“A product’s NFT undergoes a status change when it is either sold by Lowe’s, if it has been stolen, or if the status is unknown.”
Retail giants have been brainstorming all kinds of ways to combat theft — and big box hardware titan Lowe’s is now pushing those efforts to the limit.
The greatest minds at its Lowe’s Innovation Labs have been working on the company’s recently unveiled “Project Unlock,” Insider reports, which will use cheap radio frequency identification (RFID) chips and — wait for it — NFTs on the blockchain to activate certain power tools at checkout.
If that sounds like DRM for power tools, that’s basically what it is. Products included in the program will be embedded with an RFID chip containing a serial number. When a specialized scanner detects the chip, it then writes in its unique activation key.
It’s what’s known as “point of sale activation,” and unless your newfangled drill is checked out using a specialized RFID scanner, it’s totally useless.
Instead of using more intimidating methods like putting every valuable product in store under lock and key, Lowe’s views Project Unlock as a much less imposing alternative.
“We think there are better ways to curb theft than locking products down,” Lowe’s announced in a video announcement, as quoted by Insider.
However, it’s currently unclear which tools this system would be used with.
Lowe’s is not the first to experiment with this kind of anti-shoplifting methods. Its biggest rival, Home Depot tried a similar system that used Bluetooth instead of RFID back in 2021.
But here’s where the latest project gets even wilder. According to Lowe’s Innovation Labs senior director Josh Shabtai, each product is linked with a pre-minted NFT.
“A product’s NFT undergoes a status change when it is either sold by Lowe’s, if it has been stolen, or if the status is unknown,” Shabtai told Cointelegraph.
“All of this information is publicly visible to customers and resellers since it’s recorded on the Ethereum blockchain,” he added. “We have essentially built a purchase authenticity provenance for Lowes’ power tools.”
So in other words, a customer’s purchase is recorded — sans personal information, Lowe’s says — on the blockchain via an NFT. That database can be checked by anyone, including the retailer itself and law enforcement.
In theory, this is supposed to help customers buying a second-hand tool see if it was stolen — which makes the daring assumption that someone buying something on the cheap would care about where it came from, let alone know about Lowe’s system.