Make no bones about it: counterfeiting is a plague on the world economy. Governments are taking action, with even countries like China — which accounts for majority of the estimated 75 percent of counterfeit products seized worldwide in 2010 — cracking down against elements of the counterfeiting trade.
With e-commerce among the major driver of the sales of counterfeit goods, retailers of wide-ranging scale and presence are investing in technologies that would safeguard against the phenomenon.
With more than 266 million active consumers, JD.com (JD) is among such enterprises who have embraced AI and blockchain technology across its operations. JD is China’s largest retailer — online and offline — and the world’s third-largest Internet company by revenue. JD is a direct seller of millions of brands from around the world and hosts a marketplace of more than 160,000 trusted merchants.
Keen to facilitate the growth of this disruptive technology and its benefits to security, transparency, and efficiency, JD recently launched its blockchain accelerator program called AI Catapult Accelerator (AICA), aimed at unlocking the transformative potential of start-ups demonstrating cutting-edge talent in the blockchain space.
Authenticity on the block
Among AICA’s first batch of cohorts is Devery, a leading global blockchain start-up that provides verification solutions. The team of Andrew Rasheed, whose extensive experience in the e-commerce and development space informed the foundation of Devery, will bring world-leading tech expertise to support JD in the research and development of verification solutions using blockchain architecture, including supply-chain tracking and identity management.
Devery was created due to issues with counterfeiting and duplication that Rasheed experienced and saw in the market. He recognized that digital product verification would greatly reduce these problems and provide greater transparency and confidence to online shoppers.
“Working in [the e-commerce and development space] allowed me to witness first-hand the detrimental effects of counterfeiting and duplication on brand value, perception, and supply chain provenance over time,” relates Rasheed, adding that he saw a unique opportunity with blockchain technology to innovate within the space, through the various benefits the technology provides in terms of securing the verification layer.
Informs Rasheed, “We have built a protocol that allows third-party verification applications to be developed with ease. Through Devery, businesses can be assured of the authenticity of their supply chain through verification of unique digital signatures attached to each product against contextual data, such as date and location of manufacture or issue and the verifying party.”
The verification layer, he adds, is not limited to physical goods and services but can extend to include digital products as well.
“Supply-chain tracking and identity management are fundamental use cases of the blockchain, [which I believe] will significantly change how supply-chains are managed and will bring greater transparency to the movement of produce and goods all over the world. This is the next big step in bringing safer and more ethical products to consumers,” says Rasheed.
Making blockchain accessible
Still at its nascence, blockchain technology has a long way to go in terms of understanding and application. “The nature of the space is constantly evolving, turning up fresh developments almost daily,” says Rasheed.
Collaboration within the AICA accelerator is set to contribute to the mainstream adoption of blockchain technology in the supply chain industry.
JD and Devery are working more closely to deliver more streamlined solutions to Devery’s current ventures in developing countries and its commercial partnerships in the supply chain industry. This joint effort will additionally involve research and development into new and innovative ways to provide cheap and efficient tracking solutions.
“Blockchain technology has the potential to reduce the costs not just for supply chain transparency and accountability, but also for a variety of other industries where automation can bring forth the next level of operational streamlining,” says Rasheed.
Devery’s initial focus was building an “all-encompassing” application, but the start-up gradually shifted towards developing a protocol that allowed greater flexibility for users while also contributing to smoothening adoption over time. To this end, relates Rasheed, “the application-level services on our platform are interoperable across existing supply chain infrastructure irrespective of industry.”
Four other blockchain start-ups have been named in AICA’s program — Bluzelle, Nuggets, Canya, and Bankorus.
By TRICIA V. MORENTE
This article originally appeared in Inc. Southeast Asia