Using blockchain technology to combat retail theft

The retail trade is likely one of the most vital sectors of the United States financial system. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has left the trillion-dollar retail sector weak to in-store theft. 

Findings from the National Retail Federation’s 2022 Retail Security Survey present that retail losses from stolen items elevated to $94.5 billion in 2021, up from $90.8 billion in 2020. Some retailers even have to lock away sure merchandise to forestall theft, which can lead to decreased gross sales due to customers’ incapability to entry items.

Retailers look towards blockchain to resolve retail theft

Given these excessive measures, many revolutionary retailers have began wanting towards technology to combat retail theft. For instance, Lowe’s, an American dwelling enchancment retailer, has not too long ago carried out a proof-of-concept referred to as Project Unlock, which makes use of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, Internet of Things sensors and blockchain technology. The resolution is at present being examined in a number of Lowe’s shops within the United States.

Josh Shabtai, senior director of ecosystem observe at Lowe’s Innovation Labs — Lowe’s tech wing that developed Project Unlock — informed Cointelegraph that Project Unlock goals to discover rising technology to assist curb theft whereas creating higher buyer experiences.

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To accomplish 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 instrument, it received’t work,” he mentioned.

Shabtai famous that RFID chips are a low-cost resolution that many retailers use to forestall theft. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2022 Retail Security Survey, 38.6% of outlets already implement or plan to implement RFID techniques. However, Shabtai defined that combining RFID techniques with a blockchain community can present retailers with a clear, tamper-proof document to observe in-store purchases. He mentioned:

“Through Project 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 instrument to be used. At the identical time, the transaction might be seen by anybody, since that data will get recorded to a public blockchain community.”

Mehdi Sarkeshi, lead mission supervisor at Project Unlock, informed Cointelegraph that Project Unlock relies on the Ethereum community. Sarkeshi elaborated that every product below Project 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 have basically constructed a purchase order authenticity provenance for Lowes’ energy instruments,” he mentioned.

While the idea behind Project Unlock is revolutionary for a big retailer, David Menard, CEO of asset verification platform Real Items, informed Cointelegraph that his agency has been exploring an analogous resolution. “Traditionally, RFID tags forestall theft, so this drawback has already been solved,” he mentioned. Given this, Menard famous that Real Items combines digital identification with bodily merchandise to be certain that stolen gadgets might be accounted for. He mentioned:

“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 techniques.”

According to Menard, Real Items at present has a memorandum of understanding with SmartLabel, a digital platform that generates QR codes for manufacturers and retailers to present customers with detailed product data. He shared that Real Items plans to implement “digital product passports” with SmartLabel merchandise sooner or later. “We view digital product passports as the muse for storing details about a product all through a product’s life cycle,” he mentioned.

Menard additional defined that Real Items makes use of the Polygon community to retailer product data. It’s vital to level out that this mannequin differs from Project Unlock since a blockchain community is just 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 might be tied to anti-theft, however it’s extra about offering retailers with helpful information.”

While the options being developed by Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Real Items may very well be a game-changer for retailers, the rise of the metaverse can also assist curb retail theft. According to McKinsey’s “Value Creation within the Metaverse” report, by 2030, the metaverse may generate $4 trillion to $5 trillion throughout client and enterprise use instances. The report notes that this consists of the retail sector.

Marjorie Hernandez, managing director of LUKSO — a digital way of life Web3 platform — informed 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 atmosphere, which might then be redeemed for a bodily merchandise in retailer. She mentioned:

“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 permits manufacturers, designers and customers to lastly have a clear resolution for most of the issues dealing with the retail trade at present, like counterfeit items and theft.”

Will retailers undertake blockchain options to combat theft?

Although blockchain may assist resolve in-store theft transferring ahead, retailers could also be hesitant to undertake the technology for a number of causes. For occasion, blockchain’s affiliation with cryptocurrency could also be a ache level for enterprises. Recent occasions just like the collapse of FTX reinforce this. 

Yet, Shabtai stays optimistic, noting that Lowe’s Innovation Labs believes that it’s vital to take into account new applied sciences to higher perceive what’s viable. “Through Project Unlock, now we have confirmed that blockchain technology is efficacious. We hope this could 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 transferring ahead.

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While notable, Sarkeshi identified that it might be difficult for customers to perceive the worth of utilizing blockchain to document transactions. “For occasion, if I’m a buyer shopping for a second-hand product, why ought to I care if it was stolen,” he mentioned. Given this, Sarkeshi believes {that a} shift in buyer mindset should happen for such an answer to be solely profitable. He mentioned:

“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 need prospects to know that when a product is stolen, everybody throughout the availability chain will get damage. Building that tradition could also be difficult, however I consider it will occur in the long run.”