Opening the door to the Economy of Things in the Web3 age
Bosch and fetch.ai are expanding their cooperation by establishing the fetch.ai foundation that will research, develop, and commercialize web3-technologies.
We are increasingly living in networked systems. The World Wide Web has become the most important private platform for making economic decisions – we use the internet to compare prices, purchase goods, and pay for them. Companies set up networks, both internally and with partners, to act faster and perform better. Their entire value chain is built up in these networks.
Now imagine that the next thing we’ll see will be machines that also organize themselves in networks and make decisions. Pie in the sky? No – this vision is very close to becoming reality. Cars, for example, are increasingly being networked to enable them to receive traffic information and share it with other vehicles. A logical next step would be cars that are capable of automatically selecting the nearest suitable parking place for us – not the nearest parking place that happens to be free, but the one that is most cost-effective for the car’s owner. The car works this out by weighing up the parking charges against the relevant route and the driver’s destination. In this way, everything involved in an Internet of Things will be capable of economic interaction in the future. One example might be an electric car that finds out the electricity prices applicable at nearby charging points and negotiates a good price. Or a washing machine in a smart home that automatically orders more detergent or requests a service callout.
Expansion of existing cooperation
Among other things, Bosch is creating the foundations for an Economy of Things (EoT) of this kind through joint projects with fetch.ai, a technology platform for Web3, machine learning, and autonomous economic activity by technical actors. Web3 refers to a new generation of the World Wide Web that is based on concepts such as blockchain datasets and decentralized organization. The aim of fetch.ai is to develop a Web3 technology stack that makes new types of peer-to-peer (P2P) business models possible. P2P models generate added value for their operators without the operators themselves having to get actively involved in this process. In Web3, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) methods, combined with agent technology – in other words, intelligent, semi-autonomous software – make it possible for technical objects to develop into economic subjects.
The collaboration started in 2019, when Bosch joined a fetch.ai test network. Since 2021, fetch.ai and Bosch Research have been R&D partners. In the open platform, Bosch implements its own solutions for mobility, smart homes, and Industry 4.0. The latest expansion stage of the collaboration is the joint establishment of the fetch.ai Foundation to conduct further research into Web3 technologies in the sectors mentioned, develop them, and get them ready for application.
The Foundation is keen to create an ecosystem of partners, who together will form an open-participation, decentralized development network. The partners will share data for the benefit of all, while the fetch.ai network will ensure that data security and intellectual property rights are maintained. “Secure, reliable calculations involving data supplied by multiple companies and actors are the key to the success of digital economies that are in line with European values. After all, both the raw data that is fed in and the data models that could potentially result from this should remain confidential if the corresponding business models make this a necessity,” says Nik Scharmann, Project Director of the Economy of Things strategic advance engineering project at Bosch. Web3 technologies make it possible to regain data sovereignty and control – which previously increasingly passed from the user to these platforms as a result of the centralized data platform economy – in decentralized structures, with the help of digital identities and smart contracts.
Creating value through shared knowledge
The Foundation’s design is based on that of the Linux Foundation, a decentralized open-source platform that has produced many IT innovations and made them publicly accessible. The fetch.ai Foundation will apply this model to technological and industrial environments. Bosch and fetch.ai, who will initially be joint chairs of the Foundation, aim to attract and bring in further important technology partners. The idea is that representatives of the partner institutions will gradually expand the Foundation Council.
Peter Busch, one of the Bosch representatives on the fetch.ai Foundation Council, which is starting out with six members, outlines the possibilities opened up by the foundation model: “The emerging network combines innovative Web3, AI, and open-source technologies with the tried-and-tested software and hardware capabilities of traditional technology and mechanical engineering companies. This demonstrates that shared knowledge generates added value, and that major advances in information technology give rise to actual industrial applications.” The joint development work is focusing on a wide range of topics: What must the actors in an Economy of Things know and be able to do in order to make cost-effective decisions? How do they learn to act cost-effectively and, at the same time, responsibly and ethically? And, last but not least, how can a fair value chain involving interaction between many partners be established?
From research into real-world applications
Thomas Kropf, President of the Corporate Sector for Research and Advance Engineering at Robert Bosch GmbH, believes that the collaboration with fetch.ai represents “another case of research results being successfully transferred to the actual implementation. Our Economy of Things research focuses in particular on the latest Web3 technologies and the AI methodology of collaborative learning. This AI methodology is reliant on decentralized structures in order to learn from data from highly networked, multi-stakeholder systems. To this end, with the fetch.ai Foundation, we are creating a digital infrastructure with fair governance that will enable the Bosch divisions to implement complex digital business models – especially those that are based on close collaboration with customers, partners, and competitors.”
The benefits people derive from using an Economy of Things are clear – they can have many decisions made for them. They benefit from the fact that networked, intelligent machines, which are permanently sharing and analyzing data, take more factors into account than human intellectual capacity is capable of when making complex decisions.