Here’s how Project Oaken nabbed a hundred thousand dollars.

It has to do with Ethereum, of course. But before we discuss Ethereum, let’s talk about the victory for DFW based Project Oaken.

If you’ve ever thought about how today’s toll system works (you haven’t?), you’d quickly realize that it’s essentially become an IoT platform. In the not too distant past, toll roads had people in booths for one reason: to exchange paper for metals because coins and gravity made a quick payment mechanism for the roads. It was faster to make change and have you drop said change in a bucket than it was to have you deal with a machine to pay.

Then we got toll tags, and you could zoom through (at a reasonable 50-55MPH) safely, while a machine read the signals from the tag mounted just above your mirror. No cash? No problem… your account will be automatically debited.

Today, tollbooths have no people. Toll roads have staff to make sure the machines do what they’re supposed to, but transactions have become a series of automated processes. License plate readers/OCR have made traveling through a zone at 80MPH as normal as buying a pizza in Facebook messenger from a chat bot.

As with most of today’s IoT (internet of things) solutions, there’s a server, and when it involves cash, a transaction fee. Those fees add up over time, and as your project scales, so too does your infrastructure costs. Project Oaken created a prototype toll system that eliminates the server component, and reduces the transaction fees to insignificance.

And to make sure people knew about it, they entered the concept into the UAE Blockchain Virtual GovHack hackathon. Because who doesn’t need a Tesla, and a tollbooth on Blockchain?

This was such a unique and well executed concept, they won the competition – taking home the $100,000 grand prize.

Now, back to Ethereum. Ethereum is “a decentralized platform for applications that run exactly as programmed without any chance of fraud, censorship or third-party interference.” Think of it as a transaction log that can’t be modified – and that carries with it proof and validation for every exchange. There are some other fantastic technologies (IPFS, Node) involved in this project, the scope of which is far, far beyond this story… but know this. New and innovative approaches to every day scenarios is the essence of startup – and Project Oaken and their concept of Acorns does a great job demonstrating exactly this.

Congratulations to the team. Well done.

Michael Sitarzewski

Michael Sitarzewski is the Publisher of Launch DFW, co-founder and CEO of Epic Playground, Inc., makers of inboundgeo. He is a veteran entrepreneur (and a TechStars Cloud alum) with a specific focus on Web-based software and services. Sitarzewski has been a part of the internet startup culture since 1994 and has had two exits along the way. After a seven years in the Boulder, Colorado startup community, Michael returned to Dallas, Texas, in 2013 where he’s focused on growing and increasing the visibility of the burgeoning Dallas startup community. He is the EIR at The DEC, a mentor in the RevTech accelerator, and leads several events in the Dallas area. Sitarzewski considers helping people understand and leverage technology his life's work.