Using blockchain technology to combat retail theft


The retail business is without doubt one of the most necessary sectors of the US economic system. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has left the trillion-dollar retail sector susceptible to in-store theft. 

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Findings from the Nationwide Retail Federation’s 2022 Retail Safety Survey show that retail losses from stolen items elevated to $94.5 billion in 2021, up from $90.8 billion in 2020. Some retailers additionally need to lock away sure merchandise to forestall theft, which can result in decreased gross sales attributable to customers’ incapacity to entry items.

Retailers look towards blockchain to resolve retail theft

Given these excessive measures, many modern retailers have began wanting towards know-how to fight retail theft. For instance, Lowe’s, an American dwelling enchancment retailer, has lately carried out a proof-of-concept known as Challenge Unlock, which makes use of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, Web of Issues sensors and blockchain know-how. The answer is presently being examined in a number of Lowe’s shops in the US.

Josh Shabtai, senior director of ecosystem follow at Lowe’s Innovation Labs — Lowe’s tech wing that developed Challenge Unlock — instructed Cointelegraph that Challenge Unlock goals to discover rising know-how to assist curb theft whereas creating higher buyer experiences.

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To perform this, Shabtai defined that RFID chips are used to activate particular Lowes’ energy instruments on the level of buy. “So if a buyer steals an influence device, it received’t work,” he stated.

Shabtai famous that RFID chips are a low-cost resolution that many retailers use to forestall theft. Based on the Nationwide Retail Federation’s 2022 Retail Safety Survey, 38.6% of shops already implement or plan to implement RFID programs. Nevertheless, Shabtai defined that combining RFID programs with a blockchain community can present retailers with a clear, tamper-proof document to trace in-store purchases. He stated:

“By means of Challenge Unlock, a novel ID is registered and assigned to every of our energy instruments. When that product is bought, the RFID system prompts the ability device to be used. On the similar time, the transaction will be seen by anybody, since that data will get recorded to a public blockchain community.”

Mehdi Sarkeshi, lead venture supervisor at Challenge Unlock, instructed Cointelegraph that Challenge Unlock is predicated on the Ethereum community. Sarkeshi elaborated that every product below Challenge Unlock is tied to a pre-minted nonfungible token (NFT), or a digital twin, that can obtain a standing change upon buy.

“A product’s NFT undergoes a standing change when it’s both bought by Lowe’s, if it has been stolen, or if the standing is unknown. All of this data is publicly seen to prospects and resellers because it’s recorded on the Ethereum blockchain. We’ve got primarily constructed a purchase order authenticity provenance for Lowes’ energy instruments,” he stated.

Whereas the idea behind Challenge Unlock is modern for a big retailer, David Menard, CEO of asset verification platform Actual Gadgets, instructed Cointelegraph that his agency has been exploring an analogous resolution. “Historically, RFID tags forestall theft, so this drawback has already been solved,” he stated. Given this, Menard famous that Actual Gadgets combines digital id with bodily merchandise to make sure that stolen gadgets will be accounted for. He stated:

“If bodily gadgets are paired with digital twins, then retailers can know precisely what was stolen, from the place and from which product batch. Retailers can perceive this with extra readability versus data generated by RFID programs.”

Based on Menard, Actual Gadgets presently has a memorandum of understanding with SmartLabel, a digital platform that generates QR codes for manufacturers and retailers to offer customers with detailed product data. He shared that Actual Gadgets plans to implement “digital product passports” with SmartLabel merchandise sooner or later. “We view digital product passports as the inspiration for storing details about a product all through a product’s life cycle,” he stated.

Menard additional defined that Actual Gadgets makes use of the Polygon community to retailer product data. It’s necessary to level out that this mannequin differs from Challenge Unlock since a blockchain community is barely used right here to document details about a sure merchandise. “We use a product’s digital twin — also referred to as its NFT — for engagement. It may be tied to anti-theft, but it surely’s extra about offering retailers with helpful knowledge.”

Whereas the options being developed by Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Actual Gadgets may very well be a game-changer for retailers, the rise of the metaverse may additionally assist curb retail theft. Based on McKinsey’s “Worth Creation within the Metaverse” report, by 2030, the metaverse may generate $4 trillion to $5 trillion throughout shopper and enterprise use circumstances. The report notes that this consists of the retail sector.

Marjorie Hernandez, managing director of LUKSO — a digital way of life Web3 platform — instructed Cointelegraph that designer manufacturers like Prada and Web3 marketplaces like The Dematerialised, the place she can also be CEO, are already utilizing NFT redemption processes.

Hernandez defined that this enables communities to buy a digital good in a metaverse-like surroundings, which might then be redeemed for a bodily merchandise in retailer. She stated:

“This redemption course of permits retailers to discover new methods to authenticate merchandise on-chain and supply a extra sustainable manufacturing course of with made-to-order demand. This additionally creates a brand new and direct entry channel between creators and customers past level of sale.”

Hernandez believes that extra retailers will discover digital identities for way of life items within the coming yr. “This enables manufacturers, designers and customers to lastly have a clear resolution for lots of the issues going through the retail business at the moment, like counterfeit items and theft.”

Will retailers undertake blockchain options to fight theft?

Though blockchain may assist clear up in-store theft shifting ahead, retailers could also be hesitant to undertake the know-how for a number of causes. As an example, blockchain’s affiliation with cryptocurrency could also be a ache level for enterprises. Latest occasions just like the collapse of FTX reinforce this. 

But, Shabtai stays optimistic, noting that Lowe’s Innovation Labs believes that it’s necessary to contemplate new applied sciences to higher perceive what’s viable. “By means of Challenge Unlock, we now have confirmed that blockchain know-how is effective. We hope this may function a proof level for different retailers contemplating an analogous resolution,” he remarked. Shabtai added that Lowe’s Innovation Labs plans to evolve its resolution past energy instruments shifting ahead.

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Whereas notable, Sarkeshi identified that it could be difficult for customers to grasp the worth of utilizing blockchain to document transactions. “As an example, if I’m a buyer shopping for a second-hand product, why ought to I care if it was stolen,” he stated. Given this, Sarkeshi believes {that a} shift in buyer mindset should happen for such an answer to be fully profitable. He stated:

“It’s a tradition constructing problem. Some prospects will initially not be ok with shopping for a stolen product, however we want this to resonate throughout the board. We would like prospects to know that when a product is stolen, everybody throughout the availability chain will get harm. Constructing that tradition could also be difficult, however I imagine this can occur in the long run.”

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