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Thread: Vacheron Constantin - blockchain authentication

  1. #1
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    Vacheron Constantin - blockchain authentication

    This article is interesting as it is most likely the start of something that will soon affect us all. VC have started their first experiment with what you might call ‘digital papers’, using a blockchain.

    What does this mean exactly, for those not already familiar with the concept? Basically, we have the old idea that ‘papers’ and perhaps a box might help to authenticate a watch, which is hilariously outdated as it’s so easy to copy anything these days. So it makes more sense to keep the record of the owner of the watch in a blockchain, as used for Bitcoins and the like, an indelible record distributed in the internet. This ownership can be transferred, but only by the current owner. It will be interesting to see exactly how they’ve implemented it. I would expect variations on this to become a very common for almost all goods in the near future. So while this may seem obscure, it’s the start of something big.

    To gaze into the crystal ball a little further, my prediction would be that within a few years, when you buy a Rolex or similar value watch, you’ll also be getting an app to authenticate your ownership, and you’ll create a password that allows you to transfer the ownership, as recorded in the blockchain. I’d also expect that the authenticated ownership will give you a bunch of other benefits too via the app, eg exclusive airport lounges, discounts, members events, tickets for sporting events and concerts, VIP passes etc, as this is what will differentiate owning a genuine watch from a near identical fake. The fake owner won’t be able to jump the queue and get in places for free, which publicly outs the fake wearer. I believe the big brands will have to do this in a world where it will be increasingly impossible to make anything that can’t be perfectly faked, the only exception being the blockchain itself. The watch becomes something like a luxury lifestyle VIP wrist band, most likely with levels of privilege depending on the value of the watch. Clearly these kinds of promotions already exist for credit cards and mobile phones, so it’s almost inevitable that tracking ownership digitally with an app would open up the same marketing opportunities - only in a more exclusive, public and showy way. That’s not a world I particularly look forward to, but I do believe it’s coming.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itsguy View Post
    This article is interesting as it is most likely the start of something that will soon affect us all. VC have started their first experiment with what you might call ‘digital papers’, using a blockchain.

    What does this mean exactly, for those not already familiar with the concept? Basically, we have the old idea that ‘papers’ and perhaps a box might help to authenticate a watch, which is hilariously outdated as it’s so easy to copy anything these days. So it makes more sense to keep the record of the owner of the watch in a blockchain, as used for Bitcoins and the like, an indelible record distributed in the internet. This ownership can be transferred, but only by the current owner. It will be interesting to see exactly how they’ve implemented it. I would expect variations on this to become a very common for almost all goods in the near future. So while this may seem obscure, it’s the start of something big.

    To gaze into the crystal ball a little further, my prediction would be that within a few years, when you buy a Rolex or similar value watch, you’ll also be getting an app to authenticate your ownership, and you’ll create a password that allows you to transfer the ownership, as recorded in the blockchain. I’d also expect that the authenticated ownership will give you a bunch of other benefits too via the app, eg exclusive airport lounges, discounts, members events, tickets for sporting events and concerts, VIP passes etc, as this is what will differentiate owning a genuine watch from a near identical fake. The fake owner won’t be able to jump the queue and get in places for free, which publicly outs the fake wearer. I believe the big brands will have to do this in a world where it will be increasingly impossible to make anything that can’t be perfectly faked, the only exception being the blockchain itself. The watch becomes something like a luxury lifestyle VIP wrist band, most likely with levels of privilege depending on the value of the watch. Clearly these kinds of promotions already exist for credit cards and mobile phones, so it’s almost inevitable that tracking ownership digitally with an app would open up the same marketing opportunities - only in a more exclusive, public and showy way. That’s not a world I particularly look forward to, but I do believe it’s coming.
    If you can track them , you can tax them

  3. #3
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    Huxley will be turning in his grave...

    Everything is hackable! I've learn't that in 30years in IT

    In about a 3months time I am dumping my mobile 'phone' - well I may need to keep it in a drawer at home to authenticate 2-factor stuff - but I really want to move away from the 'constant-now' on retirement from my work - which is end August - can't wait!! Anyway - probably this is off topic for WT more suitable for G&D

    Martyn

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    Quote Originally Posted by MartynJC (UK) View Post
    Huxley will be turning in his grave...

    Everything is hackable! I've learn't that in 30years in IT

    In about a 3months time I am dumping my mobile 'phone' - well I may need to keep it in a drawer at home to authenticate 2-factor stuff - but I really want to move away from the 'constant-now' on retirement from my work - which is end August - can't wait!! Anyway - probably this is off topic for WT more suitable for G&D

    Martyn
    It is possible that quantum computers will be the end of cryptocurrencies, as it becomes quite easy to solve the puzzles involved. I can’t say I understand it well enough to say if that destroys digital ownership records in general though.

    There are potential scams I can imagine, but they are a world away from the current situation with fakes and fake papers. On the whole I’d take this as good news, as in theory a manufacturer service should be able to provide you with digital authentication to take with you, and it should also take some of the stress out of buying used - you should be able to check the credentials of the seller.

    On ‘constant now’, that sounds like exactly what I’d like in retirement! In the relaxed sense at least - I guess you mean in the sense of ‘always on’. But as you say, that’s another discussion.

  5. #5
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    Interesting, thanks for sharing, I think this will happen sooner rather than later for watches, cars and other luxury goods and eventually trickle down to other things. Verticals ie banking, oil & gas etc are rushing to implement BC, so the writing is on the wall really.
    ICYMI: Millions of women all over the world dressed in PussyHats and oversized Vagina costumes took to the streets today to protest against war with Iran.

  6. #6
    Thanks for posting this.

    Although no expert, I am aware of Blockchain projects with customers having commodities as different as pharma, oil & gas/rigging, shipping containers, olive oil and fresh fish, so good to see the watch industry catching up!

    It would have been interesting if the article had at least hinted as to the type of “unique number” being considered, as I doubt regular engraved serial numbers will be sufficient in the long term as they can be so easily cloned. If they stick with those, then presumably all that is being verified is the ownership of that specific watch, which may be somewhat better than we have today but isn’t going to do much to address the issue around the physical fakes in the market. So whilst this might be an improvement on “box and papers”, that improvement might end up being little more than marginal.

    Also I wonder what, on the physical watch itself, will be marked with that unique number? The case, the movement, every component?? If not every component, how would this help someone buying a frankenwatch? Sure, you would have the detailed provenance of that watch’s ownership, but I imagine that will be of little comfort in terms of seeking restitution for buying a dud. Maybe the watches are going to be unopenable??

    Blockchains have already been hacked, at least when it comes to crypto-currencies, although the focus has tended to be more on the smart contracts and exchanges themselves rather than the underlying technology. It has been estimated to cost around $260k per hour in mining power to even attempt to hack something like Bitcoin, which is why most of the hacks to date have tried to intercept the creation of the signature before the block is written to the blockchain itself. Once the block has been written, a whole new level of computing power is needed to rewrite the distributed ledger.

    This is also why most of the hackers focus has been on blockchain-enabled crypto-currencies, as the hacker can immediately realise the financial benefit of the hack. Hacking a watch-focused blockchain is going to yield relatively little return by comparison, I would think.

    Say you physically have in your possession the clone of the watch whose blockchain entry you want to fake. First, you would have to hack the blockchain to find every block relating to the bona-fire watch, then you have to rewrite those blocks (and any related blocks) faster than the rest of the network combined, as they are all frantically writing new blocks all the time and would otherwise soon identify the discrepancies in the signatures on the blocks you are yourself trying to write. So not necessarily impossible, but practically improbable! And all for a watch costing perhaps $100k or so? I can’t see that the rewards would be worth the effort...but then I am not a hacker!

    Despite the capabilities of blockchain as a technology, probably the weakest link will remain the user who walks away from their laptop without locking it, or who leaves it on a train or plane, or who has the password of “password”!

    It will be interesting to keep an eye on this to see how it develops, so thank you again.

  7. #7
    So, basically they will keep buyer records in database

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Itsguy View Post
    It is possible that quantum computers will be the end of cryptocurrencies, as it becomes quite easy to solve the puzzles involved. I can’t say I understand it well enough to say if that destroys digital ownership records in general though.

    There are potential scams I can imagine, but they are a world away from the current situation with fakes and fake papers. On the whole I’d take this as good news, as in theory a manufacturer service should be able to provide you with digital authentication to take with you, and it should also take some of the stress out of buying used - you should be able to check the credentials of the seller.

    On ‘constant now’, that sounds like exactly what I’d like in retirement! In the relaxed sense at least - I guess you mean in the sense of ‘always on’. But as you say, that’s another discussion.
    Could quantum computers equally be used to generate more secure blockchains, keys etc.?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Normunds View Post
    So, basically they will keep buyer records in database
    Basically, no ;-)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by willie_gunn View Post
    Thanks for posting this.

    Although no expert, I am aware of Blockchain projects with customers having commodities as different as pharma, oil & gas/rigging, shipping containers, olive oil and fresh fish, so good to see the watch industry catching up!

    It would have been interesting if the article had at least hinted as to the type of “unique number” being considered, as I doubt regular engraved serial numbers will be sufficient in the long term as they can be so easily cloned. If they stick with those, then presumably all that is being verified is the ownership of that specific watch, which may be somewhat better than we have today but isn’t going to do much to address the issue around the physical fakes in the market. So whilst this might be an improvement on “box and papers”, that improvement might end up being little more than marginal.

    Also I wonder what, on the physical watch itself, will be marked with that unique number? The case, the movement, every component?? If not every component, how would this help someone buying a frankenwatch? Sure, you would have the detailed provenance of that watch’s ownership, but I imagine that will be of little comfort in terms of seeking restitution for buying a dud. Maybe the watches are going to be unopenable??

    Blockchains have already been hacked, at least when it comes to crypto-currencies, although the focus has tended to be more on the smart contracts and exchanges themselves rather than the underlying technology. It has been estimated to cost around $260k per hour in mining power to even attempt to hack something like Bitcoin, which is why most of the hacks to date have tried to intercept the creation of the signature before the block is written to the blockchain itself. Once the block has been written, a whole new level of computing power is needed to rewrite the distributed ledger.

    This is also why most of the hackers focus has been on blockchain-enabled crypto-currencies, as the hacker can immediately realise the financial benefit of the hack. Hacking a watch-focused blockchain is going to yield relatively little return by comparison, I would think.

    Say you physically have in your possession the clone of the watch whose blockchain entry you want to fake. First, you would have to hack the blockchain to find every block relating to the bona-fire watch, then you have to rewrite those blocks (and any related blocks) faster than the rest of the network combined, as they are all frantically writing new blocks all the time and would otherwise soon identify the discrepancies in the signatures on the blocks you are yourself trying to write. So not necessarily impossible, but practically improbable! And all for a watch costing perhaps $100k or so? I can’t see that the rewards would be worth the effort...but then I am not a hacker!

    Despite the capabilities of blockchain as a technology, probably the weakest link will remain the user who walks away from their laptop without locking it, or who leaves it on a train or plane, or who has the password of “password”!

    It will be interesting to keep an eye on this to see how it develops, so thank you again.
    Not to mention a slight inconvenience when cold wallets are lost, permanently damaged etc, the way it happened with one of the cryptocurrencies recently when the founder passed away leaving cold wallets inaccessible.
    ICYMI: Millions of women all over the world dressed in PussyHats and oversized Vagina costumes took to the streets today to protest against war with Iran.

  11. #11
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    There is no reason for VC to use a decentralized linked ledger. They might use a linked ledger, but no anonymous workers are going to be working nonstop to generate their keys. That's not really a "block chain", though it's not a surprising mistake since every MBA grad in the last five years can't help but shout "block chain" at every possible moment.

  12. #12
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    This is been known for some time by the boutiques, one of them let it slip when I brought a VC in for service with the full box paper etc.



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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by JP Chestnut View Post
    There is no reason for VC to use a decentralized linked ledger. They might use a linked ledger, but no anonymous workers are going to be working nonstop to generate their keys. That's not really a "block chain", though it's not a surprising mistake since every MBA grad in the last five years can't help but shout "block chain" at every possible moment.
    Actually maybe there is a reason. If they are doing it the way I’d imagine, they wouldn’t need to waste any money maintaining a database that tracks the ownership themselves, after the first sale. They also don’t have to spend any time and money verifying who sold it to who down the chain of ownership. Set up the right way, the system essentially runs itself - but does use a blockchain accessed via a branded app. Essentially, it benefits brands to some extent to have a well functioning pre-owned market and less issues with fakes - you can see this with Rolex, where the future value is a big sales point. But it doesn’t benefit them to spend more than the minimum supporting it. It is possible to make the job of tracking ownership decentralised and self-maintaining.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by JP Chestnut View Post
    There is no reason for VC to use a decentralized linked ledger. They might use a linked ledger, but no anonymous workers are going to be working nonstop to generate their keys. That's not really a "block chain", though it's not a surprising mistake since every MBA grad in the last five years can't help but shout "block chain" at every possible moment.
    The value of the distributed ledger is not really for VC, but for the dealers, repairers and - above all - the customers. The problem with a centralised ledger is that everyone would have to go to VC to access or update any information, which is exactly why it doesn’t happen.

    You are spot on though, in that there are plenty of projects being built around Blockchain for no other reason than to use Blockchain. IBM reckon 95% of the Blockchain projects they evaluate will never make it to fruition. There are some good examples coming to the market, though, particularly in areas like supply chain which typically involve multiple stakeholders, often across differing geographies and jurisdictions.

    My personal view, FWIW, is that we will only really start to see the widescale adoption of Blockchain through two things - first, where governmental and regulatory bodies insist on using it, and second where the consumer drives the adoption. The latter will be particularly important once Joe Public really becomes aware of how widely their personal data is being shared - that’s where data privacy can be enhanced via technologies like Blockchain.

  15. #15
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    Some more info on this from HODINKEE, looks like it works as predicted.

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