IBM Crypto-anchors and blockchain will save up to $600 billion per year from fraud

IBM’s mission is to help their clients change the way the world works. There’s no better example of that than IBM Research’s annual “5 in 5” technology predictions. Each year, they showcase some of the biggest breakthroughs coming out of IBM Research’s global labs – five technologies that they believe will fundamentally reshape business and society in the next five years. This innovation is informed by research taking place at IBM Labs, leading-edge work taking place with our clients, and trends we see in the tech/business landscape.

Later today, they’ll introduce the scientists behind this year’s 5 in 5 at a Science Slam held at the site of IBM’s biggest client event of the year: Think 2018 in Las Vegas. Watch it live or catch the replay here. Science Slams give their researchers the opportunity to convey the importance of their work to a general audience in a very short span of time — approximately 5 minutes. They have found this to be an extremely useful exercise that makes our innovation more accessible by distilling it down to its core essentials.

Here is one of the five predictions.

Nobody likes knockoffs. Crypto-anchors and blockchain will unite against counterfeiters.

Within the next five years, cryptographic anchors and blockchain technology will ensure a product’s authenticity — from its point of origin to the hands of the customer.

Fraud costs the global economy more than $600 billion a year. And in some countries, nearly 70 percent of certain life-saving drugs are counterfeit.


Crypto-anchors and blockchain technology will ensure a product’s authenticity — from its point of origin to the hands of the customer. Learn more about crypto-anchors and other IBM 5 in 5 predictions at http://ibm.biz/five-in-five

Complex supply chains — comprised of dozens of suppliers in multiple countries — make it difficult to prevent bad actors from tampering with everything from paper currency to consumer electronics.

Crypto-anchors are tamper-proof digital fingerprints IBM researchers are developing to be embedded into products, or parts of products, and linked to the blockchain. These fingerprints can take many forms, but when they are tied to a blockchain, they represent a powerful means of proving a product’s authenticity.

For example, a plastic blood test for malaria — the kind that’s counterfeited by the millions and passed off as genuine around Africa — could be embossed with an unalterable optical code. Even individual malaria pills can be coated in an edible shade of magnetic ink. With a simple scan of a smartphone, a doctor or patient could immediately verify that their medicine is safe and genuine.

But what if you’re trying to ensure the authenticity of liquid contents, such as a 1982 bottle of Bordeaux, or an expensive metal and can’t embed a crypto anchor directly onto the object?

IBM scientists have this covered too, with a crypto-anchor that is available today that combines a mobile sensor or cell phone outfitted with a special optical device and AI algorithms to learn and identify the optical structure and features of everything from a paper label – all in the time it takes to snap a selfie. It can also identify the presence of DNA sequences in minutes.

Some Crypto-anchors will do more than authenticate physical goods. The world’s smallest computer (literally) is an IBM-designed edge device architecture and computing platform that is smaller than a grain of salt, will cost less than ten cents to manufacture, and can monitor, analyze, communicate, and even act on data. It packs several hundred thousand transistors into a footprint barely visible to the human eye, and can help verify that a product has been handled properly throughout its long journey.

These crypto-anchors pave the way for new solutions that tackle food safety, authenticity of manufactured components, genetically modified products, identification of counterfeit objects and provenance of luxury goods. The first models could be made available to clients in the next 18 months. And within the next five years, advances in microfluidics, packaging platforms, cryptography, non-volatile memory, and design will take these systems from the lab to the marketplace.


Some Crypto-anchors will do more than authenticate physical goods. The world’s smallest computer is an IBM-designed edge device architecture and computing platform that is smaller than a grain of salt will cost less than ten cents to manufacture and can monitor, analyze, communicate, and even act on data. It packs several hundred thousand transistors into a footprint barely visible to the human eye and can help verify that a product has been handled properly throughout its long journey.

IBM scientists have created a crypto-anchor that combines a mobile sensor (or cell phone) outfitted with a special optical device and AI algorithms to learn and identify the optical structure and features of certain objects. It can also identify the presence of DNA sequences in minutes.

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