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Given the blockchain industry’s broader focus on crypto, we often overlook the broader applications of blockchain technology.
Yet, blockchain is quietly revolutionizing various consumer technology sectors with its potential to transform how we trade, work and play.
At CES 2024, I participated in a panel titled, ‘Blockchain’s Impact on Consumer Technology,’ that aimed to shed light on current real-world implementations while also highlighting the next steps to making blockchain even more mainstream.
I was joined on stage by experts from across the Web 3.0 and blockchain ecosystem, including Ryan Yi from Coinbase Ventures, Arwin Holmes, blockchain CTO of Ernst and Young and Dirk Lueth, CEO of Upland.
Moderated by Sharon Weisman, CEO of PowerStation Studios, the discussion pivoted around blockchain’s core benefits for consumer technology, focusing on traceability, brand protection and security.
Traceability, transparency and authenticity
Traceability is a hallmark of blockchain’s utility. It’s vital in product supply chains, enabling consumers to access crucial data accompanying each product.
As Sharon Weisman of PowerStation Studios said,
“We need more transparency. We want to know where things are coming from, we want to know that they’re licensed authentically and we want to know who has the rights and who gets paid.”
Arwin Holmes from EY highlighted blockchain applications across sectors like pharmaceuticals, where regulatory compliance and quality checks necessitate impeccable traceability.
Similarly, early implementations in the wine industry have demonstrated blockchain’s value to the luxury goods market.
According to Wine Enthusiast, rampant wine fraud up to 50% in some markets has led to rising interest in blockchain-based solutions.
Luxury customers are deeply concerned with authenticity, and 71% of consumers are willing to pay more for traceable premium goods.
“Traceability is really important, and that is one thing that blockchain brings to any product.”
Brand protection and engagement
Blockchain’s ability to safeguard brand integrity and prove authorshipespecially in the face of generative AI challenges and battles with ‘fake news’ was another key discussion point.
For example, ANSA, the leading news agency in Italy, partnered with EY in 2020 to launch a blockchain-based news tracking label, ANSACheck.
This application enables 24 Italian news publishers to produce and distribute content securely and enables readers to see, at-a-glance, when and where a story was first published, view a piece’s primary sources and compare syndicated or derivative news items to the originally published version.
Launched during the misinformation crisis accompanying the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, ANSACheck offers an essential layer of accountability and trust between the media and their audience.
Similarly, Reuters has partnered with Canon and Starling Labs to pilot a blockchain-based image verification system.
In the era of AI and coordinated social media misinformation campaigns, Reuters aims to make authentic images traceable from capture to publication and distribution.
“That serves the public good, offers some brand protection and also builds a level of integrity and engagement with customers.”
Ryan Yi from Coinbase Ventures underscored the importance of understanding the core infrastructure and tools available for companies building blockchain applications, highlighting the diverse ecosystem of consumers, service providers and regulatory bodies involved.
Nevertheless, blockchain technology is uniquely suited to address the modern authenticity crisis.
Security and consumer agency
A notable benefit of blockchain is the empowerment it offers consumers over their data.
Yi stressed that blockchain enhances consumers’ control over their information, allowing them to better manage consent and selectively share their data on-chain.
But blockchain also opens doors to new business models where consumers actively participate, allowing consumers to become part of a company’s journey instead of mere revenue sources.
The panel unanimously agreed that blockchain’s inherent transparency and immutability make it a secure platform for application development.
“I do believe this allows us to build a future world that just works better.”
We also discussed the relationship between blockchain technology and AI, especially in the context of security.
As blockchain applications become ubiquitous in consumer technology, the need for robust security frameworks will be paramount.
The traditional consumer electronics industry has had over 20 years to work on security.
Blockchain and Web 3.0 founders and entrepreneurs should learn from those lessons and consider security from the very beginning when they are building a consumer experience.
All blockchain founders should be asking themselves questions like, “How does my app make me, my company and the consumers using this product vulnerable? What security tools and resources are available?”
No one wants to be the victim of a scam or hack, but every company and customer is vulnerable.
The integration of user-friendly applications and robust security measures is crucial for blockchain’s adoption in consumer technology.
Consumers are already using blockchain in everyday life, even if they don’t know it.
For example, the Starbucks loyalty program uses blockchain technology built by Polygon for its rewards, mobile payment and ordering.
Consumers using the Starbucks app are accessing a Web 3.0 experience via their mobile app. This kind of inherent use case is a major step forward for consumer blockchain applications.
In many of the most valuable future applications, the average user won’t even know that blockchain technology is being used to make their experience smoother and more secure.
On the panel, Yi pointed out that the convergence of consumer tech and blockchain is leading to more intuitive user experiences and smoother blockchain interactions.
Dirk Lueth of Upland took things a step further, highlighting the huge societal impact that blockchain will have, especially when combined with AI and the metaverse, and said,
“Generative AI is democratizing content creation. The next step uses blockchain to make the content into an NFT, and then consumers can use those assets in the metaverse. What’s compelling about blockchain is that it’s global, it’s 24/7, always on and it allows us to establish some global standard for moving and managing value.”
The panel at CES 2024 made it abundantly clear that blockchain is not just a buzzword but a fundamental pillar of future consumer tech innovations.
The message is clearblockchain is set to be a key driver in the evolution of consumer technology.
Any company that wants to be future-proofed would be well-advised to dive into blockchain applications today.
Brittany Mier y Terán is head of business development for Harpie, the company that created the first on-chain firewall preventing hacks, scams and theft. She specializes in enterprise-grade blockchain security solutions and is passionate about public goods projects that focus on onboarding the next generation to Web 3.0. Brittany was recently listed as one of the ’40 Under 40′ and honored with the title ‘Woman to Watch’ at CES 2022.
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