- Triton Funds, a venture capital fund run by students at the University of California, San Diego, are investing $1 million to speed up the roll-out of DigitalTown's blockchain-based smart cities platform.
- The platform, called CityShares, encourages users' direct investments in local economies via the online portal, essentially providing an Amazon-esque online marketplace for local project investments.
- The platform will first launch in university communities before expanding to entire cities.
One of the main aspects that makes this particular initiative so interesting is that the $1 million comes from university students rather than a traditional, well-heeled investor. College students are notoriously short on cash, so for this group to raise funds for a project is a huge testament to their commitment to the project and their desire for it to come to light.
Basing the platform on blockchain technology is a smart move considering the current state of the internet and fears about security with online marketplaces. Blockchain's cryptography makes it more secure and transparent than existing technologies, and thus better suited for virtual money exchanges, such as the investments on CityShares.
The security associated with blockchain is making it increasingly attractive to municipalities interested in expanding their smart cities offerings. The technology still is very young, though, and new uses for it are being sought out and discovered. For example, Burlington, VT launched a pilot program earlier this year to make its real estate registry more secure with blockchain.
Because blockchain is so nascent, many people do not fully understand it or trust it yet. Groups like the one formed in Austin this year are working to increase exposure to and knowledge of the technology. Investments like the $1 million from UCSD students also work to advance the technology in general, in addition to funding individual projects.