The Blockchain Conference in San Francisco brought out a few interesting technology companies to speak about the next generation of blockchain technology applications. Keep reading to see what the CEO of stealth startup Hellosent thinks about Internet of Things and smart contracts; what CyGuard, Inc.’s founder and CEO says about accountability in advertising and Vechains CEO about product authenticity.
Blockchains are distributed, cryptographically secured ledgers that provide publicly auditable transaction histories and this infrastructure technology underlies and secures the digital currency Bitcoin. By using cryptography, blockchains also allow multiple parties to keep private information private while keeping it publicly auditable; this provides the foundation for multi-party trust.
As a result, blockchain technology can be used to solve real world problems such as enforcing contracts, providing accountability to partners or allowing for the verification of real world products.
Hellosent a blockchain smart contracts company using IoT technology
Peter Peh, CEO of Hellosent presented a use case for the blockchain and the Internet of Things: using the blockchain to provide a medium to support automated smart contracts in turn connected with sensors to enforce contract requirements. As an example he used a wine shipment.
A shipment of wine has a number of critical failure events such as the wine spoiling in transit. To enforce this when a shipment is sent the vendor places a smart contract on the blockchain and the receiver places a set of parameters onto the smart contract. These needs include things such as regulated temperature and humidity during the trip. Sensors embedded in the crates with the products would then communicate the health of the wine in the shipment in an auditable way. Thus if one of the sensors shows that temperature exceeds the contract for a long enough period the contract is voided.
CyGuard, Inc. and the problem of false claims and accountability in advertising
Assaf Igell, Founder and CEO of CyGuard, Inc., spoke to a problem near and dear to many Internet users: the ever approaching online advertising apocalypse. Users have always been annoyed somewhat by advertisements, but in recent years advertisements are more than just annoying—they’re also sometimes dangerous vectors for malware, bad information or invasions of privacy.
Igell’s company, CyGuard, seeks to use the blockchain to provide decentralized advertising that provides compliance and accountability to brands and therefore trust to consumers who receive content delivered over the advertising network. With blockchain technology it would be possible to automate accountability for content by tying the advertisement directly to a brand vendor and allowing the end consumer to validate the advertisement.
He claims that the product would protect against unauthorized advertising, unaccountable false advertising and potentially also malicious cyber attacks (e.g. malware injected into advertisement networks). For example, by registering an advertisement on a public blockchain and using a cryptographic signature of the code used in the advertisement an end-user browser could verify that the advertisement is from the given vendor and has not been tampered with.
As inspiration for this product, Igell cited CNN’s reporting on Arab Spring—which he cited as CNN using its media power to change hearts and minds during the events—the problems with robo trolling, or an activity used by Israel to politically control public perception. He also cited the Federal Trade Commission’s May 2014 “Data Broker Report” showing a lack of transparency from data brokers (such as retailers and advertisers) on how people are tracked and how that tracking information is used.
CyGuard was founded in 2015 with trademarks initiated in 2016 and has a web domain still filling out at CyGuardTech.com.
VeChain authentic item verification via the blockchain
Patrick Dai, CTO of VeChain, sees a powerful use case for the blockchain when it comes to proving the authenticity of consumer products using NFC and blockchain transactions. Counterfeit products affect every retail sector from food quality (see below) to luxury goods. When it comes to luxury goods a consumer (or even retailer) may not know they are buying (or selling) a fake product—and when it comes to food safety the effects may be even more dire. According to Dai, it is estimated that counterfeit products lead to a loss of over $500M USD a year.
To drive the point home, Dai mentioned a crisis that struck China where fake milk powder was shipped in 2008 that affected over 300,000 infants and hospitalized 54,000 babies. This alone has cast a dramatic pall over the powdered milk industry as consumers (parents of children who need milk) do not trust any of the brands currently service China and rebuilding that trust has been extremely difficult even almost a decade later.
The solution, says Dai, would be to couple blockchain-technology with NFC in order to allow an auditable trail of product integrity and authenticity from vendor to retailer to consumer. Once a product is completed at the factory an NFC chip can be burned in with the cryptographic hash from a blockchain transaction. Included with this transaction would be information such as a unique ID for the product, the facility it was made in, and the retailer it would be shipped to. Upon receipt the retailer could verify that it is the product expected to hit the shelves; and before buying a consumer could use a smartphone app to authenticate the product.
Dai believes that using blockchains in this fashion would provide manufactures and vendors a way to add value, protect intellectual property and enhance customer loyalty. Retailers would receive a transparent way of telling inauthentic products from real ones in a way that they could use to avoid selling counterfeit items to customers. Governments could use this to provide transparency for product safety by having an auditable trail of each action taken for a product from manufacture to sale. And finally, consumers would have a way to verify the origin and authenticity of the product they are about to purchase.
“In China people may feel that they cannot brands anymore,” said Dai, “especially after the milk powder event caused infant deaths. Rebuilding trust may be extremely difficult when it comes to brands hit by inauthentic, counterfeit items.”
Vechain raised $1 million USD in December 2015 and the company is seeking $3-$5 million USD over the next six months. The company’s vision includes providing a Blockchain-as-a-Service platform in 2017 that would deliver all the functionality needed for any industry vertical to implement auditable blockchain product authentication.