Fighting crime better with Blockchain Technology
Blockchain is to money what email was for communication when it was first invented in 1972. But apart from finance, the revolutionary technology has so much more to offer. For instance, it can be used to fight crime.
Blockchain is a decentralized, secure ledger which records digital events that are distributed among several computers. Information can only be updated on the network through consensus of the majority of participants. Moreover, the information once entered cannot be erased. While the world got introduced to the technology through Bitcoin (and more than thousand other cryptocurrencies), the applications of the financial world are only tip of the iceberg. Businesses across many different industries are using blockchain in innovative ways.
Let us have a look at some blockchain-based startups that are using the technology to fight crime and some of them even save lives in the process.
A recent study by a Swiss art research lab said that more than 70% of the artworks that they check are forgeries, misattributions, or fakes. While it is difficult to know the exact amount that is made every year by selling fake art, some of the high-profile cases from the last few years suggest that the market should at least be worth several millions of dollars.
As a matter of fact, some of the counterfeit artworks look so genuine that they have been displayed in some of the most prestigious galleries all over the world.
While the internet and the invention of online stores have helped the humanity, online platforms like Artspace, Amazon Art, Paddle8, etc. make it difficult to track original art pieces. This is one of the most important reasons for the increasing inflow of fake art. Online buying is especially very popular among the younger generation, with around 25% of the 20-30 years who were surveyed confirming that they purchased their first art piece online. As per a report by Hiscox Online Art Trade, the market for online art would be well worth $3.76 billion by the end of this year.
When art pieces are purchased online, they effortlessly ditch the middlemen, like galleries or art houses, which play an important role in determining the authenticity of a product. In the past, the authenticating process for artwork involved a number of important steps, like determining the origins of the art pieces, finding whether or not they have been displayed at exhibitions before, their value, etc. As professional forgers have significantly improved their skills in the past couple of decades, we are now only left with the authenticity certificate to know whether the art piece is original. Unfortunately, these authenticity certificates can also be forged.
Verisart, a Los Angeles-based startup has come up with a blockchain-powered foolproof system to fight counterfeit art. It has created a database of art pieces in which every piece has been given a unique identifier. Buyers and owners can use this code to verify the authenticity of their artworks. Moreover, the network can also be used to monitor the movement of an art piece all over the world.
The startup already has Peter Todd, the Bitcoin hero, as an advisor and aims to create a safety net for the dealers, collectors and artists alike with the help of a blockchain system which can verify the art pieces in real time.
As per HavocScape, pharmaceutical products are the most commonly counterfeited products in the world and results in losses of more than $200 billion to genuine manufacturers every year. Not to forget the fact that counterfeit pharmaceuticals also risk the lives of the patients. As per Interpol, more than one million people die every year due to these fake pharmaceuticals.
Drugs for HIV/AIDS, antibiotics, anti-depressants, cancer medication, weight-loss products, anti-malaria drugs, and erectile dysfunction medication are some of the most commonly counterfeited products as per Caracol, one of the most popular radio networks in Columbia. Just like the art world, the online stores that sell medicine are facilitating the sales of counterfeit pharma products. As per WHO, 50% of the medications sold online are counterfeit.
There are some exciting projects like Blockverify, Ambrosus, Qadre, and FarmaTrust which use the blockchain technology to prevent the inflow of counterfeit drugs. All these projects use the blockchain technology to track the products throughout their supply chain to make sure that the consumers only receive genuine products.
As per CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection), millions of fake high-value products, like designer clothes, sneakers, electronic items, etc. enter the US every year. The authorities suggest that they are only able to seize goods of around $1.2 billion which is only a small fraction of all the fake products that enter the country.
Singapore based startup, VeChain, wants to use blockchain technology to track genuine products throughout the supply chain. It labels every product with a unique tag with the help of which customers can verify its authenticity. Companies can use the VeChain network to create registers of their products and can easily monitor their supply chains. It allows buyers to verify the products through mobile phones for enhanced convenience.
Similar blockchain-based solutions are offered by a few other startups like Riddle&Code, EverLedger, Provenance, SigmaLedger, and Digmus. While the solutions offered by these companies are new and innovative, it’ll definitely take time for the industries to understand their benefits. Most companies are still trying to understand blockchain technology and the different ways in which it can be used to resolve a host of challenges prevalent in all the different industries. Few years from now, these blockchain solutions would surely become very common for eliminating counterfeit high-value products.
The criminal minds have evolved by leaps and bounds in the last few decades. The extent of their criminal activities is as such that it is almost impossible to create foolproof solutions even with the help of a number of newer technologies. While most of the existing technologies are yet to deliver any significant solution and the number of criminal activities increasing with every passing year, blockchain might be the much-needed solution.
Counterfeit artworks, pharmaceuticals, and high-value goods are some of the most common and widespread crimes in the world. Even though blockchain is still in its early stages, it already has efficient solutions which can be implemented to counter the widespread criminal activities in these industrial spheres. With time, the solutions would only improve and be more effective in fighting not just these but any other extensively spread crime all over the world.