Blockchain Solution to The Digital Lost and Found – Crystal Stranger
Crystal Stranger: Two years ago, when traveling in Italy, my daughter Synne who was two years old at the time, lost one of her favorite stuffed animals, Gia. This four-inch-tall dog was the source of thousands of tears and hours spent walking up and down the streets of Santa Marinella looking and asking everyone we met in my terrible Italian if they’d seen a little-stuffed dog. For months after this, she lamented about losing Gia, telling everyone about how she was lost in Italy.
Luckily Gia was only her second favorite animal, her actual best friend since she was six months old, Koalie, had returned from the European tour unscathed. But I was paranoid. Every time we went anywhere I worried that Koalie would get lost. Poor Koalie was on house arrest. I searched the internet for solutions to this dilemma, as I was certain that other parents had experienced their children going through this existential childhood pain. But nothing came up in my rather extensive neurotic searches.
Until a couple of months ago, when I was walking around Consensus, I was shocked to see a use of blockchain that could be used to solve this dilemma. While exploring the NEM platform showcase, I ran across the LuxTag booth. They were giving away little-stuffed penguins dressed like Ninjas, perfect conference swag for kids, and so I asked if I could have two. Preparing to hear yet another dry developer pitch, I was surprised to learn that the product was actually a little QR tag on the foot of the penguin. When scanned with an app, the tag allows you to upload information about the object to the NEM blockchain, opening doors for a digital lost and found, or even a way to save information about family heirlooms for generations to come.
The idea for LuxTag originated, from when Co-Founder and Technology Advisor Jeff McDonald’s Grandmother died. He explained, “My grandmother loved to buy jewelry, real jewelry, fake jewelry, Tiffany boxes, lots of boxes. Many items were expensive: Rolex watches, lockets, jewelry. Some stuff had initials, or old black and white photos. But the history of these items died with her.” So Jeff set out to do something about this, by starting LuxTag.
LuxTag was started December of 2016 at a pitch conference in Seoul. They won 5k and used that to launch the company. Then they raised $100,000 from the NEM community fund. This was a conflict of interest because McDonald is a huge member of the NME community, as well as being Vice-President of NEM. As such, he recused himself from marketing within the NEM community. Currently, they have two real clients, and the potential of ten more clients, mainly in the supply chain area. LuxTag is an especially great sales tool for NEM as McDonald explains, “The protocol for LuxTag could only be done on the NEM blockchain because the smart contract uses one of one signing. This is a unique contract no other blockchain has used. Every item is its own private key.”
I was able to play around with the demo, but struggled as the QR codes on the tags weren’t really what I imagined them being. I had envisioned from the Consensus demo that I would be able to take the Ninja home, and my daughters and I could scan the QR code then add their names into the database. But the tags attached to the ninja dolls didn’t work. Then I contacted LuxTag and they were kind enough to send me some new QR codes that I could use to play with on the actual network. On here I was able to add memos and other notes like I imagined it did. Still, it isn’t quite automatic enough that I could use this on all my kids’ animals and think anyone would get them back to us, but it is going in that direction.
There are some limitations to LuxTag, though, mainly due to the fact that it employs a resource-intensive contract, meaning that if LuxTag catches on it could be the Crypto Kitties of NEM.
“If wildly successful LuxTag would be a victim of its own success,” says McDonald.
How much is wildly successful? McDonald says that 100,000 transactions per day would hurt, though is hopeful that there are potential technological improvements that could be added at that time such as a consortium chain or multi-signature.
McDonald shares my passion that this could be used to help kids remember their favorite animals down the line.
“Could be information that this was the animal that the child took to Disneyland, or was given by aunt Jill. Because it is on the blockchain it lives forever,” he says.
Ultimately, the driving motivation for LuxTag is to give “everlasting legacy for cherished items.”
Beyond my selfish desires to prevent lost animals for my children, I see this technology as having a real opportunity to bridge the gap between blockchain as a trendy technology and blockchain that individual consumers can directly and tangible benefit from using. Another company applying blockchain technology to track luxury goods is Soma. I spoke with their CMO Jacob Andra at the Blockchain Economic Forum in San Francisco and he explained to me how Soma has developed what they call the Heimdall Protocol to create an immutable record to track a good throughout its lifetime and add an additional ownership record to prove authenticity.
The Heimdall Protocol can be used to hold records of a certificate of authenticity, photos of use throughout time, or other memorabilia related to the item. Considering my background of drag racing cars and being in the classic car world, I am not certain this will prevent forgeries. Forgers tend to be very creative with building documented items, or buying documentation from a wrecked car and passing off as for the clone car. Although it would be nice to have these stories in any cherished vehicle. I remember being at the race track with my classic car, the Boston Strangler, which had been a race car since the early 70’s in the San Francisco Bay Area, and people would bring in their photo albums and show me pictures of their relatives or themselves as kids posing in front of my car.
A resource like the Heimdall Protocol could add social value, and this may even add economic value. I could imagine museums in the future having displays showing photos, memos, and other information attached to funny objects from this time. Time capsules are always funny because people just put goods in, and there is no record of why these things are added. When opened up 30 or 50 years later the items are some strange mystery from the past. What if the items could have stories, photos, and videos attached digitally to explain why they were important? The technology for these types of archiving for the future is here, and these really are some of the best consumer-facing applications of blockchain technology thus far.
Crystal Stranger, EA, author of The Small Business Tax Guide, has over 14 years of tax experience, with a focus in international tax, and has been writing about Cryptocurrency tax and regulatory issues since 2014. Wanting to help her tax clients who struggled with regulatory compliance, she founded PeaCounts, a blockchain accounting software company building a revolutionary new payroll system using the token PEA. This new, transparent payroll will promote fair wages and eliminate the need for black market labor.
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