Finding your way around a new city, or even discovering exciting things to do in areas you know well, is hard. Meanwhile, local economies have been struggling to prosper — with small businesses increasingly reliant on online behemoths such as Facebook and Google where users face information overload.
A new blockchain-based startup believes the golden era for apps is over and says the public wants a more personalized experience when they are finding things to do. Rather than depend on potentially biased platforms, which often fail to capture the full breadth of nearby venues, Localflow says the future lies in conversational bots that can provide fast recommendations and a plethora of other services.
For the typical user, Localflow means they can find the goods and services they want through the messaging apps they already know and love — be it Facebook, Telegram or WeChat. They can also make payments in fiat or by using a collection of cryptocurrencies.
Moreover, people can use Localflow bots to create their products, assign a price — in fiat and crypto — and have them broadcasted through the chatbot’s local search network.
Use cases aplenty
According to the startup, use cases could extend far beyond finding a place for dinner. On its website, Localflow describes how a user could track down the ideal venue for live music and a first-rate cocktail, based on their requirements and events posted by fellow members of the community. If the user is interested, a bot could provide them with live feedback about what is going on inside, a full list of prices, plus the ability to reserve a table and pay upfront.
Small businesses and sole traders would be able to establish their very own bot. For example, a seasoned guitarist would be able to use Localflow’s system to offer private tutoring, or the owner of a pizzeria could build a bot that takes orders and tracks deliveries. Members of the public could also get in on the action, and if they were two footballers short for a five-vs.-five match, they would be able to use the bot to find willing participants.
Localflow believes bots could also offer a helping hand to companies behind the scenes, enabling them to keep track of stock levels and replenish warehouses when necessary.
Bots put to the test
The company put the features of its bot MVP to the test in Padova, a university city in northern Italy. Initial results were positive, with testers gaining tokens that could be spent on products in local pubs and bars. There are also incentives for businesses, as they could save on marketing costs and avoid the hefty fees charged by the likes of Uber, Airbnb, Deliveroo and Booking.com.
When Localflow’s infrastructure launches, users will be rewarded with EWA — an ERC-223 compliant token designed to power its network — whenever they make contributions that would benefit other users, such as “creating meetups and high-quality social activities.”
The rewards for creating and attending events are already up and running. The team calls it Localdrop, and users can gain EWA and see them on their chatbot wallet.
Developers and data analysts also stand to gain EWA by building features that enhance the bot’s abilities, strengthen the natural language processing module or improve the quality of translations.
A crypto wallet is already being tested by the startup. Businesses can receive payments via fiat or through EWA, IOTA, Bitcoin and Ethereum, with everyone able to access their funds directly through the chatbot. By opting to pay in EWA tokens, Localflow says they have the chance to enjoy discounts on their purchases.
Localflow’s token generation event for EWA is scheduled for 2019. In the year and a half that follows, the platform hopes to establish a cooperative network of local search-led chatbots and a platform for creating bots that boasts an “open collaborative interface,” plus a system that rewards users with EWA tokens.
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