Bitcoin (BTC)–On Wednesday, Amazon Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of the online commerce giant Amazon, broke waves in the crypto space by securing a patent that has potential implications for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency usage. While not an outright acknowledgement of Amazon adopting Bitcoin for payments, the patent revolves around creating a streaming data marketplace that allows users to receive real-time data on cryptocurrency transactions.
The basis of the patent is around creating a marketplace for data streaming, where buyers and sellers negotiate the purchase and subscription to various streams. Most of the patent surrounds the delivery of real time information both within and between organizations, with a reference to law enforcement utilizing the stream as a way to track Bitcoin transactions coupled to other related information like ISP.
In addition to the aforementioned law enforcement agency, Bitcoin is mentioned as an example use-case in creating a stream that delivers real-time information on Bitcoin (or any cryptocurrency) based transactions:
“For example, a group of electronic or internet retailers who accept Bitcoin transactions may have a shipping address that may correlate with the Bitcoin address. The electronic retailers may combine the shipping address with the Bitcoin transaction data to create correlated data and republish the combined data as a combined data stream.”
The patent goes on to state that information included in the stream is made visible to all participants of the network, similar to how a block explorer like blockchain.info functions. However, this could be an attempt by Amazon of giving a solution to consolidate and improve the ease-of-use for massive amounts of data being generated through cryptocurrency and crypto transactions. The self-stated goal of the stream is also to find ways to combine information that lacks value individually in combinations that then offer some value. While a single BTC address may be unimportant in its own right, that information coupled with shipping information (for example: via a purchase made on Amazon) with other marketing/purchasing habits, suddenly holds real value to the right bidder.
Henri Pihkala, CEO of Streamr and a potential data streaming competitor to Amazon, said in an email with CoinDesk, “data marketplaces aren’t a new idea.” Instead, the novelty comes in the form of creating a decentralized market–of which there are many benefits to implementing cryptocurrency–with the goal of, “creating a space that finally gives users ultimate control over the data they create through their actions in the digital realm.”
Amazon, Bitcoin and the Future of Cryptocurrency Transactions
Some will be disappointed by the patent’s lack of direct use for Bitcoin or any mention of plans for cryptocurrency implementation on Amazon’s merchant platform. Instead, the link between Bitcoin and Amazon’s streaming service gives the appearance of greater consolidation in network data, using the overwhelming amount of information present in the Bitcoin blockchain as one example. More troubling is the fact that Amazon explicitly outlines a way that law enforcement agencies could use the data streaming rental as a way of tracking blockchain transactions or coupling Bitcoin to IP and home addresses. It gives the appearance of Amazon making a nod to being on the side of Google, Facebook and Twitter in forestalling the potential evils of cryptocurrency–as the previous three internet giants have all enacted bans against Bitcoin and crypto-related advertisements. However, it could also be a way for Amazon to mediate the two sides, giving a nod to both the use of data-streaming in mining cryptocurrency information in addition to the level of sophistication it could provide to government authorities.
In the end, the union of Bitcoin and Amazon still seems inevitable at this point. Bitcoin is tailor-made as a currency for digital transactions. Amazon has long been at the forefront of digital mercantile practices, being one of the early companies to streamline shopping queries and fast delivery. Amazon has also historically made decisions on behalf of its customer base, even if it went in the face of traditional practices. With cryptocurrency growing exponentially among the millenial and young adult demographic, it seems likely that Amazon will take notice and endorse a crypto-friendly policy in the near future. Despite the downturn in prices causing some stir with Overstock.com share prices, the competitor to Amazon has benefited substantially by accepting Bitcoin since 2014. Amazon could look to make a similar splash in the crypto space, and herald a new wave of mainstream adoption.