Combining blockchain and nanotechnology to fight criminal counterfeiters and build brand trust.
Say the word “blockchain” to businesspeople and you’re likely to be met with either a “never heard of it” or an “it’s also called bitcoin isn’t it?” response. These kinds of comments are probably well known to those involved in nanotechnology. The reality is that neither of these transformational technologies are yet widely understood, and real-world applications are only now emerging to address business opportunities.
While blockchain is perhaps best known as the technology that underpins the (somewhat notorious) cryptocurrency called bitcoin, it can be applied to many different business areas like finance, healthcare, identity and supply chain. Major IT companies, such as IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle, have invested big in making blockchain usable by business enterprises for these applications, and more.
In this article, we’ll highlight how the combination of blockchain and nanotechnology can be applied to a particularly challenging aspect of supply chain management, namely the huge global criminal marketplace in counterfeit goods, which hurts business profits, impacts brand trust and undermines customer relationships.
First, a quick primer on blockchain. A blockchain is a type of database that is tamper proof. Data stored in a blockchain cannot be changed (the technical term is immutable), it can be shared among multiple users, and significantly the composition of the data stored is agreed to by multiple users of the blockchain before it can be stored (this process is known as consensus). In short, blockchains are an incredibly secure way to keep information safe and consistent among multiple participants in a business network.
Next, a few words about the shadowy world of counterfeit goods. Sadly, it’s a big business for criminals. Recent industry statistics suggest counterfeiting is a $1.8 Trillion endeavor that spans the globe. Just about every product is a target for counterfeiters luxury fashion accessories, wine, auto parts, pharmaceuticals, sports apparel and consumer electronics are common examples and this activity impacts businesses and their brands both financially and reputationally and can represent a significant safety risk for consumers.
So how is the combination of blockchain and nanotechnology being leveraged to fight the counterfeiters?
At Quantum Materials Corp. we have developed nanomaterials called quantum dots over the past decade. Quantum dots are nanoscale semiconductor particles that possess notable and extremely useful optical and electrical properties. They measure from 1,000 to 100,000 atoms in size (approximately 10,000 dots would fit across the diameter of a human hair) and they generate light when energy is applied to them or generate energy when light is applied.
Our quantum dots can be incorporated into almost any physical item at time of manufacture, and then provide a unique light signature that establishes absolute product identity. These identities are impossible to copy or clone so that products enhanced by them can be verified as being genuine items and not counterfeits.
When the quantum dot signature of a product is scanned (via a hand-held scanner or an app on a smartphone), a digital representation is created that is stored on our secure and tamper-proof blockchain platform. It is this platform that allows for tracking of products providing visibility among all participants in their supply chain - from manufacture to customer purchase.
In addition, the blockchain platform is also used to store the unique digital identities of individual customers, and to tie ownership of a product to a customer at purchase time. No longer is it necessary to keep the receipt!
For example, a customer purchasing a luxury handbag that has QMC’s quantum dots incorporated into it by its manufacturer can use their smartphone to scan the bag to give them confidence that the bag is genuine. As a bonus, the manufacturer is notified that the bag’s authenticity has been checked and can offer a warranty or loyalty program to the customer in order to establish an enduring brand/customer relationship.
The bottom line for blockchain plus nanotechnology is that … it certainly impacts the bottom line. Surveys conducted by retailers point to customers not only appreciating being able to prove product authenticity but tending to buy more products where that functionality is available. They also frequent the retailer more often. Almost everyone is a winner the customer, the retailer and the product brand. The criminal counterfeiters? Not so much.
By Stephen Squires, Founder & CEO, Quantum Materials Corp. Accessed: Nov 08, 2019.