THE BIG IDEA: Using Bitcoin to Track Artwork

 I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.

You know what else I like? When cutting edge technology works hand in hand with classical art. So how’s this for a Big Idea—using Bitcoin technology to track artwork.

Now just in case you don’t know what BitCoin is, Paul Vigna who is a financial reporter for the Wall Street Journal, describes it simply as digital money. Now you might ask at this point what exactly is digital money? Isn’t that just the same thing as using a credit card? Well, not exactly. Bitcoin is currency maintained by software, not a government mint or a treasury of any kind, nor is it managed by a bank. Bitcoin is completely digital, decentralized system of currency and commerce.

bitcoin-blogpost.jpgSo Bitcoin uses something called Blockchain which is—again, I’m using the simplest of analogies here—a digital ledger, recording all these digital transactions. Every time a Bitcoin is sold the Blockchain account is modified and stored in a distributed fashion in multiple servers everywhere. This is a form of security over your digital currency so if you try to sell that same bitcoin again the ledger or Blockchain is going to tell you that it has already been sold. You cannot duplicate a bitcoin because of all the encryption codes involved around that one transaction. Bitcoin and Blockchain came about this idea from the same methods used to track software. Try to launch software when you are online and you get that message “No, this is not the right user for this particular application. Please enter in your verification…” if it isn’t you. This is what Bitcoin and Blockchain are doing in order to make sure every digital transaction is authentic, original, unique, and genuine.

Here’s where the technology gets really clever. Some tech savvy folks in the art world caught on to the potential of this, and are planning to apply Blockchain to their own transactions. Every time a piece of artwork is sold, brokers will modify the Blockchain associated with that particular art piece, indicating it has been sold, and this transaction will be stored multiple places. Museums, brokers, and dealers will be able to use this data to verify whether a piece of artwork is, in fact, authentic or fraudulent. The company that is doing this, Verisart, is a startup based out of Los Angeles and will be launching this decentralized technology for artists and collectors as a new way to certify document and verify works of art.

I see Bitcoin’s Blockchain technology transforming all kinds of things that need very close tracking. Now Verisart can’t take an old piece of art and apply it, but suppose you’ve got an artist who has a new piece of art. Every time he sells it, they could actually at the same time modify the associated Blockchain that indicates the sale. This validates the sale and artist knows his artwork is not being duplicated because no one has hacked Blockchain. (Knock wood.)

Bitcoin technology looks to help artists protect their work. It’s going to help collector verify and authenticate investments. I think it’s going to transform the whole art world.



shurtz.jpgA research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratford University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.

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