Time to face the fundamentals: what are NFTs used for, in the first place? An abundance of high-value NFT sales has continued to dominate the space, despite the recent bear market, so it’s not too outlandish that many still associate NFTs with financial speculation. Lumping NFTs into this bracket seems like the most convenient way to answer why people even buy NFTs in the first place.
But in reality, NFTs are so much more than that.
Part of why brands are flocking to Web3 is the need to familiarize more people with the technologies associated with it. Obviously, that includes NFTs, which have largely served as a way for creatives to fully free themselves from middlemen when it comes to making a living off of their work in recent years. So here’s a breakdown of some of the best real-world use cases for NFTs, and how they could make your life in the future a touch more convenient.
1. Permanent Records
In a sense, one of the oldest challenges of legitimizing property or capital with irrevocable longevity is falling to the wayside thanks to the capabilities of NFTs. The best example of this? Soulbound Tokens (SBTs). These are a new type of NFTs proposed by Ethereum Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin, and are designed to function as a comprehensive suite of helpful tools for online users online to preserve — and protect — their identity. So how does this seemingly digital-first piece of tech fit into real-world use cases for NFTs?
Should SBTs launch as planned, they stand to make a very significant impact on the online and offline lives of everyone. Through SBTs, all sorts of utilities unlock for users, like the ability to mint medical records, academic records, employment histories, and everything else in between as an NFT. But SBTs are untradeable, which makes them different from regular NFTs. Additionally, SBTs are designed to be immutable, permanent records to ensure anyone can remain connected to their digital and physical existence.
Perhaps the most promising aspect behind SBTs is their ability to be an entirely opt-in experience. In other words, you don’t need every single bit of minted information publicly attached to your physical self (or stored away where you might lose it). Additionally, users won’t have to mint every single detail of their lives and accomplishments onto the blockchain. Just the parts you want to preserve.
Unfortunately, despite the massive inroads we’ve seen in technologies used to record electoral votes, these systems remain susceptible to one major form of attack: fraud. While election issues aren’t the number-one problem on the global agenda, the possibility of widespread fraud in the voting system still exists. The reason? The electronic voting systems that democratic countries rely on, whose weaknesses and vulnerabilities have been widely documented on the internet since these pieces of kit first rose to prominence.
But conducting the voting process digitally might not be an entirely flawed premise. Enter the blockchain, and of course, NFTs. Registering votes on the blockchain guarantees that each vote recorded cannot be tampered with and will remain on record indefinitely.
Ahead of the 2022 Philippine elections, one Filipino citizen caught onto this idea and launched an online voting platform powered by the blockchain, and of course, NFTs. The catch? He was a 12-year-old boy. But he might have been onto something. The results of his online voting platform mirrored results from official surveys leading up to the election, and even the 2022 Philippine election’s actual results.
3. Real estate
NFTs didn’t just unlock the virtual real estate industry. They also stand to benefit the IRL real estate industry. And it makes perfect sense. After all, for most people, homes end up being the one high-value investment they make in their lives. So how do NFTs fit into this age-old industry?
First, let’s look at precedent. Real estate NFTs aren’t an entirely new thing — the first recorded real estate NFT sale took place in 2017 when TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington purchased a blockchain-backed apartment on Propy. In 2021, he later auctioned off this property on the blockchain for 36 ETH, which was valued at roughly $93,000 at the time.
For the real estate industry, this is huge. And it largely boils down to how NFTs can have smart contracts written into them, which can potentially cut down the otherwise months-long process of buying and selling real estate to a fraction of the time. With the successful transactions facilitated via Propy, it might be a matter of time before this new convenient reality becomes the norm in the realm of real estate.
Other parties, like Roofstock, hope to facilitate further sales of NFT real estate to more forward-thinking homebuyers. In October 2022, they were able to successfully facilitate the sale of a single-family rental property to an investor with one click. “Instead of waiting months for underwriting, appraisals, title searches and preparing deeds, I was able to buy a fully title-insured, rent-ready property with one click,” said real estate investor Adam Slipakoff in a press release shared with nft now. But how does this work? Following a one-time mint of a membership token for a prospective homeowner, Roofstock enables these users to enjoy true one-click real estate transactions.
NFTs in the real estate industry also stand to make the premise of owning a home more realistic for more people across the globe. “With DeFi, we have an opportunity to offer cheaper and faster asset-based financing options [to consumers,]” said Roofstock’s Web3 head Sanjay Raghavan in an interview with nft now. “Between faster and cheaper purchasing and financing options, we see NFT-powered real estate transactions becoming very relevant for investment properties.”
4. Government documents
In today’s predominantly cashless society, one age-old headache remains. The inconvenience that follows upon losing your wallet. No, not your crypto wallet (that would probably sting just as much, if not more) — we’re talking about your actual physical wallet. Credit cards, debit cards, cherished polaroid photos, all gone. But the loss that might sting the most in this instance is your driver’s license.
But what if getting a new one didn’t have to be such a pain? That’s exactly what led to the Romanian government’s development of an institutional NFT marketplace. By letting citizens mint their official state documents and cards onto the blockchain as an NFT, the Romanian government hopes to significantly cut down on the amount of bureaucracy needed to replace or update these documents. It’s not the most exciting application of NFTs out there, but it could definitely make life a lot easier. Couple that with potentially minting land titles as NFTs, and the potential to simplify society as a whole gains credibility.
Modern gaming typically requires you to interface digitally with a screen or device of some kind, but NFT integration stands to give players a way to preserve all their achievements and assets across all their games, regardless of platform. But for now, mainstream game developers still need to catch on to this and actually do the implementation.
So how will this work? Should a game implement blockchain technology into its suite of services, players will be able to keep — and truly own — all their in-game rewards, assets, and collectibles. Although platforms like PlayStation and Xbox do preserve a player’s in-game achievements across multiple generations of consoles, the same can’t be said for whatever in-game collectibles and skins they may earn. Ditto for consoles launched before the online revolution that took place throughout the seventh generation of game consoles.
“Player ownership, utility, interoperability, transferability. These are all things that people have shown that they wanted for 30 years,” said Wax’s gaming head Michael Rubinelli in a prior interview with nft now. “We’re gonna show [gamers and developers] how it works. Because this is 2010 [all] over again where they didn’t adopt free-to-play. Every business model transition, every platform transition, everything has been resisted by the firmly entrenched groups because they don’t know how to operate.”
Given Wax’s activity in the blockchain gaming sector, Rubinelli believes that it is primed to serve as an example for other players in the blockchain gaming space. “We’re building a north star that shows the world how to get players ownership, NFT utility, and to play. Our economy’s participation models have never existed in gaming and a legal way, and yet, we’re bringing that into the light,” he said.