCuratedRegistries and an App!” But I won’t believe either of these claims without crypto economy validation and proof.

I wish crypto projects would be humble!

I wish they’d verify a business model, then build the product and get a little money to bootstrap it, and then never do an ICO. Release tokens to the exchanges. Maybe use market makers. Show some traction. Then grow the price of the tokens 100x.

Guys, huge ICOs are bad for the crypto community. A huge ICO (most of them has no working business model) is in fact a perfect example of capitalism, plutocracy, and a monopoly.

The FOAM project is good. It is better than 90% of crypto projects. But in reality, i think that they don’t need huge money to bootstrap this kind of protocol.

See you!

p.s. (added later) my comment from the Reddit discussion

“But still, if you read the whitepaper (and i added a lot of qoutes) — you can clearly see that FOAM’s narrative is “we are [going to be] better than GPS”.

No, guys. Nobody would stop using GPS or WiFi-positioning systems. If you are building a product that will ADD THE CRYPTO incentives to the beacon positioning systems (for stores or buildings) -> then your narrative should be different. Some kind of “we are better than your exisiting WiFi positioning systems, better than Apple iBeacon”. Just Google, there are a lot of companies that doing that (beacons).”