Espiota is one of the most interesting projects within the IOTA community. It is a micropayment device that is specialized in receiving and sending IOTA. The device, called Espiota, is a tiny, configurable device that allows any electrically powered device to trigger a specific action when an IOTA payment is made. In the following, the project’s developer, Christian Oosting, has given us interesting insights into the technology, the progress and the already existing interest.
Hi Christian, first of all thank you for taking the time to give us an insight into Espiota. First of all it would be great if you could introduce yourself briefly. Are you doing the Espiota project full time? What is your professional and academic background?
My name is Christian Oosting. I studied computer science and work as a freelance software developer in Hamburg. I develop Espiota together with Felix Reichard, the operator of IOTAShops. Currently, we both spend several hours a day working on Espiota, but also work on other projects to earn our living.
How did you get the idea to develop Espiota and what kind of feedback have you received so far?
I have noticed that there are many PoCs that can switch on a device for a certain time after payment is received. However, these are all very specific to the device and in most cases neither the Wi-Fi, IOTA address nor the cost was configurable. So I wanted to develop a solution that could be used for a wide variety of applications without any programming knowledge. The feedback was so great that I decided to develop Espiota beyond the PoC.
Have you applied for the IOTA Ecosystem Fund. What is the current status and what support do you currently receive from the IOTA Foundation? Were there already talks with the foundation about supporting you?
We are in active exchange with the IOTA Foundation, but have not yet officially applied. Since the Development Fund is only available to open source projects, we can only develop individual components of the software on this basis. We are currently working on the details of the specification in order to make free software available to the community on the one hand and to build a valid business model on it on the other. Independent of the Development Fund, however, we need further funding for the development of the hardware and are therefore talking to potential investors.
Among the use cases presented on the Espiota website are the areas of accommodation, smart cities, mobility and industry. Especially as a “little” developer, I can imagine that the acceptance in the industry or even smart cities will be very difficult to achieve. How do you want to reach these goals? Do you count on support from the IOTA Foundation?
Correct. In these areas there are also very special use cases which Espiota cannot (yet) cover. For many applications, however, this does not apply. If the external cleaning robot wants to charge itself at a power outlet, an Espiota could be used in the near future. This is similar in the smart city sector. On the way home at night, switch on the lanterns for a few minutes and pay with IOTA? No problem, just insert an Espiota. The greater hurdle is to make the potential of decentralized technologies clear to the cities and to find responsible people who are willing to explore new paths. Once the time comes, we’ll be ready to start with the right technology.
Espiota is currently still in prototype status. When do you plan to release the final product? What other features do you want to implement, what needs to be improved?
We hope to release a finished product in 2021. The biggest hurdle is the development of the hardware. This is extremely time and cost intensive if all legal requirements for a distribution in Germany are to be met. On the software side, the main goal is to make Espiota configurable for a wide range of applications. From the power outlet to the hotel safe to the coffee machine and much more, the most diverse requirements are created for the software, which should be covered as broadly and efficiently as possible.
For example, the credit balance of a safe can become negative if it is still locked after the end of its useful life. The end user would therefore first have to pay the debts in order to be able to open it again. An air conditioning system, on the other hand, should in most cases simply switch itself off as soon as there is no credit left. A coffee machine, however, often only requires a single signal. The operator should be able to configure all these devices according to his needs.
What are your ambitions with Espiota? What are the next steps (besides the release of the finished product) and where do you see Espiota in one and three years?
The next step is to develop a solution that can be used with existing hardware. This is an open source application that already provides many basic functions and can be used in practice until the corresponding specialized hardware is ready for the market. For this purpose we are working on can publish something in the foreseeable future and possibly already take first orders. The final product will build on this solution and extend it with various practical applications.
Currently, the functionality of your invention is limited to payment via IOTA. Would a Fiat interface, which converts the payment amount into IOTA for the transfer, also be conceivable? This could certainly achieve greater and faster acceptance. What do you think about this?
Yes, it is conceivable. We have already spoken to an exchange that would provide such a function. For example, the end user could pay by Paypal or credit card and the amount would automatically be converted to IOTA and sent to the address of the end device. We believe such a feature is essential before cryptocurrencies are adopted by the masses.
Have you already had initial contacts with companies that have shown interest in Espiota? What are your sales and marketing plans? Who could be your first customers?
Yes, we are in contact with various companies such as ZipEnergy from London, who are developing a battery module together with the University of Leicester. This is intended to guarantee farmers in developing countries access to electricity on the basis of micropayments. To this end, they want to test our prototype and an initial test phase is scheduled to begin next year in Kenya. We have also received several other inquiries and even orders, although no product is available yet. The interest is tremendous and motivates us to continue every day.