14 November 2018

IBM and Seagate explore blockchain in anti-counterfeiting project

Technology company IBM is exploring how blockchain technologies can generate “electronic fingerprints” which can be used to reduce the counterfeiting of hard drives.

IBM announced the new project in collaboration with data storage firm Seagate Technology on Thursday, November 8.

In the release, IBM explained that global trade in counterfeit and pirated electronic products has reached more than $1.7 trillion in value, as estimated by the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition.

The IBM-Seagate project seeks to reduce hard drive counterfeiting by combining IBM’s blockchain platform with Seagate’s electronic fingerprinting and product tracking technologies.

IBM said: “The project, which is designed to help manufacturers, integrators, and business partners fight counterfeit hard drives, uses the IBM blockchain platform to authenticate the provenance of disk drive products, bringing a new level of multi-layered security protection to the data management industry.”

Blockchain offers a decentralised way of sharing information through ‘blocks’ which are linked using cryptography (code encryption).

Bruce Anderson, global managing director, electronics industry, at IBM, said that blockchain technology can be extremely effective in confirming the authenticity of assets.

As part of the project, Seagate will update its product authentication data on the blockchain platform at the point of a hard drive’s manufacture. These unique identifiers will serve as an “electronic fingerprint” which can then be used to verify the identity of a hard drive at any point of the product’s life cycle.

IBM explained that Seagate then uses “cryptographic erasure technology to produce a digital certificate of data purge”. This is electronically signed by the hard drive under the Seagate Secure public key infrastructure, and stored on the blockchain.

IBM said: “Throughout a product’s life, technology vendors, service providers, and end users will be able to confirm the product’s provenance on the blockchain, which provides an immutable record of events.

“This can help reduce data loss, fraudulent products and warranty costs, while improving product assurance for customers during deployment.”

A number of big names have recently sought to make use of blockchain technology in a variety of fields.

In addition to the Seagate project, one of IBM’s patent applications—published last week—covers the use of blockchain in scientific research, including experiments, data collection, and analysis, as reported by sister site LSIPR.

Last month, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted the Bank of America a blockchain patent covering systems and devices for the remote storage of private cryptography keys.

Meanwhile, Sony announced that it is using blockchain technology to develop a rights management system for digital written works and Chinese e-commerce operator Alibaba filed an application at the USPTO for a patent covering a blockchain solution that allows for third-party intervention where illegal activities have taken place.

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