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Scope of POEMs

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What does the designer’s specification for a POEMs service look like? A spectrum of trading mechanisms, underpinned by supporting facilities.




The brief

Amazon built the “Everything Store” for barcoded items. Team POEMs are doing the same for community transactions within an obligation for Universal Service. Some immediate challenges:

  • Time-based services: Markets for selling items are simple. But you want people and resources being hired for fixed periods of time. Selling a lawnmower is just one transaction. A mower that’s hired when not needed offers summer-long recurring revenue, particularly if a work-seeker is seamlessly engaged to deliver and return it each time.


  • Small transactions: You can’t structure markets around easy listings such as “weddings”. You have to atomize to the smallest unit of sale; individual photographers, celebrants, premises, journey components, catering from any seller. POEMs meshes them together into personalized packages for a buyer.


  • The user is sovereign: Any legal entity can use the system. That includes corporates although advantages of scale will be non-existent in POEMs. Users can’t be locked in or pushed into deepening usage. Any user can exit at any time taking all their data elsewhere.


  • New sectors: POEMs’ scope should create new markets. “Holders” for example are households where there is always someone home. POEMs uses them as a drop-off point for individualized supply chains or local deliveries. They are a more responsive, localized and scalable alternative to space-consuming services like Amazon Lockers.


Understanding mechanisms

To enable trading across thousands of sectors, POEMs will have to make sophisticated use of mechanisms. E-markets match a buyer with sellers through a range of these devices. You have an attic full of Elvis memorabilia to shift? No-one knows what it’s worth, buyers aren’t in a hurry; an auction mechanism on sites like eBay allows price discovery.

But nobody auctions groceries; prices are known and everyone’s in a hurry to finish shopping. A fixed-price catalogue mechanism like the one at is best. Other mechanisms for online trade include; Request-for-quote, bid/ask, reverse auctions and aggregated buying.

High-volume markets for assets that are hired for blocks of time can exploit a powerful mechanism known as Stored Availability. You will likely know it from booking on Expedia, or Trip Advisor. Consumer sites like this interact with an underlying database run by the travel industry. It knows details of each hotel room, flight seat and rental vehicle; when it is available and how it is to be priced. That underlying platform makes it instant, cheap and reliable to purchase travel services. And it generates detailed data, allowing sellers to align with buyers’ evolving needs.

There are many other mechanisms to be built, for example, journey construction. A mature POEMs could pull together any A-to-B transition using combinations of seats on mini-buses, one-way bike hire, carpools, motorbike express taxi’s and any other form of moveable seat its eclectic seller base wants to offer. It’s up to each buyer what transportation modes they’re comfortable with. And some travellers will need child seats, ski racks or pet transporters. POEMs will have rental markets for each. A mechanism has to plot their convergence with the vehicle in each case, and the return to its owner after a booking. Trading in stances (plots of land used as transfer points for passengers) has to be integral.

POEMs must seamlessly flip between mechanisms based on a buyer’s needs of the moment. So, assume a facilities manager looking for an office cleaner in a Berlin POEMs. Thousands of cleaners will have set up pricing rules and personal diaries allowing instant purchasing of their stored availability for work. But the manager may additionally need someone certified to operate a Husqvarna Hiperfloor Industrial Polisher, on Sunday, in the suburbs. That may produce zero returns. But some of the handful of Hiperfloor accredited operators may choose to use POEMs’ out-of-hours appointment-selling mechanism. That flushes out a buyer’s personal price elasticity against each person’s rules about what it would take to get them to work at times they normally wouldn’t. It may cost 100 Euros an hour, but his floors will shine.


Enabler functions

Any POEMs purchase, whatever the mechanism, has to draw on support functions within the system. They will have to include:

  • Dynamic pricing: POEMs doesn’t impose prices. It needs a range of enticing inputs allowing each seller to set their own terms. That might include personal settings around compensation for travel, and escalating charges for short notice or short length assignments.


  • Identity validation: The ideal would be recurring look-ups in any database of passports, licences and legal permissions. But an easier option would be for all official paperwork to come with a code that validates it to POEMs if a user wishes.


  • Legal compliance: In the US for instance, many labor market transactions would need to be run through federal, state, county and city ordinances. The system can instantly construct neutral, standard contracts for any transaction in each sector.


  • Reliability reward: POEMs must never make a user do anything, but it should objectively monitor whether buyers and sellers do what they say they will. Any user, person or organization, can then exploit a good track record as they wish. Within the system proven reliability should facilitate; higher charges, access to training or reduced insurance costs.


  • Dispute resolution: Where a purchase goes sour; buyer and seller need facilities like; real-time affidavits, automated settlement offers, online adjudication and enforcement of judgments. A dishonest party should expect to have their standing or activities on POEMs curtailed; just as a bad driver expects points on their license.


  • Market boosters: Data on patterns of demand, supply and pricing in any sector or geography can inform interventions. Not enough truck drivers in the city? Too many motorbike couriers? The system can instantly assess a business case for offering trucking training to the provenly reliable bikers.


  • Financial functions: Obviously buyer has to transfer funds to seller, so POEMs needs a settlement mechanism. It could also offer entry-level bank accounts, peer-to-peer lending, tax calculation and deduction on each transaction, welfare payments conditional on maintaining reliability and more. With this set up, it’s no stretch to also offer:
    • Insurance: This could include transaction cover so if a seller unavoidably let’s down a buyer, POEMs has funding to immediately book a replacement. This hour-by-hour micro-insurance could come from an Allianz, China Life or Berkshire Hathaway of course. But it could also be someone with $100 to invest for a week choosing to pool it to insure, perhaps, rental of stud animals.
    • Portable Benefits: Again, POEMs can calculate and deduct charges to cover sickness cover, pensions or holiday pay. But there’s no one model or provider. Anyone can be part of a pool selling these services on competing terms to users. That could include co-operatives or public provision.

  • Ringfenced markets: Some people need extra help and protections in the labor market. POEMs can run markets curated by any reputable body where for instance, people with developmental disabilities are booked initially by supportive buyers knowing a favored “work buddy” will also be scheduled by the system.


  • Functions for intermediaries and external apps: Any legally permitted body can act as a middleman between sellers and markets in POEMs, adding their own charges to be deducted by the system. In territories like the US that could mean being employer-of-record.

Bodies such as unions should have the tools to extend services and offer per-transaction micro-membership if they wish. And if companies like Uber want to use POEMs as their underlying labor source, that will need an API.


Further facilities

POEMs needs code for searching the incredible granular, real-time, data it generates while preserving user confidentiality. Analytics tools to show any individual and organization where their evolving opportunities sit are vital.

Once the system can deliver everything on this page, it could provide further solutions like an alternative currency. We call this system-specific micro-currency POETs (Parallel Official Economy Tokens). They differ from Bitcoin, Facebook Libra, or crypto-currency experiments by central banks in that:

  • Tokens can be evenly released over time: They should be seen as a right for domestic users with an initial tranche perhaps eked out over a first 6 months of POEMs’ use.
  • Usage could be controlled by market data: To preserve the main currency, POETs may only work for particular markets where shortage of “real” money is a demonstrable brake on activity within a radius of a user’s home. Childcare, in-home support, or short journeys are examples.
  • Tokens decay: A rule that each token expires if not transferred as part of a purchase within four weeks would drive velocity and activity.


As part of their concession, operators could also be mandated to provide services at no-charge to users. They might include; volunteering that fits around for-pay activity (“I am available for work between 2PM and 6PM today, if I have no paid work by 1PM release those hours to any of my approved animal charities”).

Users might chose to vote on their system homepage using their POEMs’ constantly authenticated ID (on hyper-local matters or formal elections), social groups could be formed and administered by any user.


Compliance offer

Transparency, accountability and neutrality are core for POEMs. So, the system has to publish its technical specifications and a copy of its code (minus security settings). An updating set of screens with this content won’t attract the average user. But allowing any conspiracy theorist free reign to probe for divergence from operators’ public statements offers reassurance to all users.

The operating consortium has to be a standalone entity with no preferential ties to any organization that might buy, sell or invest through its markets. All its accounts, salaries and operational records are online. The system generates only two categories of data: (a) private for a user (b) published openly. There is no “for operators only” data. So, server capacity and other normally commercially sensitive metrics have to be on show. Again, screens that facilitate skeptical poking of this content build trust.

There should be no cap on the returns possible for operators of a well-run POEMs. But the greatest threat to their revenue must remain akin to a run on a bank: users start distrusting the system and – able to instantly download all their data – exit for alternative services.


POEMs at home