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BlockTac commercializes authentication and anti-counterfeit solutions based on Blockchain, with additional marketing and sales features that increase consumer connection and bonding. They are already applied in FMCGs, Pharma, healthcare and artworks.
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FG: Hello everyone. We are here today with Lorenzo Catalá, engineer and manager of the Bolivian National Chamber of Commerce.
LC: Hi Francisco, thanks for inviting me to this interview.
FG: Well, the reason for this talk is to explain the joint development carried out between the National Chamber of Commerce and BlockTac for the implementation of an online voting system for the election of positions on its Board of Directors. The COVID-19 pandemic posed an institutional challenge since it was necessary to facilitate secure access to a voting system in any region of the country, right, Lorenzo?
LC: Indeed, in fact, the challenge was threefold since:
– An online voting system had to be developed to allow the participation of companies throughout the country in the election to renew the Directory of the National Chamber of Commerce.
– We had to put in place a technical solution that would guarantee the casting of a vote: unique, anonymous, and auditable.
– And it was necessary to implement a solution that is safe and friendly in the interaction with the voter so that technology does not become a barrier but rather an incentive to mass participation.
FG: I must say that the initiative to develop a solution based on Blockchain technology and that would respond to those challenges was yours and as a consequence of the experience of the last year of jointly work on the implementation of different solutions to solve business problems through the Blockchain technology.
LC: It was so, and this allowed us to launch a joint team that was able to face those challenges despite the geographical distance and the time difference between the members of the technical team and respond to legal, technical, and audit requirements necessaries for the entire process.
FG: Indeed, I attest to the intensity of the work done by all the members of the team that was established. And I would like you to explain in a little more detail the particularities of this election.
LC: The particular challenges for our institution were several:
– Develop specific voting spaces for each of the five categories of business members that the Chamber has.
– Count the votes in accordance with the mechanism established by internal regulations, and reflect the results quickly and reliably.
– Explain in advance and in a simple way the steps that had to be followed during the electoral day to vote.
– Convince the companies that the solution would allow for greater voter participation and that the data would be reliable. It was not an easy task in an institution that carries a 130-year-old tradition of voting in person.
FG: Lorenzo, tell us how the working group was organized and how the people from the National Chamber of Commerce and BlockTac were integrated?
LC: The Chamber organized working teams in 3 areas:
– Communication area: that organized virtual gatherings with the candidates to make them known on social networks and was in charge of disseminating the procedures to participate in the election day and motivate engagement.
– Technology area: to adapt the internal infrastructure to the needs of the voting system, basically in terms of mail servers and security aspects.
– Coordination area: who interacted with the BlockTac team to be the bridge between the technical part and the Electoral Commission that directed the voting process.
The coordination with BlockTac was permanent and enriching because the solution was built working as a team. The professionals at BlockTac showed high efficiency and professionalism, in addition to an unparalleled commitment.
FG: Lorenzo, surely those who follow us are interested in knowing some more precise details about the solution design. These processes are usually criticized because some may think that not all the critical elements are considered and guarantees provided as these electoral processes require.
LC: Of course it does. We were the first interested in responding to all the demands that were put on us in critical aspects such as avoiding any possible fraud or manipulation of the vote and its results. And indeed they were fulfilled in the following way:
The first and simplest idea is that you cannot force a vote. Voters were instructed to participate in the process, but at no time was control of who voted and who did not. At the same time, a voter assistance system was designed that allowed addressing and solving any problem that might arise during the voting time.
Second, we made sure that only those voters who were certified to do so could vote. Those accreditations were registered in Blockchain, and could only be accessed by those who had that right. Furthermore, the system was designed in such a way that neither the identity of the voter nor the nature of their vote could be revealed. This could be done by generating random codes generated for each registered voter at the time of voting.
Third, we wanted to protect ourselves against any fraud attempt, applying the experience of Block tac digital seals to the candidacy ballots and to the voting rights of the accredited voters. Blockchain registration of ballots and voters protected us from the possible generation of false ballots or that voters could exercise their right more than once.
And, fourthly, we wanted the process to be transparent and auditable in all its accounts.
FG: Tell us, Lorenzo, how that objective was achieved.
LC: For the individual voter, at the end of their vote they were sent a certificate, also registered in Blockchain, of having successfully completed their vote. And, at the institutional level, mechanisms were established to check the progress of the vote, and the number of voters and ballots used, ensuring that all the figures matched exactly.
FG: Indeed, it was so, and I must point out that to the previous achievements was added that of generating an agile and simple system of interaction with the voter, and also for the members of the Chamber Committee responsible for auditing the process and the results. We would like you to tell us now how the implementation of the electoral process was in practice and how it developed on the day of the vote.
LC: It must be explained that in order to communicate the process and prepare for the election day, an intense training effort had to be carried out that included interaction with business candidates and society, receiving the concerns and suggestions of more than 10,000 members of the National Chamber of Commerce. And for the day of the vote, an information center was set up, prepared to guide voters in case of difficulties.
Then, on the day of the vote, we had an avalanche of voters. Participation was increased by 62% compared to the previous year and the number of voters grew in all categories, surpassing all historical statistics. There was an increase in participation 1.6 times higher than the average historically held in the Institution. And companies from all regions of Bolivia participated and we even managed to allow business representatives outside the country to vote.
FG: I see that, from what you are telling us, the objectives that we had originally set were fully achieved. Do you have information that you may share with us about the institutional or social impact, in the National Chamber of Commerce or in the country?
LC: Of course. First, note that in addition to the advantages of transparency and security, the costs associated with this type of election were substantially lower compared to those of a traditional ballot-based system. And then, to point out that the news of this electoral process had an important impact on Bolivian society. It even aroused the interest of the Plurinational Electoral Agency, which acted as an observer of the election day and highly valued the solution being implemented. The impact in the country media was enormous because Bolivia is immersed in a national electoral process that faces the difficulties posed by the pandemic in which we find ourselves. That the Bolivian businessmen have given an example of democracy and participation to the politicians, was a fact highlighted by the press and civil society.
FG: Well Lorenzo, thank you very much for your thorough explanation. I think that we have also fulfilled the objective of disclosing how this unique online voting process was implemented through the use of Blockchain technology and that many of our followers were interested in learning about it. It is fair to mention that this has only been a partial description of a highly complex system and with a large number of potential failure points, which were all considered and resolved…, but those are technical aspects that perhaps this is not a suitable place to cover them.
LC: Indeed, thanks also to the BlockTac team, and rest assured that we will continue working together to extend this system to other institutions in our country that have shown interest in its implementation.
FG: Thanks Lorenzo and thanks to all of you who have followed us and until next time.
This is Francisco Guillén, BlockTac CEO, and I welcome you to a new podcast of this series in which we will introduce you to the different developments we carry out at BlockTac.
We continue today describing in detail one of the most outstanding BlockTac developments based on the application of Blockchain technology. I must point out something that I did not mention in the previous podcast, and it is the international recognition that we have been awarded for this innovation. Our digital seals applied to fight fraud in food and consumer products have received the Seal of Excellence for Innovation provided by the European Commission. This is a recognition obtained in highly competitive conditions.
Today I am going to review with you those industries in which we are presenting and applying our digital seals. I must explain that this is not a theoretical description of potential uses of Blockchain technology but rather concrete applications to solve business problems of our clients.
I should say that its implementation reaches many different industries due to the extent and severity of counterfeiting, as I mentioned in the previous podcast. And this corresponds to the need for companies to provide consumers with proof of authenticity that is safe and easy to verify.
To make it more enjoyable, I will organize the description of the different industries in the form of a historical journey through the development of our commercial activities, which in part arose from our own initiative, but on other occasions were the results of our clients’ demands. On many occasions, we were surprised by the particularities of fraud or counterfeiting in industries in which we could not imagine its impact or its extension.
I will start with the food and beverage industry. Here, the perception of the need for an authenticity identifier originated from the personal experience of Enrique Lizaso, my partner, and co-founder of BlockTac. A group of Spaniards gathered for dinner in a great country in the far east, and with a spirit of celebration, decided to order a bottle of wine from a famous brand from La Rioja. The product was very convincing until they verified the absence of cork and the poor quality of its content.
The problem of counterfeiting in wine and olive oil, star products with Spain appellations, proved to be serious enough to influence the first developments of our seals in these products and the arrival of the first international awards and recognitions. Usually, the implementation consists of a double-layer label that hides a unique QR code for each unit, which when scanned allows to immediately verify whether the bottle is original, whether it was previously opened and on what date, or if it is a copy and can be denounced on the spot to the original producer.
We apply these types of seals to fresh or processed food products, whether it is meat or fish, or seasonal fruits and vegetables. It is important to clarify that these are not generic or batch identifiers, that cannot avoid counterfeits, or that will only provide general information about the product or the company. We have seen some applications that claim to use Blockchain technology, but that are developments on private chains, and that do not solve the counterfeiting problems described above.
Another industry, close to the previous one, in which we are working is that of spirits. Here we discover that counterfeiting is abundant, with a high economic impact, and complemented by irregular behaviors in the distribution channel. We have found that the issues are different depending on the countries and the points of sale, but all can be solved well with the digital seals, supplemented with specific certificates for the control of the distribution channel.
Another important industry, due to the impact of fraud, is that of medicine drugs. In Europe, it is also characterized by being highly regulated and the use of a serialized identification system, based on an earlier technology, which has significant implementation problems and is not designed for the final consumer.
In our case, we have chosen to work with state medicine agencies and manufacturers in Latin America, where the problem of fakes affects one in three of those being sold and with the additional harm to the health of the population. And its application is not limited to prescription drugs but also extends to OTC products.
In this industry, the implementation of the unique identifiers registered with Blockchain technology adapts to the characteristics of the product, either in the form of external double-layer labels such as in the food industry or inside the box that contains the product.
And the functionality of the seals is not limited to avoiding counterfeits but helps to provide information on the way in which the medication must be administered, which in some cases is especially critical and that will be discussed in a coming podcast.
Now I will comment jointly on two similar industries, cosmetics and perfumes, both characterized by their high priced products. The cosmetics are somewhat more affected by counterfeits, but both are greatly disturbed by the illegal trade in gray markets.
Also here the use of identifiers adapts to the product attributes and the digital seals are complemented by specific certificates in the secondary packaging for better control of the supply chain.
Lastly, I will describe the applications of our certificates and digital seals in the fashion and luxury accessories industries. Here, the requirements for authenticity proofs and supply chain control are increased by two new demands. On one hand, protection of the intellectual property of the designs claimed by their authors, and on the other, the consumers demand for a certificate of the ecologic quality of raw materials or the company’s social responsibility in the manufacturing processes.
The implementation of our certificates and seals customizes the large variety of products and diversity of functions demanded, and also include the identifier data on other media such as RFID devices.
To be fair, I must admit that I leaving out some economic industries you might have heard of the application of Blockchain technology and perhaps even know of some proofs of concept developed there. The reasons for not commenting on them now are, in fact, three:
Nothing else for today. I have presented you with wide applications of our digital seals in different industries and products. All of them share the need to prove that the product is authentic and its origin, something that our developments solve in a simple and innovative way, at a very competitive cost, significantly cheaper than any other technological solution currently available.
In a future podcast, I will delve into the functionalities of the seals, which go far beyond the authenticity prove for consumers.
Thank you for your attention and see you soon.
This is Francisco Guillén, BlockTac CEO, and I welcome you to a new podcast of this series in which we will introduce you to the different developments we carry out at BlockTac.
Today we are going to start a series of podcasts dedicated to explaining what our digital seals registered with Blockchain technology are and how they work.
These digital seals are the technological solution that we, at BlockTac, have developed to solve various problems that our clients in the food and consumer industries have told us about.
For many of them, the main problem is counterfeiting. This, in turn, corresponds to another and more serious problem that affects all consumers, which is the inability to know whether the product we buy and consume is original or fraudulent.
I must say that, when we established BlockTac as a company, we could not imagine the extent of this problem, much less its economic and social impact. The reports from international organizations estimate that fraud in food and consumer products has an extraordinary and growing extent, representing 3.3% of world trade and with an economic impact that exceeds 500 billion dollars.
This fraud affects food products, such as wine, olive oil, or meat products, strong liquors and beers, perfumes, fashion garments and accessories, luxury items, and artworks …, to name just a few economic industries.
But, in the case of pharmaceutical products, the effects of this fraud are much more serious. It has been published that 1 million people, 300 thousand of them children, in 90 countries, die every year due only to the effects of three types of counterfeit drugs: antimalarial drugs, anti-tuberculosis, and antibiotics. On average, 10% of medicines in the world are fakes, but in Latin America, the figure is one in three, and in some African countries, it reaches 60%.
What have we done at BlockTac to end this problem? Well, what we have called the single-use digital seals registered with Blockchain technology. These are unique identifiers characterized by:
The unique identifier of each seal is shown, in most cases, in the form of a two-dimensional QR code, but also on RFID media, in a simultaneous or complementary way.
The consumers only need to use the camera of their mobile phones to scan the QR of the seal. Its reading takes them directly to the manufacturer verification page where they will find a button to immediately verify the authenticity of the product.
In the unlikely event that someone intends to counterfeit such a product, they would also be forced to copy the identifier. But since these seals in most of our applications are for a single-use, when the buyer of the fake product tries to activate that identifier, he will find an unexpected response: will receive an alert warning that the seal has already been opened and the date when it was activated. Therefore, someone faced with a fraudulent copy can immediately report it by activating a denounce button on the verification page. It will launch a pre-established email that will go directly to the manufacturer.
As can be expected, copying the seal is useless for any counterfeiter, since all the copies will be identified as fakes by the buyers. In this way, the financial incentive for fraud ends, since no copy can be sold as an original one.
And that’s all for today. In a future podcast, we will review the implementation of these seals that our clients make in different industries.
Thank you for your attention.
Start in April 9th, 2018
April 9th, 2018
Establishment of the company with the aim of certifying diplomas and academic registration.
Implementation of digital cards and single use digital seals with Blockchain technology
Cuatrecasas Acelera First Prize Award Horizon 2020 Phase 1, European Commission Award
Expoliva Innovation Award (World Fair for Olive Oil Industry)
Neotec Award (€ 250K) First Funding Roung (€ 500K)
to be continued ...