How NFTs and Smart Contracts Will Change Our Experience of Travel As We Know It

With the recent boom of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology I have become more and more interested in the use of these tools outside of the realm of just a form of money. Interestingly enough, I think with the use of NFTs and smart contracts travel and society are going to be transformed. In this blog post I will be covering what exactly are NFTs, smart contracts, the use cases of them in travel, and lastly the technologies enabling them. 

So what are NFTs?

NFT stands for “non-fungible token” which is an asset purchased in the digital world with the ownership of that asset recorded on the blockchain. The most popular use cases of  NFTs currently have been digital art and collectibles; like basketball cards. A simple example of an NFT is an artist creating an image and turning it into 10 unique copies in the form of NFTs. He then could sell or auction those 10 NFT’s to individuals who would either pay a set amount or bid to purchase the art pieces. The buyer would then get transferred the asset (the art in this case) to their personal digital wallet or holdings and the artist would receive payment. Proof of this purchase and ownership would be recorded on an immutable ledger (the blockchain) that they are holding an original copy of this art piece. 

Now you may be wondering what stops someone from just taking a screenshot of the image and claiming it as an original from the artist? This is where NFTs are of upmost importance. Since ownership is recored on an immutable blockchain, anyone can view the proof of who the true owners are and anyone claiming to own an original can be quickly disproven with a quick look of the blockchain. 

While we have seen a recent boom in NFTs, they have mostly been related to the art world and I feel as though this is just scratching the surface. However, this has been crucial in proving that there can indeed be real world use cases for NFTs. 

What are smart contracts?

Smart contracts are a self executing contract with the terms between the individuals being directly programed by lines of code. The contract is distributed on a blockchain where the contract terms are trackable and irreversible. A common example would be the digital art transaction we talked about earlier. 

Smart contracts are the way that this transaction is facilitated both artist and buyer would agree on set terms. For this context, the contract would be that the buyer would pay x amount and receive the digital art work in the form of a unique NFT from the artist. Since the smart contract is self executing, as soon as the money has been sent from the buyer and the artist has sent the art as an NFT, the contract would execute and complete the transactions on behalf of both parties. The smart contract ensures both parties uphold their terms and prevents malfeasance from either side. This is all done securely without including a third party middleman to facilitate the transaction. 

So now that we have briefly covered NFTs and smart contracts, it is time to explore how these two technologies can fundamentally change travel as we know it. 

1. Airlines

A research project called flightchain is currently underway between Geneva Airport and Miami International Airport in which researchers have devised a plan using smart contracts to form a single source of truth for flight data. Right now a serious problem exists between airports and airlines sharing correct and up to date data. Each have their own data stored in separate silos. This leads to flight delays, miscommunications, and other efficiency errors. Smart contracts have been able to fix this, since the research project started, these groups have been able to establish a single credible source of flight data; merged and secured on the blockchain leading to increased efficiencies and communication with passengers. 

2. Hotel Stays

In the future thanks to smart contracts and NFTs you could experience an effortless hotel stay experience. Imagine you pull out your phone deposit your money for the hotel you desire to stay at and the nights you will be visiting. You sign a smart contract with the hotel and deposit the amount owed You then are issued an NFT in the form of a hotel key which can be used as key to unlock your hotel room door during your stay. Once your stay is over your NFT key would stop working. Not only does this add a layer of security to hotel transactions and automation efficiency. It also permanently saves terms of the contract to the blockchain. Say goodbye to a hotel claiming that you didn’t pay for something which was initially offered to you. With this permanent record you could simply reference the contract anytime in the future to prove what offers were included in your stay. 

3. Buying a Vacation Home

If you decide to buy a vacation home, a smart contract could be your most secure way of transaction, allowing you to completely bypass a real estate agent and bank. With a smart contract, the buyer could send their money while the seller can place the deed and proof of ownership in the form of an NFT. When the funds are sent from the buyer and the home seller sends the deed the contract would be executed. 

These are just a few of the examples of how smart contracts and NFTs are going to not only change travel, but also society as we know it. I, for one am incredibly excited for the future of a more connected and transparent world. 

Now the question becomes what blockchain should this future be built on? While the pioneer of blockchains supporting NFTs and smart contracts is Ethereum, this blockchain from the beginning has had some flaws hurting its efforts to scale. Some of these are high transaction fees, security issues, and being slow. While Ethereum 2.0 is to be launched soon and is supposed to fix a lot of these scalability issues, it has yet to launch and has been delayed multiple times.

Why I am betting on Stacks 

What I see as the most promising future of smart contracts and NFTs is the Stacks blockchain which brings predictable smart contracts, NFT’s and decentralized apps directly onto the Bitcoin blockchain. Bitcoin has proven again and again it is king and has established itself as the most popular and valuable cryptocurrency.  Bitcoins design is simple in nature with a very limited scripting language. Muneeb Ali a founder of Stacks has said that bitcoins limitability “is a feature and not a bug”. With bitcoin being built on such a simple scripting language it’s great at what it does and significantly limits the surface layer for attacks. 

Stacks is a very interesting project, in that it brings the programmable functionally of smart contracts, NFT’s, and decentralized apps straight to bitcoin something only previously available on Ethereum based blockchains. This brings a plethora of benefits unlocking almost a trillion dollars currently in capital and makes bitcoin the keystone to a better internet owned by users.  Stacks brings minimal transaction loads to bitcoin thanks to microblocks enabling fast transactions without clogging up the Bitcoin blockchain.

The stacks project was started by researchers Muneeb Ali and Ryan Shea at Princeton university in 2013. Both of these founders sought to make the internet better and fix its flaws. With Muneeb coming from a background of distributed systems, Stacks from the beginning was built with scalability in mind and to avoid the problems Ethereum has faced. Interestingly enough, the Stacks project was started before Ethereum was even conceived. With years of research put into developing Stacks and backed by investors such as Union Square Ventures and Winklevoss Capital, I think Stacks is here to stay. 

So what are STX and do they replace bitcoin?

STX is the native currency of Stacks and is not a replacement for bitcoin. You can think of Bitcoin as the reserve currency and STX coins as the cryptocurrency used for fuel to execute smart contracts, pay transaction fees, and more. 

With Stacks revolutionary Proof of Transfer (POX) You can even earn bitcoin just by holding STX in your wallet and “stacking” them in consensus with other STX holders.

While I have shared just a few examples of how travel will transform over the next few years, I would encourage you to keep an eye on projects like Stacks. Technology which promises a decentralized future with scalable and secure smart contracts, NFTs, and decentralized apps secured on Bitcoin. The future is looking bright with how these technologies will make our lives more convenient and more private. 

Other Resources 

Clarity Language – programming language used for programming smart contracts on Stacks created by the Stacks foundation and Algorand.