I am new to all this. So far I got the dev tools, kicked off my own test network on the laptop, mined a bunch of ethers, written a contract and deployed it to my network -- all works, awesome.
What I cant get a clear picture of is the transfer of physical assets via this trustless network. I understand when ethers are being deposited into my contract -- its an electronic thing, it works. What I dont understand is how the delivery of physical goods gets back to the buyer. For the sake of argument, I want to sell my car, or bonds in my portfolio. If I describe this stuff in the contract in great detail and ask ethers for it, what I am putting up is a promise to sell that stuff --- the actual physical car is still in my garage. So how is this supposed to work? Please point me in the right direction. Thank you

2 Answers 2


The most typical strategy is that the buyer and seller agree on who would resolve a dispute if there's a disagreement over whether or not the physical good was delivered.

Then the buyer sends funds to an escrow wallet contract that requires 2 of 3 signatures to transfer funds out. The 3 are the buyer, seller, and arbitrator.

Then the seller conveys the physical goods according to the agreed-upon method (e.g. does the seller have to drive the car a long distance or will the buyer pick it up?). The seller denotes this, signing to release the escrow funds to him/herself.

If the buyer acknowledges receipt of the goods, the buyer indicates that the funds should be released to the seller, and that's 2 of the 3 so the funds are released.

If something happens and the seller can't deliver, buyer and seller can both sign to refund the escrowed funds back to the buyer.

If there's a disagreement, the arbitrator can be called in to hear each of your perspectives and decide to release the funds to one or the other (or just leave the funds inaccessible to everyone in that escrow).


You can ask the guys at stock.it to build an ethereum-enabled lock for your car. That way you can write a contract so that it will open only when you identify yourself with a private key. Or you can add a lend() function to let it open for other people, too.

  • Well, this is silly. The car was just an example. The point is -- what happens when digital and electronic meet the physical?
    – alernerdev
    Mar 9, 2018 at 20:35
  • Yes, I understood that. So I gave you an answer with a real interaction between ethereum and physical objects. There's no interaction when doing just the money transfer (with an escrow) on the chain. Mar 10, 2018 at 11:02

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