Bringing IoT And Blockchain Together: A Glimpse Into The Future With Larry Pang of IoTeX
Blockchain and crypto isn’t usually associated with the Internet of things. IoTeX aims to change all of that with their vision of a borderless ecosystem. In this episode, Monika Proffitt sits down for an interview with Larry Pang, Head of Business Development at IoTeX as they talk about integrating the IoT with cryptocurrency and blockchain. Larry shares his insights on the current blockchain and crypto space and where he thinks it’s going. For more crypto and blockchain news and discussions, tune in today.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Bringing IoT And Blockchain Together: A Glimpse Into The Future With Larry Pang of IoTeX
I’m here with Larry Pang, the Head of Business Development and Founding Member of IoTeX. Larry, thank you so much for joining us.
It’s great to be here, Monika. I’ll share a little bit about what we’re doing here at IoTeX and give some broader views about the crypto ecosystem.
I was confused when I even saw you come into my inbox. I was like, “IoT and blockchain? That doesn’t happen a lot.” It hasn’t caught on. It’s not like we’re having smartwatches that are enabled by blockchain yet. When I heard that you had devices, it’s such an interesting intersection that frankly was only confusing at first. I’m glad you explained it to me before we got on this. Anybody who sees IoTeX like IoT and blockchain, they would be as confused. Can you talk a little bit about the two main products that you have and how the blockchain component makes them so different?
I would text at the core of what it is. It’s a layer one blockchain, EVM compatible, cheaper, faster, more decentralized than Ethereum, like all other layer one blockchain. What differentiates IoTeX from the other layer ones out there is we have a big focus on adding IoT oriented middleware and these sub protocols to allow devices to have identities, stream data directly to smart contracts and benefit from this ultra-security that blockchain provides. We have two devices live on the network. One is called Ucam.
Ucam is a home security camera that’s been on sale on Amazon since September of 2020, about 8,000 units globally across 60 plus countries. It’s an own your data camera. It uses decentralized identity as a login mechanism, removing the email password traditionally. We take the user’s private key that only they own and have access to. We use it to end-to-end encrypt all the videos. They are the only ones that have the decryption key, so only they can view their videos. They have authorization controls and things like this. It’s the first use case of blockchain as an identity layer for the camera.
We also have other devices that do a little bit more than just provide ownership. This is called Pebble Tracker. This is an asset tracker. It reads data like GPS, temperature, humidity, air quality, air pressure, motion, vibration and light. It gives you a full 360 view of whatever asset this is meant to be tracking, whether it’s a person, dog, vehicle, container or truck. It provides unbiased 360 view of what is going on with this asset.
More importantly, it signs this data as it’s being captured so you know that it’s authentic and whoever owns this device also owns that data. That’s the ownership aspect like Ucam but this device is allowing people to grab data from the real world, plug it into smart contracts and generate responses off of it. I’m sure we’ll dive down a lot into the use cases that these devices can enable. At the core of what we’re doing, we’re bringing Web 3.0 to IoT and we’re also bringing IoT to Web 3.0. These billions and billions of devices out there generating 80 zettabytes of data, which is 1 zettabyte are 1 trillion gigabytes by 2025.
There’s such a huge opportunity between the devices that we interact with every day and this blockchain infrastructure that’s budding. Until this point, IoT and blockchain have been pretty nascent but Iowa, Texas is driving a lot of innovation in the space. I’m happy to dive into all the different opportunities.
Let’s start with the video camera. The video holder is a camera but as well as a storage device.
With this camera, we worked with a company called TENVIS. They’re a security camera manufacturer since 2005. They’ve sold millions of cameras to governments, retail and enterprise in the past. They came to us looking for privacy as the next big feature for the cameras. You go on Amazon, filter for Prime and filter for four-stars, you’re still going to have 10,000 plus results. In such a saturated market, they felt privacy was going to be a big feature, so we worked on this camera together. Back in late 2019 is when we unveiled the first prototype. We went to CES and won the CES Innovation Award for cybersecurity and personal privacy with this camera in 2020, which was great.
As a user, I want to own all of the videos of everything that happens in surveillance with my house. I’m going to stick one of my backyard and front yard. My neighbors might hate me but whatever. I’m going put these up. From my experience with normal video cameras, which were all some of the cheapest ones on Amazon, I don’t need much but I would have cameras up at my place when I used to run an artist residency in New Mexico.
There are all these cameras around and I would be able to check it on my phone, see things that move and catch people doing whatever. That was saved to my phone and if I wanted to save it to a place, I could download it and keep it, otherwise what’s out there? I never thought about where it was stored. I only thought about in terms of my access to it. What would my user experience be if I had put up your cameras instead of the ones I chose on Amazon, other than being a lot more out of pocket with much higher quality?
We focused on the user experience side of things. This is a problem in crypto generally, how you get people to set up a wallet and experience crypto. We masked a lot of that in the background. When someone opens up the Ucam app, private key account is created for them. All they have to do is back up the key. The difference between a ring camera and a Ucam is it follows the trend of what’s going on in Web 3.0 and crypto a lot.There's a popular saying that data is the new gold or data is new oil. If data is the new gold, then our machines and our devices are the gold mines. Click To Tweet
All of these traditional Web 2.0 applications from big tech, they manage the central server. They own the keys to the server. They have full visibility into everything in the server and they based their business off of these promises that, “We care about your security and privacy.” With cameras like Ucam, you can make claims or make definitive statements that no one can see your videos except you.
You’re never going to hear that from a big tech company. They’re going to dance around it and make it seem like so. We’ve seen this so many times that these servers are vulnerable and not the top priority for these companies to invest in protecting your data in all of these breaches. What’s funny is when we went to CES and we won this award for Ucam, this was at a time when all those ring cameras were being hacked around Christmas time, the traditional email password type things.
Some people call it user error but this is how people operate. Having someone talk to your kid through your camera is nothing that people had anticipated in their days. Those kinds of shock factors of headlines push people to look towards more private products. Even earlier in 2021, we saw a mass migration from WhatsApp over to Signal. As people start to think about private finances, messaging, private data, especially for things like your wearables, healthcare devices, smart home cameras and locks, all of that needs to be privatized as well.
It’s been an interesting journey. The desire for privacy from users is growing but it’s not necessarily just privacy cameras. It’s also an own your data camera. A lot of people need to understand that owning something means you have full control of it. If you don’t own it, you don’t control it. That’s what we have to think about when we think about all these facets of devices that we strap onto our bodies, put it in our homes and give to our loved ones. What kind of things are going on in the backend, mostly invisible but this is the opportunity that blockchain provides, a better backend that one day can achieve the same user experience and features as traditional product.
I can imagine how video is one thing that we can make sure it’s privatized in that data. The GPS piece is new to me. When I think of GPS, Google says, “We’d like to use your location, allow or don’t allow.” That’s as much of an opt in or opt out as I imagined but then suddenly, I’ll see stuff that if I say don’t use my location and I type in Home Depot, it’ll give me stuff from Manhattan when I’m in San Juan, Puerto Rico or vice versa.
It’s not able to stay up to date necessarily without GPS like a search query history but it seems to be haphazard. That’s my only context for understanding where my data about my location has any applicability and I would either want to restrict it further or make sure it was consistently given with a certain permission to the right entities. Can you talk a little bit about how your second product addresses GPS and how that data interacts with the blockchain?
I also have another version that’s a clear case. This is what it looks like from the inside gut perspective. The ton of sensors jammed into it. There’s a GPS sensor, climate sensor that does temperature, humidity, air quality, air pressure, six axis accelerometer, gyroscope that does motion vibration and a light sensor.
A lot of this data is raw data but that’s not what we’re interested in. We’re interested about the insights that these data can tell us. You think about what a light sensor can tell us. It can tell you whether a package was opened or not. You think about what an accelerometer gyroscope can tell us. If something is meant to be moving, it can tell you this thing is moving because it senses some velocity or acceleration. If something is not meant to be moving, that can identify it too for temperature or humidity.
These are all important factors when we ship perishables, vaccines or any type of things that are sensitive to climate. GPS can not only tell you where the location of important assets are but you can even abstract that to say, “This asset is five miles from the destination. You guys can go ahead and continue the workflow.” All of these kinds of things depend on the use case that you’re trying to do like attaching a Pebble Tracker to a vehicle is very different than attaching a Pebble Tracker to a dog where you’re trying to control and make sure your dog doesn’t leave a certain geo-fence.
Whereas with the vehicle, you could be submitting your GPS data to a contract. Think about a decentralized Waze app. All these people are annotating and adding value to the map. It’s like this play to earn things a little bit, contributing to a digital public utility but you can also get rewards. You have to have a verifiable GPS location in order to gain these monetary benefits, otherwise a honeypot. The design space that we’re creating with this is connecting things that we do in the real world to things related to digital assets and digital reputation.
Play to earn all of these, like Axie Infinity style games, have told us that people can do things in the digital world to earn digital assets and digital reputation. This is taking off from Dow’s perspective, from a gaming perspective. What IoTeX is trying to do is open up that footprint even more so people can do things in the real world and also earn digital assets and digital reputation. There’s a common thing around proof of blank in crypto.
A lot of people understand proof-of-work and proof-of-stake. These are proofs that you’re giving to the blockchain. I’m proving to the blockchain that I’ve solved this computationally intensive puzzle so that I can be a Bitcoin block producer. I proved to the Ethereum blockchain I have 32 ETH, so I can be a staker or a validator. What other things can we prove to the blockchain?
It’s like if I could prove that I played Pokémon Go on blockchain Steroids, then I went to that corner of that room, stood there for three seconds and took a picture. I can prove that happened and then I will get a reward for that. In a sense, it almost could enable more like a distributed Oracle perspective on things. Is this something that could be used in a real estate sense? I’ve had people say, “How would you make sure that the real estate assets are taken care of?” I’m like, “We’d have appraisers go.” That’s a centralized approach.
Why wouldn’t you incentivize the crowd to be like, “Let’s go to St. Louis. We’re going to go on a road trip.” Also, there are five different Dows involved in that I’m going to go and do some work on each, so it’s going to pay for the trip. I’ll take pictures and validate that this house is in that condition. I can put myself to work and get these rewards for having plugged in to where these bounties exist and use this technology that can verify that I did what I said I would do. Is that how this piece works together?
From that perspective, we talked to a lot of interesting companies that have pitched us use cases very similar to that.
What are your favorite companies that had pitched to you? What are your favorite use cases that you’re like, “That will be good?”
There’s something called geocaching. It’s an interesting game in traditional Web 2.0 world. People will put challenges out in public areas in these kinds of container boxes. There’s a map where people can go, “There’s a challenge I can still solve in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco or in Central Park in New York.” They go and open these boxes, solve a puzzle and write down the answer into the app. It’s like a game in that respect. It’s a two-sided marketplace. People can create or solve the challenges.
If you think about disintermediating that, allowing peer to peer challenges to be created, some of my favorite use cases for Pebble Tracker have been around scavenger hunts in new countries. Imagine you’re going to Australia or New Zealand for the first time. When I did that, before I started IoTeX, I was looking at all these different itineraries like, “I have seven days on the South Island. I have ten days on the South Island.” The itineraries are completely different.
What was fascinating to me was the itinerary creators. This is the start of the creator economy. They are creating experiences for other people to experience. It’s not like, “I only have an itinerary for New Zealand.” A lot of these people are global. “If you go to Thailand, this is what I would do. This is what I would do if I was in this country or this country.” They have a fan base that appreciate the itineraries.
The creator themselves can create a token. “Prove to me you’ve completed my itinerary and I’m going to give you some rewards that will unlock premium itineraries in the future, redeemable for travel credits or things like this.” The proof is where machines come in. Not just any machine but unbiased tamper-proof machines that do serve as real-world data oracles. They tell the blockchain something about a person or a thing and what they’ve done in the real world and using that as the if statement part of the if then a business logic.
If I can prove something to the blockchain about what something I’ve done, whether it’s run 5 miles, completed this itinerary or lowered my blood pressure from a trusted wearable, then I can do any number of things. The then part is very expressive. I can mend NFTs, settle payments, send notifications or lower my insurance rates.
I lower my blood pressure. I do such a good job where my glucose levels get better. I’m no longer pre-diabetic. Maybe a blockchain enabled insurance company would say, “As we get this, we adjust your rate. You’re as low as we can get it because you’re so much healthier.”
It can even be real time. Everyone knows the Discount Double Check Aaron Rodgers, like Allstate Insurance where if you don’t get in an accident for entire year, they’re going to lower your insurance rate. Not getting into an accident doesn’t tell them that you’re a good driver. Maybe you’re very lucky. Maybe you drive so fast that everyone gets out of the way if you have all this data from your vehicle.In the future, there's going to be primary, secondary, even tertiary uses of our data. Click To Tweet
Every vehicle has up to twenty plus electronic control units. Everything from your seat belt on to our hands on the wheel, to once we have cameras and dash cams that point inside and outside of the vehicle. These are all data points that can tell your insurance company how well you drive and whether you’d like driving under the speed limit or not.
If you want to leave it opaque and be like, “Thanks for getting an accident. That’s enough. That’s why you get to know, keeping the rest of this is mine.”
It’s that concept of owning the data from your vehicle. If you are at fault for an accident, you don’t have to give up that information because you own it exclusively. There’s no way the government can subpoena an organization that holds your data in their server because it’s owned by you and protected by the blockchain.
When you get into an accident, if you have a signed unbiased video from a trusted device that proves that my eyes are on the road, that this guy was swerving into my lane and I have it all on video, all the data of my vehicle of that snapshot in time, what kind of legal proceedings need to be done? They don’t need to deploy an auditor or go through this process to see who’s at fault because I have the data and I can prove it to you, proof of safety or proof of non-accident.
This almost means that he or she with the most data wins. Once we solve who owns it, the person who has the most data about themselves at their disposal wins. If the guy that swerves into your lane doesn’t have anything in his car and you have tons in your car, you have all of the proof. They can bitch them on all they want but there’s nothing they can do. If you have more data, you have more opportunity to prove or disprove what you want.
That might be interesting to see that there are pieces of data you would want to present and other pieces that you would not. It would become an issue of either you give it all up or don’t if you don’t want to get a partial picture where you manipulate the truth to certain omissions, that still is something that you can algorithmically solve for.
That’s where the legal side of things comes into play. One thing I’m very interested in is in a court of law, how do you prove to someone that the video that I captured has a cryptographic signature on it to prove the authenticity and the ownership of this video? Cryptographic proofs are going to fly in a court of law. That’s an interesting aspect of it. How do we get this to be the standard that people trust? We live in the information era already. There’s a popular saying that data is the new gold or oil. If data is the new gold, then our machines and devices are the gold mines. What kind of data do we write down ourselves?
With a data company and being so steeped in data on all sides, I have to wonder about a digital goal, this whole Bitcoin thing. Do you have a coin? Are you focused on the coin? Has that made a big impact on some of your business development decisions? Are you like, “We do crypto but we are working on strategic partnerships? We are a real company. You can speculate on it all you want. We have a vehicle too that’s Dogecoin but we’re going to be doing this,” or have you been like, “We’re not even going to bother tokenizing. The data itself is its own token in a way?”
IoTeX itself is a vast ecosystem. We’re growing very fast. We have about 50,000 staking users about 25 dApps on the chain. IoTeX is a layer one blockchain. We have our own token and the token is meant to maintain consensus and trust on this foundational platform of ours.
What is the token?
It’s called IOTX.
Where could people find that token?
You can find it on Coinbase, Binance, WellBe, everywhere except FTX, which is sad because I love FTX.
I interviewed one of the FTX’s key people for this show a couple of years ago. I love them.
If you think about what Ethereum does with its native token, it’s meant to establish incentives for validators to maintain consensus. It’s meant to serve as a utility token for users. It’s the same thing with IoTeX. We have our own platform. It’s built from scratch, no forks. On top of this layer one platform, we have all these dApps, services and tools that have their tokens that are meant to drive incentives for usage of their specific applications. Everything from DeFi to GameFi to this new concept that we call MachineFi.
Tell me what MachineFi is. DeFi is Decentralized Finance. GameFi, I get it but MachineFi? That sounds cybernetic.
It’s metaphysical in a way. Everything in crypto has a Fi element to it. Blockchain itself is an amazing value transfer, value exchange mechanism and great orchestration tool but it’s the predominant understanding. Blockchain is not a great compute engine but for trust and for these kinds of things, blockchains are very solid in that respect.
Even with gaming, we’re seeing a lot of financialization. You do this in the game. You get that in your wallet. MachineFi is how we use the data and the services that machines can provide. Some machines like Hello Tracker are bringing data to the blockchain. Other machines in the future are starting to get a little fancy here. You think about these autonomous devices and machines that are going to be popping up in the future.
Everything from drones that are going to be monitoring our cities to satellites that take aerial imagery, to autonomous vehicles, to vending machines, to airport lockers, all these kinds of unmanned, autonomous machines like those Boston Dynamics robots. Who’s going to own them? Machines are going to represent the entire workforce of the future. It’s going to be a real big disaster if we get to the 0.5 years down the road. All of these autonomous machines, all the data’s owned by AWS, Amazon and Google is a massive gold mine of data. It’s going to belong to big tech and the proceeds are going to continue not to be spread to users.
You’ve used a cost-based economic model. You could end up incentivizing users to switch and do something different in the same way that people got disenchanted with WhatsApp and went to Signal. Once people know, for sure things are a peer to peer. They’re different and separate. If there’s an economic incentive there, the crowd will move where the money flows. Even Malcolm X said, “If you want to change things, you have to change the economics of it.” You can’t hold your sign and protest about the moral plea. You have to make it more beneficial economically.
That movement is getting started. Speaking about the alternatives, it’s this whole concept of using your data for purposes outside as a metadata out of sight and out of mind type of thing. The concept of ownership of digital assets is still very confusing to people. NFTs are starting to get this into people’s heads that, “This is exclusive. Only I own this.” It’s very understandable from a non-fungible perspective. When you think about data that’s almost invisible, it’s not represented as a JPEG. It’s ones and zeros.
You are leaving NFT, ultimately. If you think about this, you boil it down, each person owning their data but autonomy is a living non-fungible representation of data.
Every device is going to be a non-fungible device as well. All of these things that are being generated by humans and devices, if we can bring all of that understanding to the blockchain, this is where these if then statements come from. All these smart contracts are from basic to highly complex and nested if then statements. If this thing happens, then I’m going to do this. The good thing is because smart contracts are all open source, you know for a fact that if I do this, it’s going to do this and only this.
The model we’re living under is if I do this and give this to Google, then I’m going to get these results but there’s also all of these black box things that we know are happening but we have no control to stop. In the future, there are going to be primary, secondary, even tertiary uses of our data. The data we can use to serve as a primary purpose. If I share my GPS location, then I’m going to get this result, be able to pay a toll or unlock some type of permission.
The secondary use of data is how do I sell this data to earn value. If I am driving the same route every single day for a year to and from work, that dataset is super valuable to the Ubers, DoorDashes and even urban planners of the world. Maybe it’s not going to be worth thousands and thousands of dollars but it’s going to be worth something and that’s a secondary usage of it.
There’s also the foundation where you can say, “I’m going to make a donation of this data and has a monetary value.” If I donated my car, I get $500 at minimum. If I donate my data, I can be incentivized by someone who wants to purchase it and then it becomes part of an open source opportunity for others in the same way LexisNexis is like a legal database that lawyers can have exclusive access to because they pay every year. If somebody wants to say, “We’ll make it open source,” then make it open source.
There’s also tertiary and whatever the fourth use is. I don’t know what the terminology but those are still to be discovered. That’s an exciting part about all of this. Once we get this data on chain, it’s going to be exciting to see what people come up with like the scavenger hunt thing. A lot of the primitives that DeFi and GameFi are showing us, play to earn and pooling together liquidity, lending and borrowing, all of these things are the subject is a token. A token and even data is also a digital representation of value.
All of these primitives that are booming in DeFi, crowdsourcing liquidity for decks and giving 0.3% of all transaction fees to liquidity providers. What if in the future, LexisNexis was decentralized? Everyone that’s contributing to this legal database, anytime someone queries something within that database, then the proceeds are shared across the people that have crowdfunded this database. Maybe it’s not even going to be 0.3%.
Another example is these Shutterstock or Getty images. They aggregate all the stock imagery and they’ll take 30% or 40% off of every sale, which is crazy. It’s starving the photographers and content creators. If you can decentralize that and even give a group access to a repository of images, the more useful images you contribute to the repository, the more ownership you get of the future proceeds. It’s exactly like decks, like a liquidity pool except using different types of assets.Instead of having these big tech companies glean who we are based on these sketchy behind the scenes activities, what if we could prove to people who we are or tell people who we are? Click To Tweet
It’s not just a direct representation of value in the form of a token. It can be indirectly, “How much does this photograph and stock image worth?” We’re talking about zero marginal cost products where you could sell these over and over. It’s interesting to think about it, especially GameFi telling us to do things to serve the digital public good and earn digital reputation.
Play-to-earn is one of those catch phrases you threw out there. I was like, “User-centric play-to-earn. That’s incredible.”
There’s even drive-to-earn, run-to-earn or live-to-earn. It’s that two-sided marketplace. On the demand side, someone wants you to do something and they’re going to pay you X amount to do it. On this side, you have the chance to opt in to do it. It’s not a requirement but if you decide to take this incentive and do what they say, it could be an insurance provider, insurance customer, a restaurant and their patrons or any two-sided marketplace, you can start to build these intensives.
Machines are the ones that are going to prove rather than having an intermediary that’s human, error prone and manipulable in the middle. You can have an unbiased machine that proves that whatever this person is trying to incentivize you to do, you have done it. That’s a very clean peer to peer type of contract. Blockchain and machines are a big part of it.
It’s the example of having lots of data of you driving your car and then someone’s swerved into your lane and they didn’t happen to have that surveillance data in their cars. You can prove what they did and they can’t counter prove that you had negligence because your proof happens to be the only proof available. She with the most data wins as long as she owns her own data.
The thing I love about crypto is say you were in a coma and had amnesia. You forgot everything, with no understanding of how the real world works. If we had to redesign these things to be fairer, this is how we would design them. A lot of the change management, the conversion from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 is going to be very interesting to see which things sprout up first.
Everything is economically driven in crypto. Even outside of the US, people are starting to think about, “If my bank or my government can do this with my funds, then what can they do digitally?” China is a great example of this. All these machines are tracking everything. The proof of walking across the crosswalk or where you are during the day, there is already proofs of that everywhere. If you take that model, think about what we could gravitate towards, not from a government perspective but more from a corporation perspective. Do we want Amazon, Google and Facebook knowing where we are at every single second? That’s what we’re gravitating towards.
Would it be more interesting if there was a hack of all that data in China because they have so much data? There’s a half and it was thrown on chain and has to catch up because it takes so long to update that much data. Then you come in, validate with facial recognition that’s mine and select your data back.
If Anonymous happens to be reading this show and wanted a nice idea, I was wondering what that might look like if we were to see a massive recapturing of data redistribution of it. There are not enough people who would know the power of getting on that one thing but I can see this eventually being the case.
If the individuals were not happy with the way decentralized system is, we’re able to see more and more opportunities to re-tweak it and use that one thing. We’re living in very interesting times. By the end of our lifetimes, we’re going to see this kind of empowerment take hold and have lots of opportunities for it to be seen and manifest in the world in lots of places, whether it’s legally or governmentally.
Everyone looks at Web 2.0, Google, Facebooks and Amazons of the world. There’s this documentary, The Social Dilemma. It explains to you how these businesses make money. These are advertising engines. They will grab all the data that they have from all these apps that we do and they’ll make a very accurate guess about who is this person? What are they interested in? Sometimes, it’s scanning what websites we visit. Sometimes, it’s listening to us through our microphones and you’ll see it on your Instagram feed.
My friend got dinner with Henry Golding’s wife. I saw a post of that and I commented on it on Instagram. I was watching YouTube on my TV and there was an ad with Henry Golding in it. I didn’t type Henry Golding. This is his wife but there’s some weird stuff going on. It’s not like, “I talked about Lake Tahoe and then I see a Lake Tahoe ad.” There’s some very deep learning stuff going on there. How do we flip that model around?
Instead of having these big tech companies glean who we are based on these sketchy behind the scenes activities, what if we could prove or tell people who we are? If we have our blockchain wallets and it tells someone all of the smart contracts we’ve ever engaged with or all the transactions we’ve ever made, if there is an advertising model, this is the two-sided marketplace.
This is where I choose how much of that I sell to. You can sell to me as a White woman whose name is Monika or you can sell to me and I can check more and more boxes.
I’ve spent money on this flight on travel which takes crypto. These are all proofs of something. I proved that I’m a camper and a traveler. Advertisers without knowing your name or demographic because they know that you are a customer of their products can send you offers and discounts. All of the money they’re saving from playing this Google ads game, take that out and drive it towards creating more pure customer relationships.
That’s what’s starting to form with these real-world activities. It’s going to be hard to say, “I saw you traded $100 million on FTX over the weekend. Do you want to buy a camera?” There’s not much real-world understanding that you can glean from DeFi but from GameFi, MachineFi and all these other concepts where we’re teaching the blockchain things about the people and the things that are going on in the world, you’re going to be able to flip a lot of these models and disintermediate some of the biggest industries in the world. It’s a $1 trillion opportunity.
There are so many round holes we can continue to go down. Once you release the next device at some point in the future, we’re going to have to bring you back on and do part two because this is so good. I do want to make sure I asked you a couple of fundamental questions that I usually try to ask people. You’re brilliant. I don’t think I’m saying anything surprising.
Clearly, you’ve thought this through and you’re doing amazing work in the world but that is not abracadabra shows up. I hesitate to shine people on and be like, “Let’s step it up,” without putting some context. “Where did you come from? How long were you confused about stuff before you were like, ‘I’m doing that?’” I used to give talks about my artwork back when I was in the arts years ago.
I would always try to pepper in paintings of mine that I hated. I’d be like, “I hate this painting. Here’s why it never worked. It bothered me forever.” Then I went somewhere else and it shows like, “This is why I liked the new stuff, why I come back this up and why it has meaning to me.” I’m not going to ask you to tell me a time in your life where you hated it or suffered your loss, but can you talk a little bit about what did you study in school? Everybody pivoted into this space because nobody was born into it. How did you find your way?
I was going with the flow for a long time. I grew up in LA and had a very chill, relaxed childhood. I went to MIT and studied Econ and Finance there and a little bit of visual arts and stuff. Throughout college, I tried a lot of different things. I gravitate towards business a little bit. I know I didn’t want to do anything too deep in engineering. I tried internships, trading, banking and investment research. I was, “I don’t like any of this stuff.” They say, “If you don’t know what you want to do, you go into consulting.” That’s what I did. I worked at Oliver Wyman, which is considered to be top five global consulting firm, strategy side.
Usually, people do consulting for two years. They’ll go to business school, jump ship to a PE firm or something like that. I did consulting for five years, which is also a signal that I had no idea what I wanted to do after that. I was climbing fast. I was good at the job but five years is a long time. Consulting works in a way where you’re promoted almost every 1 or 2 years into more senior roles. I got to see that entire stack.
All the way from the entry-level consultant, doing the nitty-gritty formulas and those Excel spreadsheets, writing docs and PowerPoints, all the way to the point where I was managing larger teams and down the funnel, coordinating with the partners that lead the project. First job, I would consider it to be a grad school for real business, which is great.
At the end of the day, consulting is a tough lifestyle. I wasn’t 21 anymore. I was 25 or26. It doesn’t sound too old but being on flights every single week for 4 or 5 years will take its toll eventually. During some of my last two projects was when I started to hear more about Bitcoin. We did a project for the World Economic Forum on the future of payments.
What year was that?
That was around 2015. It was commissioned by the Queen of the Netherlands. It was presented at the Davos Summit. One of the topics we touched on included mobile payments with M-Pesa in Kenya and cross border remittances. Bitcoin was starting to come into the fold there. That’s the first time I heard about Bitcoin. I thought it was interesting but it was at a point when no one understood or even believed in that technology. I was like, “This is interesting.”IOT and blockchain has been pretty nascent, and IoTeX is really driving a lot of innovation in the space. Click To Tweet
I started reading more about it. It was around the time of the ICO. I didn’t participate but I wish I did. The last project I did was the one that was like, “This stuff has some value.” Not from a crypto perspective but from a blockchain perspective. I was consulting for the OCC. It’s called the Options Clearing Corporation. They clear and settle pretty much 98% of all derivatives contracts in the United States. It’s a nonprofit owned by a bunch of these banks running dinosaur technology. What they do is they aggregate information from all these exchanges, clear and settle the transactions. That’s the service.
It’s very easy to encode this. We pitched them, “You should consider this blockchain based system, build your way and decentralize your way out of this.” It was still a little too early even to consider these things but that’s when the intersection of my tiredness from consulting and my interest in blockchain merged. That’s when I decided to jump ship over to IoTeX. It’s been years of crypto rabbit wholeness and it’s been fun.
It’s much more engaging than having one million different projects in consulting too. I’m amazed that there’s always more to get out of the blockchain space. Blockchain, crypto, DeFi and all the way to MachineFi. It’s going to be spirit of Fi. It keeps going. I have not been bored for a second since I moved into this space. It sounds like even though you usually have an expiration date of 4 to 5 years or 5 or 6 years, I don’t think you’re going anywhere either. You’re stuck.
I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunities I had in consulting. There’s a lot of different practices within these consulting firms, things that are doing things related to financial risk, eCommerce strategy or these things. I was in the digital group. This was at a time when cloud infrastructure wasn’t like what it was now. A lot of the projects we were doing were like, “How do we move these big companies from on premises, data centers over to the cloud?” In 2015 and 2016, this was pulling teeth because no one was confident about the cloud. There’s only until FINRA, who’s a government entity, decided to put their data on the cloud.
We can do that because FINRA does it. We’re not going to get audited and they go, “What do you mean?” It’s always this chicken and egg thing with them. They determine so much more than they should because they’re so far behind the burbs so often. You have to make sure you don’t do something that goes counter to what their intuition says because they could turn around and make your life a living hell.
Crypto is waiting for that moment. You see a lot of big companies like Visa settling contracts on Ethereum but once a government entity uses blockchain for something like CBDC, it’s not the decentralized version of crypto but it’s a start, that’s going to give people the green light to start looking into this a little bit more. I was sitting at the intersection of tech, business and operations.
Sitting in between helped me out in crypto because I spoke the languages of multiple groups. I’m not a dev but I can chat and understand the concepts around why these things happen. That’s because I’ve written requirements and documents that have been 80 pages long. I know what these systems are meant to do and what they can do. I’m not going to build them myself from a high-level perspective.
What helps me in crypto is like, “This system is meant to do that for this business purpose and this is how the governance and the operations that connect all these things happen together.” It’s been a journey but we’re getting started. I’m interested in how all of these different primitives are going to intersect between NFT or DeFi.
It’s an insane time, especially with the DeFi world itself. This is published in late 2021 and it’s a crazy time. It comes and goes as long as you’ve been around for long enough. You’re there for the 2017 craze. You know how it goes. You have the next one. We’re in a craze. It’s going to be getting worse, meaning better. It’s going to drop off another crypto winter that’s going to come but it’s nice. You’re like, “This is the cadence at which we breathe.” Their market is going to be okay.
If we had this conversation one year ago, there would still be some doubt whether blockchain and crypto would survive. DeFis and NFTs are here, so these are movements. There’s no going back. It’s not a matter of if. It’s when. What’s the next thing would be? Whether it’s next quarter, next year or hopefully, not the following year but IoTs, smart devices and real-world data, you see a lot of people starting to talk about it but it hasn’t reached fandom.
It is not reached a conversation, which is why it’s so important that you get as much exposure around real world objects that are there on Amazon. If you want to do this, try this thing. It will walk you through it. Get on Amazon and check these products out there. There aren’t a lot of them out there yet. They will be picking up. There’s going to be more and IoTeX is leading the charge. It’s pretty incredible.
If you’re a crypto investor, you should check out their token. This is not financial advice but when you learn about a company and you want to remember that company, you’re keeping a finger on that pulse, one way is to buy a teeny tiny bit of their cap point. It’s putting your psychological skin in the game. I have to get myself a bookmark always to be watching that. It’s always like, “Get it spoken here or there.” It does keep me going. Even it’s $5, I’m invested in what’s going to happen. I can have a reason to watch it rather than consume information. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. It’s like an active source of information that is actionable as well.
I hope readers check out your products and get a sense of what you’re bringing to the market. People can dive into your IoTeX website and learn more about what you’re doing. It’s a very exciting time. Bringing hardware and IoT to this space is commendable. It’s a heavy lift to be doing manufacturing as well as all of the abstracting of a blockchain. I love the work you guys are doing. I’m so glad we could bring you onto the show. Thank you so much, Larry. It’s been a total pleasure.
I had a great time. If anything we chatted about piques the interest of any readers, feel free to reach out. Always get a chat whatever crazy use cases you have or very immediate impactful use cases that we can start using. I have Permissionless. It’s an open network global community, so all are welcome. I’m happy to chat with anyone. I appreciate you having me on, Monika. We’ll do it again.
Thank you so much, Larry. I’m here with Larry Pang, Head of Business Development and Founding Member of IoTeX, a wonderful IoT company bringing the best of blockchain to actual wearable and usable devices. It’s totally brilliant. Check it out. I’ll catch you on the next episode. Thanks a lot.