December 3, 2021
When David Oyanadel, one of the co-founders of ARSOME, met Mark Shekleton at a Connecticut networking event, it seemed like a lucky coincidence. Like ARSOME, Shekleton’s company, Smart Seal, was engaged in blurring the lines between the physical and digital reaBlog (a phenomenon that has spawned the portmanteau “phygital”).
In ARSOME’s case that meant creating augmented reality (AR) experiences that allow users to enhance the world around them with visual and auditory elements; Smart Seal was leveraging near field communications (NFC) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to connect physical objects to the blockchain, digitally enabling proof of authenticity and ownership.
Forging a strategic partnership, they realized, would open up new possibilities for both the creators and purchasers of AR materials.
“ ARSOME Technology has been a great investor and strategic partner,” says Shekleton, Smart Seal's CEO. “They truly understand complex technology and have been doing a great job supporting and enhancing our vision as a company.”
The partners knew that if AR overlays or videos could be “tokenized” using Blockchain technology, they could then be applied to collectible goods, such as sneakers or vinyl albums, creating a unique user experience and conferring other benefits. (The process of tokenization involves creating a piece of data that can stand in for a different, more valuable piece of data, thus reducing the risks of it being stolen or damaged: one oft-used analogy compares tokens to poker chips, which represent actual money but which can’t be used to purchase anything until they’re exchanged for their cash value.)
Linking one-of-a-kind AR pieces to the blockchain as NFTs and then pairing them with physical assets:
Linking digital assets to physical assets requires technology like NFC, which allows for communication between two nearby devices and can act, essentially, as electronic IDs or keycards. NFC tags contain a miniscule microchip that can be read via smartphone with just a tap. (When Smart Seal was first launched, the company focused largely on creating digital IDs for physical objects, without the blockchain involved. Shekleton and his co-founders made a savvy pivot, however, once they realized that there was a gap in the market—while linking NFTs to digital files was easy, it was harder to link them to physical objects, and their technology provided a solution.)
Now, a tag can be securely embedded into a physical object, which is then coupled to an augmented reality NFT using the address of the creator. This proves the object’s origin and provides the basis for authentication; other content, such as compelling user stories or legal information, can also be included. (If an owner ever sells the physical asset, the unique AR experience and rest of the content go along with it.)
Shekleton, who spent more than 15 years in the aerospace industry, points out that the importance of proving provenance goes well beyond ensuring the value of a collectible or providing a buyer with the thrill of knowing they own a one-of-a-kind piece. Take aircraft parts, he says, which are now often manufactured and distributed through complex supply chains that provide ample opportunity for malefactors seeking to increase profit at the expense of safety or benefit in other dubious ways.
That holds true for any vital component or device, and authenticating it throughout the entire process, from design to delivery, represents a potentially life-saving application for ARSOME’s first blockchain venture.
Whether you’re an individual artist, an athlete seeking to sell jerseys to avid fans, or a major manufacturer, chances are good that the combination of AR and NFC could be a game-changer for you.