Art and Blockchain -> SigniChain

What couldn’t sound more different was transformed into a project by Kevin Westphal and Konstantin Graf. As part of an Innovation Programme for Business Models and Pioneering Solutions (IGP), the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy has been funding market-oriented non-technical innovations since 2019. In the first IGP call for proposals in 2020, SMEs were supported in the realisation of individual projects, cooperation projects and network projects in the field of data-driven business models. CHAINSTEP applied for funding in this call for proposals with an individual project called SigniChain and was invited to submit a full proposal as an selected company in June 2020.

The SigniChain project

In the SigniChain project, CHAINSTEP is testing the potential of sensor-based art surveillance with blockchain protection. Art logistics is a specialized branch of the logistics sector that offers professional transport and storage of art and other collectibles under atmospheric and security controlled conditions. However, if sensor data are collected by the logistics service provider during the surveillance, they remain within the logistics provider. At the same time, this data holds the untapped potential to become part of the customer experience when visualized in an appealing way. Furthermore it provides a basis for assessing the perfect condition of the work in expert opinion processes, e.g. when an art object is resold. Last but not least, this data basis could also create trust among art insurers. It is often the insurance company that recommends a suitable art storage facility to the collector.

SigniChain’s approach to the solution involves continuous sensory monitoring of art objects and valuable goods. The collected data is reliably and storage-efficiently secured on a blockchain by way of its hash, the “fingerprint” of the data set. Sensors on the artwork itself continuously register vibrations, atmospheric conditions, location and many other data not only in the warehouse, but from the moment the collector hands over the valuable object. Digital signatures ensure that the data is transmitted to the owner in a tamper-proof manner. Warning messages in the event of critical readings are not only sent to the owner of the artwork, but also immediately documented on the blockchain. This creates a forgery-proof certificate on the blockchain for the storage period, which can be used to prove professional storage when reselling.

SigniChain in the art market

Over the last decade, the art market has increasingly opened up to digital business models. Until recently, however, art logistics has lagged behind this trend towards digital offerings. Although there are well-established digital systems in some areas, for example for the management and archiving of art collections, these are only used by the collector, regardless of the main player in this field, the logistics provider. Similarly, sensor-based monitoring of storage rooms and transport trolleys are also widespread, but only as a local security measure for the logistician.

With SigniChain, CHAINSTEP has already gathered interest from well-known players in art logistics and is planning not only a detailed elaboration of the business model, but also a prototypical implementation at an internationally renowned art logistics company as part of an IGP grant.

Written by Kevin Westphal