The idea of an IoT device not having an owner and selling its data to pay for its purchase, installation, internet connection, electricity and maintenance might seem like something futuristic but, I assure you it could be done already today.

The Self-owning internet of things (SOIoT) is not a smart futuristic AI system. It's a system that generates revenue, and uses that revenue to buy information from credible sources to make simple decisions and pays off humans to execute tasks in the real-world.

Let's dive into what this would look like in my perspective:

How it all starts

Anyone can install a SOIoT. A human would pay upfront for the installation and hardware, and the SOIoT device would pay back the cost plus a service fee. The SOIoT device when booted would create an Ethereum Address. This address would be used to receive revenue from selling data and pay for the services it needs.
Installing a needed SOIoT device is the incentive. If a human doesn't connect a SOIoT device that produces necessary data, the human will not see a return on investment. Through a payback plan, the SOIoT device would pay itself with the revenue from the sold data on marketplaces like Streamr Marketplace and others.

Keeping it running

The revenue created from selling data would be used to pay for physical locations aka rent,  internet and electricity. It is not possible to set up an internet or electricity contract for a non-human, but a human can sell their physical space, internet and electricity to the SOIoT.
With a project like Althea, decentralized internet paid with Ethereum is a reality. Althea would allow the SOIoT device to pay only for its bandwidth and choose the best provider based on speed and fees.
Electricity is more complicated; a device cannot merely switch electricity providers due to physical limitation.
A SOIoT can, however,  contain a renewable power source which reduces dependency on humans or pay for a human to relocate it in case the electricity fees are too high.
To decide where to relocate the SOIoT would buy data on electricity fees and the location of other SOIoTs. With this information, it would calculate where would be the best place to relocate to maximize revenues and payoff relocation fees and additional costs.
Finally, there is the maintenance aspect. In terms of software, the SOIoT is independent and contains the ability to rollback source code update from a hired human in case of not meeting a set of criteria; an issue occurs if there is a hardware issue. In this case, the SOIoT device should have an Emergency module that can prove the ability to pay maintenance and request it.

Evil Humans

One of the most significant issues for SOIoTs is interacting with malicious humans for repairs and relocations. To avoid the SOIoT from being scammed, it would only trigger a smart contract to confirm a transfer once a set of criteria would be satisfied.

What is in it for the Humans

For humans, the advantage of SOIoTs is they can make passive income by selling their internet and electricity. SOIoTs can also employ humans for maintenance, reallocations and software coding. They would also buy SOIoT data at the lowest cost because SOIoTs are not greedy. This selling data also gives them more leverage over big corporations that silo the data.

SOIoT goes bankrupt or is Stolen

Lastly, we should look into a SOIoT being stolen or going bankrupt.
SOIoTs don't have factory reset. A unique HW identifier guarantees that the SOIoT has already been initialized and they are encrypted. If stolen, there is no access to the SOIoT wallet (private key) nor can it be reset and relocated tricking it into paying a new human for purchase and installation fees.
If bankrupt, a human can finance the SOIoT with a loan and upgrade/relocate it to generate revenue again and pay off its loan. A more advanced SOIoT could loan money and pay for maintenance to another SOIoT to bring it online as an investment.

Final Words

I could go on and on about how humans could make electricity+internet+rent packages, how a whole economy could be born based on this idea, how a SOIoT isn't just something that generates data but can sell its utility; but I leave that up to your imagination.

As you can see, this is not science fiction; all of this would be possible today;  If data is so profitable for companies, then it is enough for SOIoT to be self-sustaining.
We can decentralize data with SOIoT because they will always sell their data at acceptable prices.

All we need is the initial spark to get this wheel turning.

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