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IBM combines AI and blockchain to turn your phone into a counterfeit detector

IBM Research today unveiled its Crypto Anchor Verifier, an AI-powered counterfeit detector that verifies an item’s authenticity using your phone’s camera and blockchain technology.

How it works: You pull out your phone, open an app, and take a pic of, for example, a diamond. IBM’s AI determines what is unique about this particular diamond, and then compares it to a database of gems contained within a blockchain ledger. If it’s found, the AI can verify the authenticity of the diamond.

“It’s both terrifyingly interesting and interestingly terrifying”

According to VICE, TNW Conference is quite the event

Donna Dillenberger, IBM Fellow, IBM Research told TNW:

We are creating Verifier AI software to help many industries. Using Verifier, one can help transform supply chains and drastically reduce counterfeits on a global scale.

What it means: IBM says this tech can be adapted to detect the authenticity of just about anything from wine to paper money. It relies on image processing, and the fact that machines can see things people can’t.

Blockchain, at its core, is a technology designed to eliminate the need for trust. Unfortunately it’s not possible to put a physical object on “the blockchain.” The next best thing is using computer vision to put an object’s unique appearance on it.

But don’t expect an all-seeing, all-knowing eye to sprout from our smart phones anytime soon. In order for this to protect consumers from purchasing, let’s say, a counterfeit Fantastic Four #4, Marvel would have to register each one in a blockchain ledger. The AI has to have a previously verified version of an individual object in order to verify it later – essentially companies have to opt-in before products reach the market.

Considering counterfeiting costs US companies more than $600 billion per year, this technology might just catch on.

Read next: Facial recognition company CEO explains why government surveillance is bad for privacy

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