VeChain Technical AMA — Hardware Questions Part 2
VeChainOfficial last edited by VeChainOfficial
Originally published on Feburary 22th, 2018.
Thank you for submitting your questions! VeChain Chief Technology Officer, Gu Jianliang, has taken the time to answer your questions throughout Chinese New Year and is excited to see the curiosity and dedication shown by the community.
Given the abundance of questions and length of Gu’s answers, we will be breaking this AMA into multiple parts. The order the AMA will be released is as follows:
- Hardware related questions
- Software related questions
- Business related questions
- Addressing the concerns of the community on perceived competitors and so-called competing projects.
Here is the Part 1 of Hardware Questions and Answers.
Q11: “How does VeChain work with customers that have already RFID tags in their current supply chain lifecycle? any examples? how does VeChain fit in this process.
Could you explain a bit how the VeChain sensors work from a deployment perspective? as I understood they will operate with NB IoT. Does VeChain supply the underlying infrastructure to have these connected?
How does the information from the sensor get stored in to the decentralized ledger? could you explain this in a few steps?
Last question, a bit personal from engineer to engineer. What was the reason you chose to join VeChain?”
A11: As customers may have existing RFID solutions that have been running for some time, it is easy to integrate VeChain Thor blockchain solution into their system, such as logistics management with RFID. We have many software companies as partners who have a lot of experience in enterprise applications and help to integrate and deploy VeChain blockchain solutions.
VeChain offers a variety of sensors including environmental sensors such as temperature/humidity/barometric pressure, inertial sensors such as accelerometer/gyroscope/compass, gas sensors, and GPS/Glonass/Beidou positioning sensors. For different customer requirements, VeChain will give a suitable IoT+Blockchain solution.
For example, VeChain’s cold chain sensor, divided into offline and online versions, has been in mass production and available commercially.
- Offline temperature sensors use NFC as data transmission interface. It’s easy to use, and the product can be repeatedly used, the cost can be offset. With software optimization, a CR2032 battery can have nearly one year working time for this solution and this battery can be changed to a new one to make another year.
- Online temperature sensors can capture and upload temperature data in a real time manner. This solution uses Qualcomm MDM9206 solution, which support NB-IoT and 2G/eMTC.
Hash value is stored in the blockchain, while the original data is store in the CHAOS which is a decentralized storage solution developed by VeChain.
Lastly, I (Refers to Mr. Gu) joined the VeChain because the team is a passionate, fruitful, and full of ideal teammates.
Q12: How many chips can the machine produce in an hour? And is it suited for big customers? Those NFC/RFID chips really look incredible. Best of both worlds! My question for Gu: have the demo machines been used to produce chips for enterprise clients yet? I imagine they have enough production capacity to fill small orders of under 10,000.
A12: The demo machine in the video can produce NFC + RFID hybrid chips, and is currently in production for one of the French luxury brands. We have already produced more than 20,000 pcs for them.
For NFC type chips, our daily production capacity can reach 50k per day for each device.
We have two options to increase the manufacture capacity:
- Increase productivity by adding more equipment. The equipment is designed and manufactured by ourselves, it is easy to build more.
- At the same time, we have been developing NFC + RFID dual-mode chip electric motor equipment to replace the current pneumatic equipment, the estimated speed can be increased by 300% or more.
We have built up strong relations with several hardware partners to help us realize the coming large requirements. So please don’t worry about the production capacity.
Q13: What info can at the time being, be recorded? How scalable is the chip, in integrating new metrics to measure down the line?
A13: RFID/NFC chips only store the unique ID of the product as well as the key pair for its identity. Information relating to the product such as description, logistics can be customized based on the needs and requirements from the clients.
For example, if geographic data need to add to the temperature IoT device, we just need to add the module which can capture location data, not too much modifications in the backend.
Q14: Considering you can get creative with RFID chip placement on a product (particularly, apparel), I’m assuming there will be an anti-theft benefit once it reaches a client’s store. Example: Someone tries to walk out of an H&M store with a stolen sweater, but the sensor detects this. Is this being considered in in your operations for greater customer utility?
A14: The answer to this question is yes, the issue warehouse and retail stores need to address is inventory count and check-in & check-out. Besides, VeChain’s solution also provides positioning feature. What you mentioned about the anti-theft problem belongs to the same category.
The alarm is triggered when it is detected that the garment with the RFID has been taken out of the store. With this alarm, we can do a lot of stuff, like ring alarm, camera capture, or any level of response.
VeChain’s RFID support EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) function for warehouse/retail requirement.
Q15: From the technical demo, your NFC-RFID hybrid chips appear to collect data either directly to blockchain, or through API. Can you go through the drawbacks and benefits of each scenario, and why one business would choose one or the other?
A15: One thing to clarify here is that NFC/RFID is a slave device, so an external device like PDA with NFC/RFID reader is needed to access the NFC/RFID information and upload it to the blockchain. Here we give an example:
PDA code scans NFC/RFID, and the APP on the PDA uploads data to the blockchain through the API.
Desktop card reader connects to the full node PC, and the reader will read the information and send directly to the local blockchain API interface and broadcast to the blockchain network. This approach is what we think of direct to blockchain. In fact, it is also called API.
Q16: At what stage is your technology? Final stage, in the process or rather at an early stage?
A16: Our chips are already used in real products which are registering and protected by our running blockchain platform. So for current use cases our technology is in final stage, but we are constantly exploring and developing hardware and technology for new use cases.
Q17: How many different types of chips will you produce and do you need a different machine for each new chip?
A17: We have more than ten types of different chips. A cards chip and formfactor will be customized according to different requirements of the customers. For these solutions our production equipment is now compatible. For new types of chips, it may be more time consuming for us. However, we are happy to accept various challenges.
VeChain’s IoT team has a thorough understanding of the protocols on ISO14443 /18092/15693/18000–6/7816 standards. The VeChain IoT team independently develops and implements these protocol stacks. We are confident in customizing any requirement a customer may have regarding NFC/RFID.
Q18: I’m guessing you are using passive RFID tags v.s. the active tags that require a battery? Will it be possible to read those passive RFID tags with a cellphone?
A18: We have both passive RFID tags(without battery) and also active RFID tags(with battery).
Yes, our NFC tags can be read using the phone app both on Android and iOS.
RFID tags need to be read with a special scanner. And it’s more for the warehouse operation purpose. Usually, products are scanned in bulk in the warehouse. We have designed the new generation of our chips which are RFID+NFC. So RFID will be used for warehouse operation and it can be put into privacy mode with software when it arrives at the retail store. Consumers can then scan the NFC with their cell phone Android and iOS.
In the case of commercial privacy, we define four types of levels within privacy mode for RFIDs. Each can be customized to meet the requirement.
- Lower range mode, decrease the working range of the chip.
- Hide mode, temporarily hide some part of the content in the chip.
- Blanking mode, logically kill the chip.
- Kill mode, physically kill the chip.
Q19: Will the hardware wallets you are developing be crypto agnostic?
A19: The hardware itself is crypto agnostic as it can be used to securely store private keys for various cryptocurrencies/tokens. But to support additional tokens, it’s still needed to provide certain methods of securely saving and recovering the private key. We may gradually enhance the software function such as recovery from mnemonic phrases to support more tokens.