[ Interview by Mart]
Tangleverse Times: Could you briefly introduce yourself for those who don't know you?
Benjamin Bönisch: In my role as VP Digital Products & Services at ETO GRUPPE I manage all venture projects. Venture is the testing ground ETO has created to successfully and sustainably meet the digital transformation of the service and product portfolio. In this context, I am also responsible for strategic cooperations, acquisitions and ecosystem building, primarily involving new IoT-related B2B and B2C business fields. These include, for example, current new developments such as farm sensors and irrigation valves, which will be marketed by ETO‘s subsidiary farmunited GmbH. We also bring innovations to the market in business areas such as traffic monitoring, precision farming as well as health care. For our IoT devices we put a clear focus on distributed ledger technology. The combination of DLT and Self Souvereign Identities enables our users to manage the sovereignty of their personal data.
TvT: What was the process of incorporating something novel into your product(s) like? Was it like “yeah that makes sense let’s just do it” or did you need to convince a lot of people that DLT can add value to your product?
BB: It all started with the nomination for „ALFRIED“, a project in which ETO develops smart traffic sensors. The project is subsidized by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport. We combined all available new technologies and highlighted them in a project paper on the benefits of DLT. The paper already covered all topics we are still working on, such as decentralized identities, secure data transfer, or cryptocurrency microtransactions to enable machine economy. We were encouraged by the very positive feedback we received from the government, which was a strong confirmation that we had been heading in the right direction. Later on, Germany published the Blockchain Strategy, which further motivated us to continue on this path. Now, with MiCa being in place, we perceive this as a further confirmation that we have evolved from high risk development to a more mature and regulated approach. Actually we never had to convince anybody in management. ETO Venture was designed for exactly such kind of technology perspectives. We even took the quick decision to invest into filancore, a company specializing on decentralized identity mangement. They support from the very beginning with all topics around Self Souvereign Identities.
TvT: How do the farmers perceive the addition of DLT in Farmsense? Is it hard for them to grasp? Is it easy to use for them?
BB: We are about to enter the market, so there is little experience available yet. It will be very interesting to see what happens when farmers not only sell potatoes or wheat, but also weather and soil data. It may also change the perception of data ownership. So far all players in the market use the farmers data, aggregate and monetize them without any participation of the farmer. The farmers even have to accept this in the general terms & conditions. We do not believe in this concept in the future. Web3 means that the person that owns the hardware and creates the data should decide how the data can be used and monetized. It is a long road but we are starting to walk now.
TvT: Are there any plans to monetize the data? Does it make sense in your use cases or is it more about being secure and tamper-proof?
BB: Farmers will be the ones selling their data. We implement a platform fee to run and maintain the entire IoT platform, support the wallets and Apps etc. ETO is a foundation. We want to give a value back to the society. This really is a strong motivation for the ETO GRUPPE and one of the reasons I like to work here. Tamper proof data and secure login comes as an additional benefit, but it is not the main driver to build the ecosystem.
TvT: Speaking of reliable and secure data transmission, the community discusses a lot how and if IOTA is uniquely positioned for use cases like Farmsense or also Project Alvarium for example. From your perspective, are there any alternatives that could do the job?
BB: We need to be open for all technologies at all times. We can also not decide for or against DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication protocol), V2X or 5G. We define our requirements and try to find the best suitable technology for it. Scalability, secure network, no or low transactions fees and a high degree of decentralization are extremely important. At the same time, we will not accept high ecological impacts on the environment. If the CO2 footprint is too high we will not go for it. We need a layer 1 solution that solves these topics. Furthermore there are very special requirements coming from cryptographic support of hardware. We need to establish communication between machines. There is still work to do until a DLT can offer all of the features we need.
TvT: Tokenizing real world assets might be one of the next big things in crypto. Do you see any potential in your crypto related projects, or would just be a nice but not really necessary addition?
BB: We focus on what we have started. At the moment we are developing service features, which allow our users to monetize their own data. We cannot jump everytime the market changes its opinion about what is hyped or not. There is definitely a benefit in NFTs and ownership management. And there will be new features coming in the future.
TvT: What are your next plans? Do you have any other ideas that could leverage IOTA or DLT in general?
BB: We have many further plans to use the DLT technology. More projects are coming to the market, but we need to finish what we have started first. I also see other industry companies doing PoCs but not communicating at all. It seems that everybody remains in a waiting position.
TvT: How was your experience at the EIC (European Identity and Cloud Conference)? Are the participants / companies aware of the value that Distributed Ledger Technology can bring?
BB: At the EIC we saw the first companies that offer SSI and DID Solutions. But the activities were still focused on Public Key Infrastructure. We noticed that many participants were not aware of these new technologies, even though the potential benefits are enormous. The identity market will grow exponentially due to the fact that IoT devices, smart cars, smart homes etc. simply need solutions. As soon as SSI is more mature other companies will pick up the technology for sure.
TvT: Purely from a technological point of view, where do you think crypto stands in, let’s say 5 years time?
BB: With MiCa in place in Europe I am 100% sure it will be fully accepted in Europe and DLT will play a major role. In my opinion it will not be noticed in the general public because it runs on every system like TCP/IP. Who cares how exactly emails are being sent? As long as it is free to send them.
TvT: Did you get in touch with Shimmer either personally or with ETO group / Farmsense?
BB: No, not yet. But never say never.