Rethinking Blockchain and Democracy


In a Nutshell

Blockchian & IoT

Democrachain is an exploration of the implication of the blockchain technology and the Internet of Things in the context of household energy consumption. It is an air conditioning system that utilizes blockchain to empower the distributed autonomous organization to make the environmentally ethical decision for the owner of the air conditioner.Taking a critical perspective, it also raises issues about blockchain democracy.


May. 2017


Edson Alcala

Yuxi Liu

Research & Concept Development

Design & Prototyping

The Context

A Critical Perspective

“The experience of seeing the web take off by the grassroots effort of thousands gives me tremendous hope that … we can collectively make our world what we want.”

Two decades ago, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, wrote about his thoughts and vision on a decentralized Internet. However, the Internet today is dominated by giant search engine and social network such as Google and Facebook. As users, our personal data are constantly collected by these companies. Consequently, the Internet is heavily centralized and we are increasingly living in filter bubbles.

Blockchain technology, utilizing the decentralized and distributed digital ledger, promises a paradigm shift in many sectors such as healthcare, banking, music industry, etc. Many people claim that blockchain can empower people, revolutionize business, and create a more open and fair future. However, behind the hype, the development of blockchain seems to follow a similar pattern as the Web. Will blockchain technology bring freedom to everyone, or eventually become another tool of big corporations for social control?

The Concept

A System for A DAO

The project looks into how blockchain and the Internet of Things can converge to evoke a different future in the energy space. More importantly, how blockchain can be used for democratization.

In this prototype, we built a blockchain-enabled air conditioning system with a specially made remote control and a notification system on mobile phone. Every time a user wants to turn on the air conditioner, the request would be stored on the Blockchain and it notifies all the members of the decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) – other users who sign up for the same service, would vote to decide if the air conditioner should be turned on for user who made the request.

The System and Technology

Hybrid & Decentralized

The system consists of multiple platforms – the air conditioning system and a mobile application – connected through blockchain and run on the cloud. The prototype was built with Ethereum, Geth, Truffle, Xamarin, Nethereum, Node.js, Web3 and Framer. The repositories can be found here.


The Interface

The Remote Control

To turn on the air conditioner, the use needs to send a request to the community through a the remote control. The response will be generated and sent back in one minute

The Interface

The Notification System

Once a member of the community send a request, the other members will receive a notification and they will have one minute to response. Through the interface, the users can review the details of the request sender, such as age, location, local temperature, total energy consumption etc., to make a more informed decision.


Beyond the Technology

This project looks into the mundane end of the distributed community spectrum, exploring a scenario where an air conditioner is governed by a community. As a proof-of-concept, the prototype demonstrated the potential use case. It’s worth noticing that the goal of the project is not to create a smooth user experience. On the contrary, due to the nature of the concept, the experience might be permeated frictions. It is these frictions that help us reflect on the social and ethical implementations of blockchain technology.