I’ve heard a lot about blockchains and some of the different problems they’re attempting to solve. A couple of months ago, I was approached by a company called SOMA, and, after hearing their pitch, decided that it made a lot of sense.
They use blockchain to solve some persistent problems in the horology space, and I decided that I wanted to come on board with them.
A Marketplace…and More
By ‘come on board with them,’ I mean commit to selling my watches on their online
marketplace when they go live in early 2019. I’ll join a lot of other quality microbrands
(SOMA is hoping to feature ‘the world’s largest collection of watch brands’) that the company is getting commitments from.
A visual, social experience
So, what’s so special about SOMA? Well, they’re doing a few interesting things. The first one doesn’t necessarily rely on blockchain; it could have been done already, with pre-existing technology, and should have been done already. Strangely, SOMA seems to be the first to have thought of it. I’m talking about combining social media visual and interactive elements with the basics of e-commerce.
Think about it: we watch lovers are compelled to show off our timepieces online. We do it on
Instagram, mostly, but also on other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and
Pinterest. We can ‘like’ and comment on one another’s sweet watch pics, reshare, etc.
SOMA allows you to do all that. You have a newsfeed, you can follow one another, and interact in all the tried-and-true social media ways. But you’re doing so on a marketplace—the e-commerce aspect isn’t tacked on as an afterthought but is fundamental to the structure of the platform.
When ‘liking’ a watch—and now, this is where blockchain adds some extra functionality—you can just as easily view its history, buy it on the spot, or resell it for a commission.
Authentication and Transparency
The blockchain is what allows you to view an item’s history, enabling you to know that the item is genuine, and—if you’re buying it secondhand—to know who’s owned it before you and for how long.
What is blockchain, you ask? Without going into too much depth (and here’s a cool Reuters explanation if you want to go deeper), it’s pretty much just a ledger or database that can hold transactions and information.
Ledgers have been around for ages, but blockchain adds some a very special characteristic: a blockchain ledger is immutable, meaning that when you’re viewing a record, you know for certain when that record was created and that you’re viewing it in its original state. Nobody has tampered with it.
See, regular databases have a database administrator, who could go in and edit. You have no way of knowing if entries are original or were ‘updated’ yesterday. In other words, to trust an entry, you’d be trusting the person or organization responsible for managing the records. And what have we learned about trusting our data to corporations?
There’s been a lot of incidents in the news. With blockchain, to trust an entry, you’re trusting the underlying technology, rather than a person or organization. How can you trust the technology? Well, nobody has ever found a way to hack in and alter information.
In fact, experts all agree that doing so would be so unimaginably difficult that it’s as close to impossible as one could hope for. And if someone couldn’t accomplish such an alteration for a prize worth billions—as they could harvest for successfully altering Bitcoin transactions, for example—they’re probably not going to do it for a watch.
All of this means that SOMA can allow sellers to prove to buyers that a watch is the real deal.
See, counterfeit watches are a huge problem, but they don’t have to be anymore.
The final SOMA feature I’ll mention is that of reselling. Blockchain-based ‘smart contracts’ allow for easy and automatic compensation for resellers’ commissions. A seller can choose to enable the reselling function and select the commission they’re willing to pay. Other SOMA participants can then opt to promote the item, feature it on their profile—or even feature it outside of SOMA on other social media platforms, websites, or blogs! If a sale occurs from the reseller’s efforts, the smart contract handles the payment distribution all around. This is a feature we’ll definitely be looking at as it rolls out.
A Promising Partnership
The world’s not standing still, and neither is the tech we use. SOMA has impressive goals, and I hope to see them achieve them. If they do succeed, they’ll be part of a new wave of disruption.
Even though watches is my area of expertise, I am always glad to be at the vanguard of these disruptions. Here’s to SOMA’s successful launch, and I hope to see them achieve their goal of becoming the top horological meeting place for transactions and interactions!