Blockchain technology has opened a veritable floodgate and in the last couple of years and we have seen hundreds of “blockchain-powered” projects and platforms in the market, each claiming to “disrupt the status quo” and transform the sector. However, a closer look will tell you that a vast majority of these projects are “business as usual” and they simply do not require blockchain technology.
While there is no doubt that blockchain tech is truly disruptive and transformative, everything and anything does not need it. There are other technologies/systems that can easily power a platform or an idea. But in their rush to hop onto the blockchain bandwagon, many half-baked projects were conceived from equally mediocre ideas that eventually failed miserably to attract investors and, more importantly, a community.
At simplyBrand, we have been asked why we need blockchain even though we already have a proven platform to help brands fight online counterfeiting. While we are convinced about the use of the blockchain tech for what we have envisioned, we put up this question to our community to see how they perceived the use of blockchain tech for the simplyBrand platform. What ensued was a stimulating and heart-warming discussion with many members participating and describing why they thought that blockchain was important for simplyBrand. This gave us the inspiration to follow our vision because the feedback from the community gave us the approval that we were on the right track. What follows is our rationale for using the blockchain technology along with thoughts shared by our community members.
The most important stakeholder in the simplyBrand ecosystem is the brand, whose reputation and market share we are trying to protect. A whitelist created on the blockchain will allow brands to have data ownership of the info of authorized sellers. This vital data will be encrypted, hashed and put on the blockchain for people to check it without leaking the content and also to maintain the ownership by brands.
The data ledger also needs to be decentralized in order for people to have efficient access from different locations. The blockchain itself is a decentralized computer and ledger today, and should be utilized in that fashion as well to provide high availability for whitelist lookup and control for each brand. Each brand will have their own key to manage their own whitelist content secured without exposing the content on blockchain.
In the event that the blockchain is not used, we will have to host our own servers and manage them. This will also include securing our own web servers and distributing them across borders. This can play havoc with your CAPEX and OPEX budgets. With blockchain, the TCO is clear on how people can access data with security embedded as part of the nature of blockchain (immutable records),and the vendor can access and update their own whitelist via their own private key. This also delegate the permissions and ACL to private key in this case.
If we are to manage our own centralized server, we will also need to implement a database along with user provisioning and other requirements. For performance, we would need to leverage CDN (Content Distribution Network) to populate our database and synchronize it across the world, if we wish to scale globally. Hackers will also implement phishing website to trick users, and today, although people use TLS/SSL and certificates, they will still fall into the trap of accessing the wrong website.
The transparent information on the blockchain that is accessible publicly can greatly reduce the chance of a user going to a ‘wrong chain’. Decentralizing the server also means lower cost as well and lesser burden on the team/company that needs to host these.
Once a blacklist of all unscrupulous actors engaged in online counterfeiting is created, the data should be transparent and immutable. Once the blacklist is put up on the blockchain, it can be easily accessed by everybody. The blockchain will ensure that there won’t be alterations to it by any malicious attackers and the information will remain public and transparent for everyone to see.
The blacklist will effectively reduce the ability of counterfeiters by increasing their cost and creating new obstacles to their business.
Without blockchain, the company becomes the central authority for hosting servers, and is responsible for the data. However, if you want a true DAO that can scale without a central authority, and ensure that the process will still work and people can still benefit from it, blockchain will be the place to host blacklist as well as the whitelist.
This is similar to the concept of a DAO. People can vote on an issue and arrive at a consensus without a centralized organization to dictate the process or the outcome. Everything runs on automated smart contracts.
On the simplyBrand platform, we have devised a system of consensus voting by participants. This is similar to the normal voting process where voters cast their votes on something (a person or an issue) and the one with the highest votes is selected (reaching a consensus). However, on the platform, these votes will also be checked for authenticity or else, fake products may pass scrutiny as authentic and vice versa.
People will vote on products and help reach a consensus that will eventually assist the platform to categorize a product as fake or genuine. This information will, in turn, help the AI to evolve. For us, this is a vital blockchain feature that will help us scale the task force with enough autonomy and avoid micro-managing. The process should be self-sustainable and self-governable. This will help us reduce cost and have it run efficiently.
Blockchain provides a decentralized platform for people to vote on specific topics and the votes are transparent as well and no central authority can manipulate or alter the votes from any users. The smart contract can trigger specific logic to determine the result of the vote and these logics are also transparent to the public for review and scrutiny.
Without blockchain, the major problem is increased costs (as mentioned above), and more importantly, the issue of trust. With a decentralized system, where votes help build a consensus without the need of a over-looking centralised authority, the paramount issue of trust is taken care of. This is the reason why blockchain-based systems are called “trustless.” It is not there is no trust, it means that there is no question of trust. It is inherent within the system.
simplyBrand is fighting online counterfeiting by involving all stakeholders of the market — customers, brands and the online marketplace. The use of blockchain technology provides security and trust to all stakeholders. In order to verify and be sure to keep a footprint of every report on counterfeiting, the use of blocks is vital. The information regarding online counterfeiting can act as an important tool to educate people about the counterfeiting problem. Its access can provide information to customers regarding sites that sell counterfeits.
We believe that the above discussion will be helpful for people to understand the rationale for simplyBrand to use the transformative blockchain technology. This technology will help us scale limitlessly and create a self-sustaining ecosystem that will serve brands and customers alike.
To share your thoughts and ideas, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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