20 February 2020

Building a digital world with a social consciousness is the shared philosophy of 4 European startups, all getting closer to validating their concept. The 4 small businesses, together with 4 European universities, are members of ARTICONF, a unique consortium that researches and develops tools for trustworthy and decentralised social media. This month, just a year after its launch, ARTICONF will present their progress in the academic research and the use case development, at the upcoming project review in Brussels.

Agilia from Spain is to launch a car sharing service that focuses on open transactions, while  respecting full anonymity and personal information. To this end they have used a permissioned Blockchain network to provide improved transparency and full control over the users’ personal  data. ‘We want to take our part in stopping the spiral where consumers’ data are used without any consequence by other suppliers, companies and social media sites, simply because the supplier does not respect privacy of information’ – says Carlos Rubia, CEO of Agilia Center. This approach, in combination with a seamless service attitude promises high hopes for Agilia. ‘For the time being we are currently testing the mobile application and designing an advanced secure storage to improve privacy in the blockchain implementation’ said Carlos Rubia. 

Exploring and implementing the concept and practice of smart energy is the focus for Norwegian startup bitYoga. ‘We acknowledge that trust in centralised services is rapidly deteriorating. Only those services that can deliver demonstrable trust will be successful in the digital era’, says Russel Wolff, Chief Operating Officer of bitYoga. Bityoga provides transparency, accountability and full control on the data of energy services consumers, including the possibility to retract previously shared information. ‘This is how, for example, a house owner can earn value on the data they have shared with their energy supplier. If they wish, they can withdraw their previously shared data sets. This guarantees that they do not pay dearly with their privacy, just for having heating or being able to switch on the light. This will clearly be a game changer’, summed up Wolff.

MOG Technologies from Portugal intends to encompass the vision of developing more decentralized and informal social media networks. ‘Networks owned by large companies such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram will gradually lose some of their importance in favour of more localized communities. Or vision is to create a decentralised social network as an on demand service.’ – says Alexandre Ulisses, Innovation and Funding Director of MOG Technologies. MOG will offer a platform to crowd mobile users who are willing to contribute with videos that are representative of an event, when something relevant occurs. The videos will be forwarded to a viewing platform where consumers can watch and qualify each video according to their own preferences. At the end of the event, the different videos will be stored and available for acquisition, with all the transactions visible in the blockchain. ‘We consider this as a model for decentralisation of power and empowerment of the users’, finalised Ulisses.

‘We re-introduce trust with talking faces to the broken review systems’, said David Sarlos, founder of Vialog. ‘The embeddable video commenting widgets enable thematic commenting for groups and communities, mobilising users to engage in meaningful discussions on topics that matter to them. Working with category A film festival PÖFF Black Nights, we’ve already seen strong signals in the film industry, between filmmakers and the audience that video dialogues fundamentally change fanship and marketing, as well as accountability and transparency’. Vialog is also looking into business models where micropayments for insightful or useful video comments can be established, a bit like how Spotify’s business model is set up for music artists. With the rise of social commerce and fake review scandals the critical role of video reviews is an important one to watch. 

With system requirements and architecture design elaborated, all the 4 use cases have started development of their solutions. To start with, as an example for democratising social networks, the use case of the new car sharing initiative will be presented in Brussels. Incorporating feedback from the reviewers will then help ARTICONF on its mission to develop tools for trustworthy and decentralised social media.