A collection of recent augmented reality and other innovations are laying the groundwork for the scaling of peer-to-peer sharing of physical assets. Sharing challenges such as trust, transaction and search costs, and asset management are actively being addressed. The below developments are promising, but have not yet been combined in a single citizen-facing solution. The opportunity is open, for now. Are you game?

  • Stickybits enables you to program a barcode with information about an item. A barcode on a item makes information about that item available to iPhone and Android users who have the free Stickybits application. You just scan the barcode with your phone to learn about the item. Users can also leave information about an item to create a record of interaction or attach related content. Imagine renting a riding lawn mower from a neighbor with a short video tutorial attached. Or barcoding all of your major belongings to make them available to your community. Stickybits has the potential to make peer-to-peer sharing easier. 
  • Peer-to-peer sharing and rental service Rentalic just released a new patent-pending payment mechanism that increases trust and ease of transactions. The new system verifies availability of sufficient funds for the transaction before rental as well as verifying the identity of the renter before releasing the item. It also enables renters to reserve the item without having to pay until the item is inspected. This solves trust issues on both sides of the transaction and reduces transaction costs. See how Rentalic’s new solution works here
  • The mainstreaming of location-based services could accelerate sharing. Foursquare and smartphone technologies have shown the value of location-based services. These technologies enable you to know where you are in relation to nearby friends, destinations, and resources. It could be the start of the availability of comprehensive on-demand, real-time resource maps that would naturally include items available to rent or share nearby.
  • Insurance. Peer-to-peer sharing of high-value assets like cars require new forms of insurance. Typical retail car insurance policies do not offer coverage for individuals who want to rent out their car. One solution comes from RelayRides, which offers a supplemental policy that covers drivers during the rental of a car. I have heard that others, like Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sunil Paul and Aaron Freed of Divvy, are on the brink of more sophisticated insurance products which may have application in other categories of sharing beyond cars. 
  • The new sociality. Maybe it’s just San Francisco or the SXSW crowd or social media users, but it seems that a new face-to-face sociality is emerging where people regard each other as peers and share as part of a lifestyle, just like online. Net culture is spilling over into the physical world with such innovations as barcamp and coworking, which sprung directly from the open source and social media communities. Services like Meetup and Eventbrite is make it easier than ever to get people together face-to-face. The new sociality lays the cultural groundwork for a new story of stuff, one where people share what they have lightening the load on themselves and the planet.

 Thumbnail image courtesy of Ben_Smith_UK.

Neal Gorenflo


Neal Gorenflo | |

Neal Gorenflo is the co-founder and board president of Shareable, an award-winning nonprofit news, action network, and consultancy for the sharing transformation. An epiphany in 2004 inspired Neal to

Things I share: Time with friends and family, stories, laughs, books, tools, ideas, nature, resources, passions, my network.