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What This App is Doing to Bring Blockchain-Based Transparency into Supply Chains

Maybe, just maybe, if Truepic were around in 2013, the Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1,134 in Bangladesh could have been prevented.

Whispers of cracks splintering the eight-story building’s walls preceded the deadliest garment factory disaster in Bangladesh history, Mounir Ibrahim, vice president of strategic initiatives for the blockchain-based photo verification company, told Sourcing Journal. If only workers inside the manufacturing center had a tamper-proof way to document the decay and show the outside world what was happening, perhaps history would have unfolded differently—and lives would have been saved.

Ibrahim, a former foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department, said his experience serving in Syria convinced him of Truepic’s value. He witnessed firsthand how activists in Syria tried to get photos and video footage of state-sanctioned atrocities out to powers in the West, only to be met with skepticism about whether or not the imagery was legitimate—or faked.

That experience underscored the need for a way to bring trust and transparency into photo and video sharing. Social networks have been around for quite some time now but there’s little guarantee that what people are posting is truly authentic: see Russian bots, 2016. What blockchain and self-automated artificial intelligence can do, Ibrahim said, is bring immutability into the process.

Truepic offers a free Android and iOS app people can use to snap photos and upload them to the Bitcoin blockchain, chosen because it’s the largest and most trusted decentralized public database around, Ibrahim explained. The company generates revenue by offering clients a back-end repository containing all of the detailed metadata proving the uploaded images and videos are, in fact, authentic.

Truepic, which has generated about $10 million to date, takes pains to verify the photos and videos users upload. It matches up the verified time/date stamp metadata from the image with verified geolocation metadata from the smartphone itself to confirm a picture was indeed taken where it was claimed to be taken. It also tests the barometric pressure reading from the phone to determine the altitude and ensure it matches the GPS coordinates. Truepic can detect whether a phone is jailbroken (iOS) or rooted (Android), meaning users can “fundamentally change the operating system,” and falsify metadata to fool others into thinking a photo was taken on a different time or date than it actually was.

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Meanwhile, some bad actors attempt to alter a photo while it’s in the process of uploading to the cloud, so Truepic built in a data transmission verification feature to suss out any breaks during the upload. It also knows if someone’s trying to rebroadcast—using their phone to take a photo or video of content on another phone and pass off the underlying metadata as their own. (Some of the “Catfish” on the eponymous hit MTV show use this technique to fool their victims into thinking they’re someone else.)

Photos and videos captured with the Truepic app’s camera are by default set to private; users have the option to share them publicly either on the blockchain or via typical sharing applications (SMS, social platforms, etc.).

Today, companies that manufacture in places like China use Truepic to expedite their auditing and compliance procedures. Instead of waiting weeks or months for proof of quality control and other metrics, they can request photos proving products are up to standard and located where they’re supposed to be at touchpoints along the supply chain.

Ibrahim said major fashion brands could be interested in using Truepic to ensure their contract factories and supply chains are free of violations that would warrant crippling fees and sanctions. What’s more, because it’s free to download, Truepic could be a useful tool for factory workers to document their working conditions wherever smartphones are common. An app like Truepic could bring much-needed transparency into the oft-murky process of creating garments in far-flung Third World nations.

With Truepic working to authenticate images shared around the web, Ibrahim said, “it means you can’t hide anymore.”