At the start of the imposed social distancing measures, the presidents’ confidence was that any economic disruption would be temporary and fairly brief.
Analysts almost universally predicted a US “V” recovery – a rapid fall with a quick stop, then a quick reset to normal. From start to finish, things would recover by the end of 2020.
But things now seem much less certain in this regard. While some experts predict a quick reset, a growing chorus of voices notes that the slowdown may continue for some time.
However, PYMNT surveys have found that consumers are eight times more afraid of dying from COVID-19 than they are of losing their jobs or their eggs. As a result, many will need a little persuasion to get back into the real world.
They must believe that the rewards of real trade are worth the frictions and health risks – outweighing what they will receive if they avoid a physical experience for the digital ones they are used to in the past two months.
It’s a tall order, said Jonathan Johnson, CEO of Overstock, to Karen Webster in a recent digital chat, but the power of blockchain can be key to tackling it. He said he plans to use blockchain to create consumer-controlled private “immunity passports”, which will make customers and businesses more comfortable in a real environment.
That’s why Medici Ventures, Overstock’s investment arm, turned to companies like Evernym and Vital Chain. These startups leverage blockchain technology to create application-based solutions that will allow individuals to upload and control their health records and selectively share them with businesses, industries and organizations. health.
Johnson noted that when we think about what it will really take the average consumer to feel safe sitting on an airplane, in a restaurant or in a store, it is the knowledge that not everyone around them is not infected with coronavirus.
“I think the solution we are investing in development is to solve a problem that people will want to solve,” he said. “An immunity passport is what it will look like for many industries. If I can prove that I have the antibodies or that I got rid of the infection completely, and I can show it on an immunity passport, it’s pretty powerful. “
Or at least it could be, in terms of providing a reintegration plan for consumers and businesses that balances people’s need for privacy with their need to feel secure and confident when interacting with the physical world. But, noted Johnson, the first challenge is adoption.
Get people to try something new
Webster asked about blockchain-developed immunity passports in relation to the use of the Chinese government-enforced passport immunity app, and whether they are designed to work in a similar fashion.
“Well, I never want to say that we are similar to China,” noted Johnson, saying that the main difference between Overstock’s immunity passport and the Chinese QR code option is the choice. .
The consumer chooses to access their health record via a blockchain transaction, then chooses the companies with which they want to share information, he said.
What will likely push adoption is that some companies are encouraged to use this technology – and require the presentation of a clean immunity passport.
“If you are the Cleveland Indians or the Browns or the Cavaliers, your biggest interest right now is to get people back in the seats and watch the games at their stadium,” said Johnson. “It creates their incentive to demand these.”
As for consumers, their motivation for adoption is quite simple: they will want to go to a ball game, fly on an airplane or eat in a restaurant and will have to participate.
Will it be time to shine in the blockchain?
Looking at ten-year-old blockchain technology, you tend to wonder why something touted as a “world-changing” innovation has not had a greater impact so far.
Johnson agreed that the blockchain has been underutilized so far, but said he didn’t think it was necessarily a reflection on the technology itself. He said Overstock continues to believe that the blockchain is “the most significant advance since the invention of the Internet.”
The problem, he said, is that blockchain tends to get confused with its first killer use case – cryptocurrency.
As a transactional technology, cryptocurrency has uses that Overstock has seen on its retail site Overstock.com, said Johnson. To buy something by traditional means, customers have to spit out a lot of information about themselves – names, email addresses, credit card numbers, additional security code, and their delivery and billing addresses.
But when they buy with bitcoin, they only have to provide one piece of information – a delivery address. The use of blockchain technology creates a self-sovereign identity that matters directly in the transaction and allows for smoother and simpler authentication.
The problem, noted Johnson, is bitcoin because a use case has speed issues in terms of timing transactions correctly.
“I don’t think it’s immediate enough for payments in some cases,” he said. “It’s difficult when I’m in a 7-Eleven and I have to wait for the bitcoin blockchain to confirm the sale. It will not work for most people. “
But a solution that makes consumers and businesses feel more comfortable going back to physical transactions will be. And the unique blockchain mechanism for securely transferring information unalterably makes it ideal for building immunity passports – even if those who use them have no idea that they are working with the blockchain.
In fact, Johnson has said he advises companies in which Overstock invests not to mention blockchain technology too much, as this will lead them to a bunch of tangential conversations about cryptocurrency.
“I have worked for an Internet company for a long time, [and] I have no idea how my phone works, but I know the apps, I know how I like to use it, and I know the solutions it offers to solve the problems I need, “said Johnson. “I advise companies to talk about the problem [they’re addressing] and how the application solves it. The fact that it is on blockchain and that is why the solution works is less important. “