IOTA has revealed that it is adding geotagging capabilities to its transactions. The platform’s new standard, which is called IOTA Area Codes (IACs), will allow users to mark their transactions at any point on the globe. In turn, developers will be able to build new applications that make use of pinpointed locations.
How It Works
In addition to transferring IOTA tokens, transactions on IOTA can contain information. This means that geolocation data can be easily stored and retrieved. For example, an IOTA user could look up a particular transaction or location. In response, they could be shown something related to that location, such as a web link, message, or photograph.
Users can currently see geotagged transactions on a map, with individual pins representing each transaction. However, there are much greater possibilities for developers: a programmed device or autonomous vehicle could use geotags to decide how it should behave. In other words, location data could be used as sensor information.
However, IOTA’s major breakthrough is the fact that IAC is much more precise than Open Location Codes, the standard that IAC is based on. With IOTA’s new standard, locations can be represented concisely and queried efficiently. A short four-character code can return transactions from within a 100 km² area, and a six-character code can focus in on a few suburbs.
How To Use It
IOTA has already published a demo of the system. The new web app allows you to create geotagged transactions, publish messages, and query existing transactions. You can even watch geotagged transactions appear in real time. However, the demo runs on IOTA’s devnet, meaning that it is not operating alongside real IOTA transactions.
Incidentally, a similar app called Dariota appeared last summer. This IOTA app also allows geotagging, but it offers more features. For example, users can monetize their posts by encrypting information and revealing it when payment is received. But since Dariota does not use the new standard, it is not very precise: it can only search 11 km² at a time.
Matters of Privacy
Privacy is a potential issue when it comes to geotagging. Phones and cameras often geotag photos automatically, and this carries considerable risk. Many people have shared a photo in the belief that it is not personally identifying, then discovered later on that the camera embedded their geographic coordinates in the picture—although the risk is somewhat overblown.
In any case, IOTA doesn’t ask for your current location; instead, it lets you tie a transaction to any location in the world. It is conceivable that someone could create an IOTA wallet that prompts you to share your current location when you send a transaction. Of course, this is true of just about any app, and permission requests should mitigate the problem.
Then again, blockchain technology can do much more than keep transactions anonymous. Some blockchain projects are doing away with privacy in order to make verifiable location tracking a key feature. This approach can be used to keep real-world items from being lost and stolen. However, IOTA will not necessarily act in this capacity, and it seems that the platform will use geotagging in a more limited role, at least for now.