LVMH, Microsoft and ConsenSys Announce Blockchain Consortium AURA

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Louis Vuitton situated on the famous Champs-Elysées, Paris, Wikipedia
Image: Louis Vuitton store situated on the famous Champs-Elysées, Paris, France, Wikipedia

UPDATE (May 24, 2019, 12:32 GMT): This article has been updated with statements from Ken Timsit, managing director of ConsenSys Solutions, the enterprise blockchain arm of ConsenSys.

Luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, tech giant Microsoft and blockchain software technology ConsenSys have teamed up to develop the AURA blockchain-based platform, a solution that makes it possible for consumers to gain access a luxury good’s history and proof of its authenticity – from raw materials to the point of sale, all the way to second-hand markets, the companies said on Thursday.

During production, each product is recorded on the shared ledger, irreproducible and containing unique information. At the time of purchase, a customer can use the brand’s application to receive the AURA certificate containing all product information.

The platform aims to provide transparency and a single source of truth for customers who can be certain that a product is indeed genuine. Consumers get access to critical details about a product’s origin and components, including ethical and environmental information, instructions for product care, as well as the after-sales and warranty services available.

Speaking to CoinJournal, Ken Timsit, managing director of ConsenSys Solutions, the enterprise blockchain arm of ConsenSys, explained how the system works.

“The unique digital proof of authenticity of each item is generated by the luxury brand and passed on to the transporter, point of sale, all the way to the customer. No one can create a proof of authenticity unless it has been passed on to them along a chain that starts with an original certificate cryptographically signed by the luxury brand, and is cryptographically signed by its various custodians every step of the way,” Timsit said.

“There are various ways to identify a specific item, depending on the type of item: RFID chip, engraved serial number, delivery of a paper certificate … but even if a knock-off operator manages to replicate the physical chip or the engraving or the certificate, they cannot replicate the digital proof of authenticity because that there is only one copy of that proof registered in the blockchain, and only the true custodian of that proof can cryptographically demonstrate that they have it in their possession.”

Several brands of the LVMH Group, including Louis Vuitton and Parfums Christian Dior, are currently involved in the project. For Louis Vuitton, the AURA project is the culmination of traceability program Track & Trace launched more than three years ago. Advanced discussions are underway to add more brands from the group as well as brands from other luxury firms.

The companies involved in the project decided to implement a consortium model where any luxury brand can become a full member. They said the model will ensure that the technology is accessible to all while maintaining the flexibility to address the specific needs of each luxury brand.

AURA is built on Quorum, a permissioned version of the Ethereum blockchain developed by JPMorgan, and harnesses Microsoft Azure. The platform is especially designed for luxury brands and offers a wide range of services specific to the industry, catering to the needs of brands that would want to put a focus on the sourcing of raw materials, provide tailored services, or strengthen consumer loyalty.

ConsenSys is one of the main technology partners of AURA, and contributed to the design and development of the Traceability Smart Contracts, which use the ERC-721 protocol for its non-fungible tokens, the AURA blockchain infrastructure and the brand API that allows brands to interface with the AURA platform on a white-label basis.

Timsit qualified AURA as “a groundbreaking innovation for the luxury industry,” adding that the initiative will be beneficial to the entire luxury, protecting the interests, integrity and privacy of each brand.

High-end brands like Louis Vuitton are subject of knock-offs and fraud involving worldwide operations. In 2017, the global online counterfeiting market alone generated an estimated US$323 billion in losses. According to the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report 2018, luxury brands incurred losses of US$30.3 billion through Internet sales in 2017.

In the diamond industry too, brands and companies like De Beers and Taylor & Hart use blockchain to help trace their supply chains from mine to shop floor. De Beers is leading an industry effort, along with five other diamond manufacturers, to develop an open-source blockchain platform called Tracr, announced in May 2018. Taylor & Hart is partnered with blockchain startup Everledger and using its technology to authenticate the provenance of diamonds.