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What will happen in the pilots?

The pilots will be when the technology developed in the DECODE project is tested with people. The pilots will happen in Amsterdam and Barcelona between 2017 and 2019. They will apply the technology to specific use-cases, in three different themes: the internet of things, open democracy and the sharing economy. All residents of Amsterdam and Barcelona are eligible to take part in the pilots.

What technology is DECODE creating?

DECODE is creating tools which will give people ownership of their data. These tools will combine blockchain technology with attribute-based cryptography to give the data owner control of how their data is accessed and used. This will help build a trustworthy and privacy-aware digital society.

DECODE’s research and technical development activities are focused on questions of trust and privacy. In particular, we will explore how trust and privacy can be guaranteed by new governance frameworks, and how this can lead to innovative economic models based on open data commons.

Entitlements attached to the private data would be searchable in the public domain but will grant access only to those parties that have the entitlement to access it. This novel concept of data rights and entitlements also applies to data being sent to or used by connected Internet of Things (IoT) objects in order to perform actions in the real world, allowing citizens to manage and control their devices and the data they generate.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a means of processing an online transaction without the need for an intermediary. The first ever blockchain, used for the virtual currency Bitcoin, demonstrates how this works. For a virtual currency to function, there must be a means of ensuring that people cannot spend the same money twice. This is what blockchain does – it ensures the same Bitcoin cannot be double-counted by using cryptographic hashing to register, validate and store transactions in a distributed manner. There is no need for the two people to either trust each other or need an intermediary to enable to transaction.

Every time a transaction occurs, information about this transaction is added onto the ‘chain’. These units of information are known as blocks, which bundle up transactions and are confirmed every 10 minutes. Once a block has been added, it cannot be amended. It is a permanent, immutable record.

The blockchain is maintained across thousands of computers – known as nodes - rather than one central server. This means blockchain is distributed or shared. The network performs a computational process - known as hashing - which means all copies of the electronic record hold the same information, without the need for any third party to confirm it.

The blockchain has spurred a wave of innovation beyond Bitcoin and crypto-currencies. Developers and innovators see its value in decentralizing processes that would normally require a central authority or intermediary to validate it and guarantee trust. There is a view that blockchain can radically change the governance of financial and public institutions through the removal of intermediaries. The technology has caught the imagination of people across the political spectrum who sceptical of centralized authority.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to internet-connected devices that capture or generate information. The number of IoT devices is growing rapidly, with estimates that by 2020 there will be 20bn internet-connected devices. For individuals, these devices include mobile phones, sports wearables, home heating and kitchen appliances. For governments, this includes devices and sensors which capture information about a range of things, such as air quality, traffic, and activity in public spaces.

DECODE will develop decentralised systems which enable access to IoT devices with data owned by citizens. This will protect people’s data and privacy, but mean that we can collectively benefit from the insights provided by the data collected by IoT devices.

What is the sharing economy?

The sharing economy involves using digital platforms to connect distributed groups of people to make better use of goods, skills and other resources. Examples could be sharing cars, spaces or power tools. It is also known as the collaborative economy.

The sharing economy typically uses digital platforms to connect people. In DECODE, we will be developing technology which means these platforms, or intermediaries, are no longer needed.

What is open democracy?

Open democracy refers to the ability to participate in various aspects of the democratic process. It ranges from providing transparency to citizens about government and political processes, to providing ways for people to actively participate in policy making and decision-making. This could include voting, contributing ideas, participate in the allocation of budget, or developing policies through deliberation with other citizens and officials.

Which are the two pilot cities?

DECODE will be piloted in Amsterdam and Barcelona, between 2017 and 2019. The pilots will focus on the Internet of Things- allowing citizens to manage and control their devices and the data they generate; the collaborative economy- enabling people to share resources moving away from centralised data platforms towards a socially-driven model that harnesses technologies for collective benefit; and open democracy, allowing people to access crowdsourced information about the city to foster informed and deliberative decision-making, while controlling their personal data and sharing it with their peers. As the project develops, more information will be made available about the specific focus of each of the pilots.

What is a data commons

A  data commons is a shared resource – made accessible and intentionally open – rather than subject to restrictions through licensing. It enables everyone to contribute, access and use the data in the data commons. The data can be used an unlimited number of times and no-one is excluded from accessing it. In this sense, data can be seen as an economic public good alongside more traditional examples such as street lights or clean air. It enables everyone to contribute, access and use the data in the data commons.

DECODE will create open data commons from data produced by individuals and devices. People will be able to decide which personal data they want to share into the commons, and on which basis. For instance, they can decide whether their data is anonymised.

There are other forms of digital commons licensing, such as that for software, which have been studied widely. However, a digital commons made of personal data continue to be the subject of exploitation by big service providers. Creating and implementing new rules is will be used to solve this problem.

What are smart rules ?

Smart rules are the means by which people can decide how their data is used, by whom and on what basis. Using distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain, DECODE will create smart contracts that enable people to create rules about whether their personal data is kept private or shared. These will enable individuals to share digital commons made of personal data and identify the specific characteristics, ownership regimes, and access rights of the digital commons.

DECODE will use a combination of business practices, legal rules and technical solutions operated through smart rules that manage user preferences for data sharing. This starts with transparency over what data is held by whom, and the ability to authorise any sharing while understanding the implications.

Smart rules allow people to define conditions for the access and use of data, and legal/contractual obligations and other constraints. Through the smart rules, one may provide or remove authorisation for access to personal data; their association with its identity; or change the legal status and the conditions of use and exploitation of the data.

The combination of smart rules running on distributed ledger technologies will produce a platform that is fully decentralised, and allows flexible, extensible data governance.

How is DECODE funded?

DECODE is funded by the European Commission. It is a three-year project, running between January 2017 and December 2019. In total €5m will be paid to the 14 consortium members undertaking the work. DECODE is part of Horizon 2020 (Project no. 732546). This is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). It is a flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness.

DECODE’s consortium members are from Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, France and the UK. Francesca Bria, Barcelona Chief Technology and Innovation Officer is the project coordinator.