By Eamon Jubbawy, COO and co-founder of Onfido
An independent review into the UK sharing economy late last year found that 25 per cent of UK adults are sharing online in some way. The sharing economy – already estimated by PwC to be worth £9 billion globally – has transformed how people interact and do business.
It has made household names of the likes of Uber and Airbnb, upended service-based industries and changed how we think about employment and workers.
The key element driving this revolution is trust. Just as marketplaces like eBay found ways to build public trust in online peer-to-peer selling, so the sharing economy is creating new ways of safely connecting workers and consumers via online platforms.
Innovative security and background checks, combined with peer-based review systems, have forged the conditions for consumers to connect with ‘strangers’ with the confidence previously reserved for corporations.
As a result, the sharing economy’s influence is extending from the arena of service-based industries such as transport, accommodation and cleaning and into previously unchartered territory.
This groundswell of trust building for the sector has profound implications for how we live and work. Here are some areas that could be significantly redefined in the coming years.
Reworking the business to business model
Most people consider consumer services to be the only area revolutionised by the rise of the sharing economy. But the B2B sector is also evolving to meet the new world order.
More and more apps and startups – such as Universal Avenue and Upwork – are popping up helping companies to outsource work to armies of freelancers. Being able to hire a talented sales rep or manager anywhere in the world through an app opens up a world of potential to both businesses and talent. Allowing geographical expansion without the need for a parallel physical expansion.
In tandem to this, the growth in global background checking and identify verification services has made it easier to verify the credentials of workers without meeting them face to face. Giving B2B firms increasing confidence that the person they are hiring is who they say they are and cutting down on fraud or the use of fake identities.
These improved background screening processes will further boost confidence in these new platforms and make remote freelance hiring ever more common and reframe how B2B firms hire even the most specialist staff.
Allow us to automatically and safely offer everything we own for rent
One positive constantly touted by supporters of the sharing economy is the way it helps us share under used assets. Research suggests there exists as much as £3.5 trillion worth of under-used assets to be swapped, traded or shared.
The sharing economy initially evolved from this concept of sharing assets. But the process behind it has always been time-consuming and requires a lot of set-up, meaning only the most committed tended to use these marketplaces. Furthermore, many were also reluctant to lend their possessions to ‘complete strangers’ and subsequently would not put their trust in the system.
The parallel growth of the ‘internet of things’ (IoT) could dramatically alter this. As more and more of what we own connects to the internet, potential exists for these items to communicate to and register with a third party database which would easily allow anyone to automatically offer up their possessions to others.
Without lifting a finger people will be able to consider offering evermore ‘stuff’ for hire – from power drills and ladders to tents and guitar amplifiers.
The IoT’s ability to track these items online also eliminates many previously held concerns about items being stolen. Combined with sharing companies’ ever growing ability to verify identities of those using their platforms via social media networks and background checking processes, the potential growth in this area is huge.
Making your retirement safer and easier
The convergence of the IoT with the sharing economy opens up a world of possibilities. Joseph Coughlin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes that this partnering of modern technology could transform our retirements.
Coughlin points out the long-heralded potential the IoT of things has for making older people safer or make their lives easier – from smart pill bottles alerting people to low medication supplies to fridge sensors alerting people to low milk supplies.
Coughlin thinks the IoT could blend with the sharing economy. Soon that smart pill bottle and fridge will be able to talk directly to local sharing economy companies and deliver exactly what you need when you need it quickly and cheaply.
As people have put their faith in sharing economies to deliver their groceries and take them around town, it is a natural evolution that they will also trust these same platforms to carry out ever more work for them, such as supplying medication.
Combined this with the sharing economy’s potential to utilise older people’s assets for an extra income source and life could soon be very different for retirees.
Making you and your lifestyle more portable
As we place and share more and more of our data into apps, social networks and smartphones, more information than ever about our tastes, habits and lifestyles exists online.
These ‘digital’ profiles are of course portable and sharing services are increasingly realising the potential of this. Travelling or working abroad will become more convenient than ever as sharing economy platforms will commonly make their service global, allowing you to use one account wherever you are in the world.
It could be a case of ‘When in Rome, do as at home’ as hiring an Uber or ordering niche groceries in San Francisco or Stockholm becomes as easy as it is in Sunderland or Shoreditch. Your nationality or place of residence won’t matter.
Local service providers will know from your digital profile they can trust you to pay and hold your half of the bargain and will be happy to work with you. Your ‘digital’ profile allows others to judge whether you are trustworthy, passports and paper ID may pale in significance.
The sharing economy sector is still in its infancy, but the strides made in recent years in building secure systems that verify identities, build community trust and make data more secure are very encouraging.
It all suggests that the world will we live in will become an increasingly trusting place.