A San Francisco-based startup called “Real Items Foundation” is beta testing a Shopify plugin to ensure that authentic items are being sold to online shoppers. The plugin –- powered by a combination of blockchain technology and a cloud-based application called “TAM” –- enables brands to generate non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that are pegged to physical assets. Consumers who purchase a product containing an NFT can scan that item to verify its authenticity.
CEO and founder of Real Items Foundation, David Menard, said that a number of skincare, cosmetic, wellness and fashion companies are currently private beta testing the Shopify plugin. Menard noted that the plugin will officially be released in Q1 of this year.
According to Menard, Real Items Foundation aims to create a global consumer protection experience, which he refers to as “consumer protection 3.0.” He explained that the new Shopify plugin will allow consumers to easily verify the authenticity of the items purchased on Shopify stores, without having to download additional apps:
“We are trying to push consumer protection 3.0 by putting the tools in the end consumers’ hands. There are no apps to download – consumers simply use their smartphones to scan a QR-code to verify the authenticity of an item. Consumers can also use WeChat to scan items to ensure that they are real.”
Shopify, which has grown to become one of the most popular ecommerce platforms in the world, consists of over 500 thousand active online stores. Recent statistics show that Shopify is the third-largest online retailer in the US, right behind Amazon and eBay. Yet with millions of products being sold each year, fraudulent items are becoming problematic for a number of online consumers.
The Washington Post recently reported that 753 online retailers misrepresent their products, and about 90 percent of those sites are hosted by Shopify. By using the VeChain public blockchain, Real Items Foundation can trace items back to their sources, while providing consumers with the transparency needed to see where those goods originated. Menard also pointed out that Real Items Foundation does not have a utility token attached to its platform. He explained that part of the reason for this was due to poor user experiences being reported when the company attempted to leverage wallets as a primary function:
“Wallets for users was a big problem. We now have a multiparty payment protocol on VeChain that we leveraged where we can quickly manage everything for the user and the enterprises we partner with.”
Statistics show that the ecommerce market will surpass $740 billion in 2023, making it seem like the perfect opportunity for online retailers to apply blockchain technology. However, unclear regulations and technical requirements around the blockchain space may be concerning for ecommerce retailers. Nevertheless, Menard noted that, in addition to the companies beta testing the Shopify plugin, some major enterprises have shown interest in using Real Item Foundation’s technology. He explained:
“Since we use NFTs, we aren’t generating or distributing anything close to a security. We maintain the smart contract balances for enterprise making it as frictionless as possible to adopt blockchain for business. Using our plugin enables brands to use a public blockchain for product authenticity and consumer engagement.”
Menard also pointed out that Original Highness, a San Francisco-based cannabis company, is already live on the platform’s mainnet. Moreover, while Real Items Foundation is doing something similar to other supply chain management blockchain platforms, the company is focused less on specific brands and more on the consumer. Menard mentioned that digital certification platform Arianne is focused on ensuring authenticity for certain luxury watch brands, such as Vacheron Constantin. Unlike Arianne, Real Items Foundation aims to become a global solution for all ecommerce sites and enterprises looking to verify the authenticity of products. He said:
“We are trying not to limit the platform to one company. Our focus is on the consumer and we want to consolidate this experience to help enterprises effectively communicate.”
Dubai Government Set To Launch KYC Blockchain Consortium In Early 2020
One of the financial hubs of the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is continuing to expand blockchain-driven developments. The Department of Economic Development (DED) of Dubai has established a Know Your Customer (KYC) blockchain consortium with six major banks. Dubbed “KYC Blockchain Consortium,” the new blockchain-powered regulatory platform is designed to accelerate processes like an exchange of digital customer data and documents while ensuring security.
Scheduled for launch in Q1 2020, the KYC Blockchain Consortium will purportedly become the first project of its kind in the region, the report notes. Ali Ibrahim, Deputy Director-General of the DED, outlined that the effort aims to bring more investment to the region:
“Our strategic alliance with banks to launch the first KYC blockchain platform in the UAE is an important step towards continuing to attract investors to this market.”
Additionally, the consortium-powered ecosystem hopes to boost business as well as regulatory compliance in the UAE. According to the report, the UAE Central Bank and Smart Dubai authority will be monitoring operations of the KYC Blockchain Consortium. The UAE’s newly reported blockchain comes in line with the general growth of blockchain spending in the region.
Governments across the Middle East and Africa region are projected to see at least a 400% surge in their investment to blockchain-based solutions in four years. In October 2019, the UAE accepted cryptocurrency regulation after releasing the draft law for public comment. As reported, the UAE has taken a very positive stance to the crypto and blockchain industry as the country is already hosting a number of blockchain-based initiatives such as digitized trade projects the “Digital Silk Road” and the document exchange platform known as the “Bank Trust Network.”
CBSG PoB Transactions With Their Cross-Carrier Payment System Successful
Further developments to blockchain technology are being tackled every day. One of the biggest challenges is how best companies working on blockchain can make their services not only accessible but also practical for users in different countries. The Carrier Blockchain Study Group (CBSG) Consortium is one such collaboration doing just that. Launched in September 2017, the group provides a secure way for telecom customers to make digital payments directly with their carriers using blockchain technology.
Blockchain platform TBCASoft, a founding member of the CBSG, announced in a Feb. 18 press release that Taiwan-based Asia Pacific Telecom Co. Ltd. (APTG) and a US mobile carrier successfully completed Proof-of-Business (PoB) payment transactions. Using the Cross-Carrier Payment System (CCPS), a blockchain network developed by TBCASoft, transactions can be paid directly in the user’s currency through their mobile carrier.
The CBSG worked with local merchants in Taiwan to complete transactions through APTG’s payment system, Gt Pay. All participants were mobile subscribers with a US-based carrier. APTG Vice President of Marketing Mei-Hui Teng commented on the success of the PoB:
“[We] will be one of the first carriers to launch the cross-border payment service and commercialize it in the Taiwan market. We foresee the strong growth of overseas travel and the popularity of the e-wallet service; our cross-border mobile payment service will create a considerable benefit to APTG’s subscribers. The service can help travelers reduce foreign transaction fees and enjoy the benefits of mobile cashless payments.”
They’re not the first blockchain platform to see the advantages of working together. Samsung Pay partnered with the payment platform Finablr on Oct. 3 to offer cross-border payments to its users.
One Million UEFA Tickets Set To Be Distributed Through Blockchain in 2020
Soccer fans in Europe will join the ranks of early blockchain adopters thanks to a new initiative by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). According to a Feb. 17 announcement, UEFA will distribute over one million soccer match tickets via a blockchain-enabled mobile application.
The organization claims that this new ticketing system will make “entry into the stadium smooth, safe and secure.” The new blockchain-based mobile ticketing solution is meant to prevent the duplication and replication of tickets by “QR codes only being activated by Bluetooth once fans are in close proximity to the stadium.” The app will be available for download toward the end of May for both Android and iOS devices. Tickets will be delivered no later than seven days before the match and “UEFA expects to deliver over one million mobile tickets to fans across all 51 matches.”
UEFA decided to adopt this system in an attempt to facilitate ticket distribution to what is expected to be the most in-demand UEFA cup ever. UEFA also stated that digital ticketing will help curb paper consumption and be more convenient for soccer fans:
“Supporters who purchase ‘Follow my team’ tickets will receive their mobile tickets only once their team has qualified for a specific match. The ability to deliver mobile tickets to fans close to matchday will considerably enhance the fan journey, as fans will no longer be required to visit ticket collection points to exchange ticket vouchers. ”
The initiative builds on the successful deployment of the mobile ticketing system in August 2018 for the UEFA Super Cup soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid held in Tallinn, Estonia.
Many sports franchises and event organizers are turning to blockchain for ticketing, as the technology promises to be a highly effective way to prevent forgery and ensure convenience. Ticketmaster’s vice president of blockchain products Sandy Khaund said that the technology can prevent secondary ticket markets from popping up and ensure that “tickets end up in the right hands.” The CEO and founder of EventChain, Ashton Addison, said:
“The whole point of implementing blockchain in the ticketing industry is to bring back fairness to the artists, event organizers and fans. For example, a major problem facing the industry is counterfeit tickets. Blockchain can prevent this by allowing attendees to verify the authenticity of their tickets. This also turns tickets into scarce digital assets, which are unable to be double sold.”
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