A new report, released by the World Economic Forum this summer, in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, titled “Connected World: Hyperconnected Travel and Transportation in Action” forecasts the future of changing global travel. According to the report, the lack of private sector cooperation, bipartisan consensus, and global standards currently hinder the progress of seamless travel and transport. The report notes four key areas that can help to overcome this difficulty through the integration of technology we already have, future traffic management systems for major metropolises, a modernized visa, advanced airport security and border control processes, as well as high-tech logistics optimization.

José Viegas, Secretary-General of the International Transport Forum at the OECD says, “The digitalization of everything is changing transport in ways we are only beginning to fathom. But transport should go beyond adaptation, it should leverage innovations produced in engineering and organizational sciences. If it combines them into innovative, effective patterns, it can once more change the way the world is functioning.” International travel has boomed in the last 20 years, with an increasing global middle class with access to leisure time. Additionally, international trade has increased with the shrinking cost of transportation. According to the report, international trade and outsourcing has grown at a rate faster than the global GDP and is expected to continue, with world merchandise trade forecasted to grow 8 percent per year through 2030, greatly outpacing GDP. The world has also seen the dramatic rise of smartphone communication, further connecting the global network and with advances in the Internet of Things, this could soon extend to cars and other infrastructure systems. In fact, estimates show that 90 percent of all new cars will be able to communicate with infrastructure systems by 2025.

Advances with Integrated Proactive Intermodal Travel Assistant (IPITA) will allow travelers to use a single ticket per journey, regardless of the destination or mode of transport, as well as give real-time updates to changing travel plans. “There’s a great opportunity for the private sector and public agencies to work together to make this a widespread reality,” says Margo Geogiadis, President of Americas Operations at Google. Automated check-in, security, border control, and smart visas (ACIS) can streamline the difficulties of international travel, helping dramatically decrease the customs process while retaining high levels of security and information privacy for the traveler. Advances in IPITA development will also allow smart devices to be integrated into the travel process, providing real-time updates directly to data glasses or contact lenses as displays. Meanwhile, transparency and traceability for logistics optimization (TATLO) can help integrate the flow of information between companies and governments into a streamlined process, allowing trade to flow more efficiently, less expensively, and more securely.

The possibilities for Electronic Visas and Smart Airports are limitless and they each hold the potential to completely reinvent our perception of the airport. The report estimates that improving visa efficiency could generate an additional $40-$200 billion in new tourism receipts by 2015. These smart visas can use biometric identification, pre-interviews, and e-visas to create an entirely digital visa application process for international business and leisure travel. They could use risk-based screening, allowing border control to assess past travel patterns to gauge potential threats or efficient full-body scanners, reducing lines at security, as well as automated, biometric boarding identification to streamline the check-in process. In 2013, Dubai International Airport began using smart counters and e-gates with biometric identification based on iris, fingerprint, and face recognition and saw the immigration time drop to less than 20 seconds per low-risk passenger (who already have preregistered, passing biometrics). Broadening these practices can allow travelers to enjoy reduced travel time and cost, help public authorities prevent crime, terrorism, and smuggling more efficiently and effectively, as well as help private companies that might handle security clearances at airports. Hesitant governments must understand that online visa applications are secure, fast, and efficient, and these advancements can be directly correlated with an increase in travel and trade. According to the report, this magnitude can increase travel volumes by up to 25 percent.

Another important problem concerning the infrastructure of tomorrow, the traffic management of growing cities is quickly becoming a key issue already in many booming metropolises. To combat this problem, condition-based megacity traffic management (COMET) systems will provide real-time traffic analytics, from infrastructure and vehicle sensors to real-time analytics and smart parking, advanced COMET integration can alert drivers of any difficulties hindering their transit to make their travel as efficient as possible.

In 2010, the Hong Kong Government initiated the Route 8 project, which attempted to improve traffic conditions and reduce congestion within Hong Kong’s dense streets. The program tracked major highway usage and used the information to adjust speed limits and toll prices to reflect periods of intensive use. They also worked to integrate wireless communication capabilities with road signs, display boards, and mobile phones to help increase the cities roadway efficiency.

In another instance, Brazil’s Operations Centre in Rio de Janeiro used similar information to reduce traffic jams with restricted access and intelligent steering. COMET would connect public authorities with the right technology and infrastructure service providers to maximize the efficiency for the end user. COMET operators would receive data in real-time from users, infrastructure operators, and other external sources and use these sources to adjust toll prices and route alternative directions to drivers. However, the COMET system has to mediate a governing collaboration between public and private parties to integrate the required procedures. Local preferences must also be considered when selecting features to implement, such as tolling, which naturally raises significant opposition. COMET systems must also be sensitive to managing data, with clearly defined standards on data collection, storage, and use. Overall, COMET has a huge potential to improve the infrastructure of the cities of tomorrow, as long as the public and private sector can come together for the public good.

Another innovation, the integrated proactive intermodal travel assistant (IPITA), can dramatically cut down on costs on individuals in the estimated $3-9 billion squandered annually because of travel delays and cancellations in the U.S. IPITA is a mobile tool that “integrates planning, booking, and ticketing across all means of travel and transportation”, reducing delays and making travel faster and more efficient. IPITA would also be able to book travel plans directly from data glasses or contact-lens displays. Early studies at Google have introduced new features integrating Google Transit—which manages public transit with Google Maps, providing real-time traffic updates for many cities—and Google Glass, their wearable eyeglass-mounted displays. IPITA would work to integrate transportation providers with advertisers, data providers, and, ultimately, travelers to ensure their trip was as cheap and convenient as possible. It could also work together between private sector competitors to establish a global standard, further passing discounts down to the consumer.

Another innovation, the Tracking and Transparency-based Logistics Optimizer (TATLO) could use real-time information exchange between companies and governments to speed up trade. Shippers would pay for TATLO increasing their efficiency and transparency with the supply chain and reducing costs through each step of the process. However, there are challenges; setting up this complex system requires cooperation among many different private-sector parties, as well as standardizing data formats so all parties can share information with ease. Global shipping customs must also work to standardize trade regulations to make this possible and data security must be carefully managed as well. TATLO’s B2B and B2G would work to solve these issues by digitizing and automating all trade information. eCustoms and eFreight initiatives can also help solve these issues within the EU’s current, partially unified customs system.

By aligning future traffic management systems, modernized visa systems, advanced airport security and border control processes, and high-tech logistics optimization, we will see huge progress in the next level efficiency for the city of tomorrow.

This article was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier's September/October 2014 print edition.

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.