SCF #8
Synced bounties

Crowdsourcing societally beneficial geospatial data through Stellar-powered bounties

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Synced Dashboard and Stellar-Based Bounties
This is the project’s main outcome. People will be able to create dashboards and follow data for places they care about. They generate the data on the dashboard by issuing bounties to Synced app users. The bounty specifies what app users should mark. Qualifying marks are added to the dashboard, and the marker is paid a share of the bounty. We have a prototype running on the Stellar Testnet.
Each bounty has an associated Stellar account, and anyone can contribute to the bounty by paying into the account. We’ll be using an existing Stellar-based asset, likely XLM (or potentially USDC) for simplicity. Contributors will also be able to pay in fiat, and it’ll be converted to the Stellar-based asset and added to the bounty. Bounty payouts will be in the Stellar-based asset.
In the longer term we want to have bounties for aerial imagery and for IoT datasets. These datasets give valuable information on issues like air pollution, wildfires or deforestation. During the project we’ll be prototyping this with air pollution sensor data, but won’t add these features until later on.
The Synced apps
We’ve already built the Synced apps for people to mark locations with helpful information. Users can leave photos or short videos with the marks and the marks are available for other app users to view and comment on. Marks are also accessible on the web.
During this project we’ll work on the app UX and infrastructure to support the bounty system. Available bounties at a location will be displayed on the app so users can mark anything that meets the criteria. Each Synced user will get a Stellar account to receive bounty payouts. We’ll encourage them to migrate the account to a third-party Stellar wallet and explore the wider Stellar ecosystem.
Stellar-Based Micropayments to Mark Creators
Some marks are exceptionally helpful or interesting. And we’d like to be able to let people tip tokens of appreciation to the creators. As all users will have a Stellar account to take bounties, this is a related feature to the above.

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Progress so far

Develop & release Synced bounties and dashboards beta by Spring 2022. Acquire users and generate revenue from bounties. Iterate from feedback and lay groundwork for new geospatial datasets by end 2022.

To get there, we request a budget of  

• Update the existing Synced apps to integrate Stellar accounts and add user interfaces for bounties
• Create dashboards MVP with ability to issue Stellar-powered bounties for app users to mark information  
• Add Stellar-powered tipping to marks
• Design new communication materials prior to release, add to blog and website
• Release beta versions of the above. Gain traction through content marketing and seeding dashboards
• Iterate on the products based on feedback
• Lay the groundwork for bounties on future datasets

Additional information

Problem and Solution

Geospatial data is critical to many functions of society, such as mapping, climate monitoring, agriculture, disaster relief and city management. The value of opening up this data is also evident through projects like OpenStreetMap. The developed world’s megacities now too have open geospatial data initiatives. These city datasets together have been accessed billions of times and have spawned an economy of popular apps. Around all this sits a huge $59.5bn analytics market, estimated to be worth $107.8bn by 2026.
The problem is that this data is time-consuming, expensive, and tedious to compile & update. The effort required to create and share these datasets inherently limit their flexibility and accessibility. It’s not easy to spin up a new dataset of interest, which is an issue when dealing with disasters or epidemics. And smaller or less resourced communities, forming most of the world’s population, cannot provide such datasets to their residents. For mapping, OpenStreetMap has shown crowdsourcing data can help. But data for the environmental and social layers above the map remain a problem.
Our solution is to build tools and an economy for crowdfunded & crowdsourced geospatial datasets. We already have an app, Synced, for people to mark places with information. This project will additionally let people make real-time dashboards for places they care about.
For example an engaged citizen creates a dashboard for Shimla, India. They then create a bounty for illegal waste dumping sites (in many countries the dumping or burning of waste is a big problem, affecting the environment, wildlife and people’s health). Each bounty is connected to a Stellar account, so that anyone can contribute to it. Bounties are then seen by Synced app users in Shimla. If they mark an illegal waste dumping site they receive a share of the bounty. The resulting mark also appears on the dashboard. The end result is a dataset of illegal dumping sites in Shimla, which encourages accountability and action from the municipality.
Bike theft in Cambridge, potholes in Los Angeles, hedgehog sightings in London, real-time data from a location in the news, reports on illegal logging, datasets of lovely beaches or of UFO sightings worldwide - the bounty system expands to the imagination of the dashboard creator. In the longer term we will extend the bounty system to provide more types of data including aerial imagery and Internet of Things (IoT) data.
Crowdfunded bounties are an effective way to crowdsource geospatial data at scale. They mitigate the challenge of data coverage being correlated to the income level of a region, which has been shown to affect OpenStreetMap and other crowdsourcing projects. You can also measure changes to a place over time, for as long as a community sees the need.
Stellar is the ideal platform to build our bounty system on. Its speed, low fees and small environmental footprint make it feasible to transfer small amounts to and from lots of people. Plus we wanted a global solution so that anyone, anywhere in the world, can contribute to or receive bounties. We also like the ethos of the Stellar community.

Target Market

Community-minded individuals
Based on feedback from Synced app users, and from canvassing 30K households in South East England, we expect the first bounty issuers to be people who are deeply interested in or frustrated about a local issue. They’ll be prepared to fund bounties to help others, or to create accountability. They’ll have sufficient disposable income and a stake in the community - youngish professionals, likely homeowners. The issue they want to highlight will vary from place to place. For some places it will be bike theft. For many places in the developing world it could be open waste dumping/burning. In other regions it may be illegal logging or animal welfare. People who gain value from the dashboard will then contribute funds to keep it going.

Municipalities and non-profit organisations
From our project with the UK’s Geospatial Commission we learned that there is interest from municipalities. A McKinsey report on the topic summarises their need and our value proposition to them: “It is often time-consuming, expensive, and tedious to compile the extensive data sets needed for geospatial analysis. But governments may be able to reduce some of the complications by promoting citizen involvement. If governments decide to collect information from the public, it might be helpful to create a central database, which will provide officials with an integrated view of the issues that matter to constituents.” There’s also opportunities in the charity and academic sectors, where citizen-led data gathering is done to help monitor and measure environmental and social issues.

Insights for businesses
We’ve spoken with one of the world’s largest property management companies. They were interested in a way to get feedback on the shopping centres and apartment complexes they manage. Other commercial possibilities include generating data for market intelligence and generating images/video for machine learning datasets or for news stories.

The weird and wonderful
There’s also lots of fun secondary applications. People might want a dashboard of worldwide public art/graffiti. There are people dedicated to mapping roundabouts  or lighthouses. UFO hunters would welcome a central dashboard of sightings. Many of these will be about positive topics and will be a great addition to the platform.

For dashboards to be populated the app needs a good coverage of marking users. From our trials with paid marks, we’re confident we can get markers. These users will likely be younger, often students, who have some time to mark any bounties and see it as a fun game.

Revenue Model

We’ll generate revenue by taking a percentage of each bounty as a fee. For crowdsourced bounties we envisage a fee of around 10-15% of the bounty. For future bounties on other data types, there will be a fixed price per data refresh. For organisations who want to keep their dashboards private there’ll be an additional surcharge.
Our top-line annual revenue roughly involves multiplying the number of dashboards created, the mean number of bounties per dashboard and the mean annual revenue per bounty (MRPB). We’ve estimated the mean number of bounties per dashboard as three, as dashboards are designed to cover multiple facets of a region. The key variables for 2022-2024 projections are then the number of dashboards and the MRPB. For EOY 2022 we’re targeting 110 dashboards with a MRPB of $1,771. We’ve modeled a power-law distribution, with most of the revenue coming from a small number of dashboards. These numbers rise to 2000 dashboards with MRPB of $3,406 by EOY 2024 as we bring in other datasets and more organisations.

Market Research

Research by Frontier Economics shows the market for geospatial data is large and has been growing sharply. In the UK a conservative estimate puts its size at $8.17bn to $12.26bn - with the number of fundraisings having an annual growth rate of over 20% over the past ten years and the growth rate of the value of fundraisings at 40%.
The report further highlights that the market “...has been transformed via an evolution in data collection mechanisms. Technology has enabled a substantial amount of value to be generated from non-traditional sources of location data, such as data gathered through crowdsourcing”.

Beside the market for data is the market for geospatial analytics, which is estimated to grow from $59.5bn in 2021 to $107.8bn in 2026.

In the near term we’ll mainly be in the geospatial data market, and particularly in the transformative crowdsourcing segment. We’ll also be opening a new segment of the market by enabling communities of people to generate the data that matters to them. Using the valuations of companies who operate in adjacent niches (crowdsourcing crime or transport data), we estimate the addressable market to be in the hundreds of millions. With the addition of analytics, additional data sources and aerial imagery, this would be multiples higher.

Threats & Opportunities

There’s compliance and app store issues around issuing cryptocurrency. We’ll use some funds to seek legal advice to navigate these. Plus there will be minimal cryptocurrency features in the apps themselves. Bounties will be issued by web-based dashboards, and users will only be able to access their crypto details via the web. They’ll be encouraged to migrate their Stellar accounts to a third-party wallet.
People may put themselves or others in danger to win bounties. There’s also the spectre of bad data. We‘ll be using multiple methods to counteract these risks. Bounties will need to be approved by us before they can be issued, and marks will be approved by funders before payouts (similar to how Amazon’s Mechanical Turk works). Marks have an image or video, which is helpful in verifying data. Synced also has a reporting system to flag issues. We’ll further be able to check our analytics data and the Stellar chain for suspicious activity. Longer term, once we build up data, we can train algorithms to assign marks a probability of being inaccurate. The aim is to make acting badly too much effort for the potential reward.
We’re taking a novel approach to generating geospatial data. This has the challenge of getting people to understand how it works and its potential. Which is why we’ll be using some funds to seed early dashboards and bounties ourselves.
The novelty is also a fantastic opportunity for word-of-mouth spread. Instead of starting with the data, as is traditionally done, we start with the regions and topics people care about. They can then crowdfund the data to give them a full picture. And if you have the app, you get the chance to win bounties for helping.


For environmentally and socially related geospatial data, there are top-down providers and bottom-up.

Top-down providers include satellite data providers like Planet Labs, or Tyler Technologies who power the open datasets of a number of North American cities including NYC, San Francisco and Austin. These datasets are expensive to produce and so tend to serve larger organisations or are only available for wealthier cities. In the case of city data, it’s also difficult to create a new dataset to fill a niche of local interest or keep datasets up-to-date.

For bottom-up data social networks are the current go-to. There will be posts about waste dumping, bike theft, potholes, lovely beaches etc. Unless they go viral these posts will disappear in the sea of other content. There’s no single dashboard that can be seen as a source of accountability and it’s not easy to generate the data on demand.

Our approach is bottom-up, starting with what people care about. We’ll be able to provide live dashboards as sources of accountability and longer term integrate helpful top-down datasets too. And if a bounty continues to have societal value it will continue to be funded and updated enabling changes to be measured over time.

Marketing & Sales

Dashboards are content people care enough about to have crowdfunded & crowdsourced. So we will be using them as key assets in a content marketing strategy. In a series of blog posts we’ll also explore the stories behind some popular dashboards. The content will be shared across social media channels - to inspire others to contribute to existing bounties or start dashboards for things and places they care about. To start the ball rolling we’ll use some marketing budget to fund a few bounties ourselves. Once the dashboards have some traction we’ll also approach organisations, including local authorities of smaller cities, to promote dashboards as an affordable solution to generating the data they need.

Resources & Relationships

Synced came out of the accelerator at the University of Cambridge's Business School, and we're fortunate to be able to seek advice from them when refining the business-related aspects of the product.
To look at working with IoT data in Synced dashboards we plan to collaborate with Open-Seneca, another Cambridge based organisation which is creating a crowdsourced dataset of air quality sensor data.

As one of the winners of Innovate UK and the UK Geospatial Commission's Crowdsourcing Geospatial Data competition, we'll also be able to connect with them to reach around 2,000 firms across the UK working with Geospatial data to promote our dashboards and bounties.

Pitch deck
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First Deliverable

Building and releasing the Synced dashboards & bounty system is the central piece of our long term strategy. By the end of this project we’ll have both our core products in place (the already existing apps and the new dashboards). We’ll also be making revenue through these products. Based on user feedback we’ll then iterate the products and also offer new datasets.

The majority of funding will be used to fund salaries to the end of 2022 so we can work on the project full-time rather than intermittently between contracts. We’ll have a developer/business developer, UX designer/product manager and we’ll bring on one more developer.
We’ll be using funds for specialist advice too, including legal advice, app specialists to improve the camera interface and graphic design expertise for our communication materials. There’s a marketing budget to fund the initial dashboards & bounties and for internet advertising. The remainder is for overheads. A breakdown can be found in the finance slide.


Tejas Shah - Development/Business Development
I enjoy the challenge of building things that people love to use and that have a positive impact on their lives. I have 15 years of experience building things at Imperial College London, Citigroup, the Sanger Institute, Cambridge University and now Synced.

Xiaohui Wang - Design/Product Management
Hi, I am Xiaohui :-) I am a designer and creative technologist with a passion to build a better future for people. I have a multidisciplinary background in Design, Engineering & Business from the Royal College of Art, Imperial College London and London Business School. As a designer my work has been exhibited internationally and I have received numerous awards including the Fast Company Innovation by Design award and the Dezeen award.