ICO Analysis: FOAM Protocol

All the cool Decentralized Apps of the future that require mapping and tracking lack a way to come to a consensus on the location of objects and entities in space and time. New start-up FOAM is a Proof of Location Protocol looking to incentivize users to build a consensus-driven map of the world. They will also provide the tools to create, view and interact with this map.

“At FOAM, we are committed to building spatial protocols, standards and applications that bring geospatial data to blockchains and can empower a consensus-driven map of the world”

Based on Ethereum, FOAM is an extremely technical project. A lot of what they are trying to do has never been done before.

Token mechanisms and crypto-economics underpin the elements of FOAM and empower the distributed users to coordinate and interact in a decentralized and permissionless fashion.

Each of the three component elements of FOAM (pictured above) are designed to address three specific problems with current spatial protocols:

  1. Crypto Spatial Coordinate Standard:  Establishes standards for embedding physical location in Ethereum smart contracts. “The CSC is effectively a human-readable paired representation of a geohash and an Ethereum address, together with an immutable pairing of the two on the blockchain. It is possible to verify the CSC of a contract and its associated geohash. The protocol allows the CSC to be mapped back to the original geohash and address on-chain using the registry for any smart contract to utilize and reference.”
  2. Spacial Index and Visualization Webapp: A visual blockchain explorer for creating, viewing and interacting with Crypto-Spatial Coordinates on a web map. The SIV can serve as the front-end for decentralized applications and will facilitate FOAM’s token curated registries for geographic points of interest.
  3. Proof of Location: GPS is not a viable tool when a smart contract needs to execute autonomously on spatial information. FOAM protocol breaks Proof of Location into two categories: static and dynamic. Static-proof of location allows FOAM cartographers to apply token curated registries to geographic points of interest (POIs) to generate trusted and reliable POI data. Dynamic proof of location utilizes a decentralized and permissionless network of radio beacons to determine if and when a particular entity was at a certain location. It is done in a privacy-preserving manner and utilizes a Byzantine fault tolerant protocol to prevent fraud.

“The goal of the FOAM Proof of Location solution is to provide the framework and infrastructure to support a decentralized, privacy preserving, highly accurate, censorship resistant alternative to the Global Positioning System (GPS). Secure location data is a fundamental infrastructure needed to achieve the full vision of the a decentralized ‘web3’ economy and can foster an ecosystem of applications built on top of a verified location standard. Proof of Location is the primary utility arising from use of the CSC and SIV elements discussed above. Proof of Location is a solution to provide consensus on whether an event or agent is verifiably at a certain point in time and space.”

This gets very detailed. To learn all about the FOAM system see the technical and general whitepapers.

Token

FOAM is a utility token with a few different purposes.

Token Curated Registries

A new way to incentivize curators to create content for lists. Imagine Yelp combined with Google maps, combined with crypto. Content is backed by staked tokens and token holders vote on additions to the list with the goal of raising the value of their token by producing a valuable list. Users can add points of interests POI to the map, validate new candidates and verify the map by visiting real world locations. Users can deposit FOAM tokens into POIs on the map to increase attention those POIs might receive.

Signaling for Zone Incentivization

Zone Anchors and Zone Authorities are rewarded FOAM token block rewards for setting up and maintaining Zones. From the whitepaper:

“Block rewards and the increase of a physical infrastructure will hopefully contribute to extending the geographical coverage of Proof of Location and its network effects. FOAM establishes a mechanism to incentivize the staking of tokens in a geographically diverse manner. Signaling occurs on the Spatial Index, where users place indicators in areas where they need decentralized location-based services, which are then recognized within the token reward structure of the block rewards. Additionally, tokens in block rewards are spatially weighted by the signal. This further incentivizes the growth and dissipation of the network across a variety of users and locations. Prior to the initiation of mining, participants will signal where location services are needed, and in doing so increase the eventual block reward of that location. This incentive mechanism is to coordinate contributors, in a grassroots fashion, to operating the protocol.”

A lot more info is available in the technical whitepaper.

Distribution:

  • 30% of the FOAM Token supply will be sold to purchasers during the FOAM Token Sale
  • 25% Compensatory purposes
  • 10% Reserved for grants and developers
  • 35% for mining rewards to “zone anchors”

All 300 million FOAM tokens being sold will be distributed to purchasers proportionally regardless of total U.S. dollar of FOAM tokens purchased during the sale. This means any unsold tokens will be divided up evenly to contributors.

Team

The team is based in New York City. Interestingly, they didn’t provide work history info on the website.  Looking into the three co-founders, they are young and don’t have a ton of work experience. Despite this, they come off as very knowledgeable in their blogs, interviews and Telegram channel. They have put in a couple years of work already, and it shows.

Ryan John King is Co-Founder and CEO. He has a BA in Economics from UMass and graduated 2013. He obtained Master’s in architecture from Colombia in 2014. He was a private Consultant on urban development and blockchain technology from 2014-2016. Started FOAM project in 2015. Under his name on LinkedIn he says, ” I work between Real Estate, Architecture, Political Economy and Digital Technology.”

Kristoffer Josefsson is Co-Founder and CTO. Associate Geometer at Foster+Partners from 2010-2014. Blockchain Geometer from 2015-2017 at BlockApps (BlockApps was the first company incubated out of Consensys in 2015 and continues to lead blockchain technology implementation for enterprise & startups alike.)

Ekaterina Zavyalova is Co-Founder and COO. She obtained a Master’s in Architecture from SCIA 2010. She served as project manager/designer for CDR Studio between 2012-16. She has been with FOAM since 2015.. The website says she’s an award-winning architect and a leading industry voice recognized by the American Institute of Architects.

Nine other core team members are listed, including two impressive advisors – One from OpenStreetMaps, and the other founded Augur.

Some strong partnerships:

TrustedIoTalliance

Enterprise Ethereum Alliance

Other partners include Status, uPort, Dether, OGC and Perkinscoie.

Verdict

This has massive potential. The use cases, including ones the world hasn’t even imagined yet, are endless. Real Estate, Gaming, Supply Chain, etc. can all be improved by using this protocol. Here’s a great blog on Medium that gets into the different possible ways the team sees FOAM being used in the future.

But with that potential comes risk. The deck is very stacked against this project before it gets off the ground.

Risks

  • Current Ethereum gas prices are too high to make this protocol work. It will be a long time before this problem is fixed. -2
  • Competition: OpenStreetMap (OSM) is an open source and collaborative mapping project that is free to use and created by millions of participants around the world. OSM is gaining traction on Google, and is currently used by Mapbox, Apple Maps, PokemonGO, Foursquare, and Craigslist among others. However, it cannot work with blockchain. Google remains the ultimate leader. For Google, POI data is not collected but created out of Street View and Satellite View data which allows an unprecedented quality, coverage, and scale that is substantially ahead of any competitor. And then on the blockchain, XYO project is doing similar things, but they are an Oracle network. -1
  • Storage issues: Storing a worldwide maps worth of data on blockchain is complicated. The team does not have a certain solution yet, but they are going to try IPFS. -1
  • The project has to scale first, then be successful. This seems like it will be really hard to do. What is going to inspire users to jump on board? -1

Growth Potential

  • Their GitHub and Medium blogs are very active. +1
  • They’ve been in the game a couple years, and have an active beta which can be demo’d here. +3
  • Their Twitter was made in Sept 2016, and they have 7,861 followers.+1
  • Partnerships with TrustedIotAlliance and Ethereum Enterprise Alliance +3
  • The two Co-Founders made a very detailed and well thought out whitepaper. They are extremely intelligent and knowledgeable, which they demonstrate in their latest appearance on the “Hashing it Out ” Podcast Episode #15 .+1
  • They are also connected with Consensys. +2

Disposition

“Bitcoin demonstrated how to build decentralized infrastructure, offering people returns for joining and participating in the network. In other words, just as the growth of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many other blockchains were assisted by crypto-economic incentives, so too is the FOAM protocol assisted by incentives to build out the hardware to provide a decentralized alternative to GPS. Similar to other blockchain mining, Zone operators on the FOAM protocol are in essence providing comparable work to Bitcoin miners”

This is a tough one to score. It’s very technical and complicated. The team is smart, legit and well connected. They are also flexible and have plenty of time to find solutions to the problems they face. Even with all that, there’s a good chance this fails. There’s so many hurdles to overcome, like storage and ETH gas prices and speed.

It does have massive long-term potential. We score it  6/10.

Investment Details

Special Note

  • Tokens will only be sold to registered purchasers that intend to use them to curate the network map and contribute to the long-term development of the FOAM protocol. The FOAM Token Sale has been designed as part of the Brooklyn Project Framework and intends to implement certain relevant provisions from the Token Foundry Standards for consumer tokens. The specific details of the FOAM Token Sale are contained in the terms of sale available to registered purchasers prior to purchase.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Author:
Joshua Larson is also known as the "Bullshit Man" for his ability to spot it a mile away. Avid ICO researcher and contributor. Former professional poker player/backer. Spent 10 years analyzing hand history, stats, and player data. Discovered blockchain in late 2016, and never looked back. He now uses his analysis skills to investigate ICOs full time. What a perfect match, because in today's crazy world of ICOs, information, passion, and diligence = dollar bills!