Lowe’s is introducing a new anti-theft measure that requires tools to be “unlocked” at the time of purchase.
If stolen, the tools will remain disabled.
Lowe’s says that “Project Unlock,” which is being worked on at their “Innovation Labs,” uses low-cost RFID chips and “a novel use of blockchain” to “address power tool theft in customer-friendly ways.”
They say that this is an “early stage” project, and that the anti-theft measure will be “virtually invisible to retail customers.”
Additionally, Lowe’s says that “at the heart of Project Unlock is the ability to activate a powered product after it has been legitimately purchased.”
At the store, a customer takes the product to the register, gets the barcode scanned, and pays – just like they always do. A point-of-sale RFID scanner reads all tags in range, finds the tool with the correct serial number, and writes a unique secret key value that activates the tool for use.
As for the “blockchain” aspect:
Project Unlock also uses blockchain to create a secure, publicly accessible, anonymized record of authentic product purchases. Once a customer buys a product, that transaction is recorded to the blockchain.
They say that these publicly-accessible records “can be used by retailers, manufacturers, and law enforcement to validate authentic purchases.”
Finally, Lowe’s says:
We see a future in which capabilities like Project Unlock can help the entire retail ecosystem create a great environment for our customers.
The idea of point-of-sale power tool activation isn’t unique to Lowe’s. Home Depot announced plans for a similar system back in 2019, and again in mid-2021. At the time of this posting – January 2023 – there’s no indication that Home Depot has actually implemented anything yet.
Lowe’s specifies that this is a “proof-of-concept system,” which means that it’s just an idea right now.
Lowe’s has also been trying to jump onto modern tech trends, as evidenced by their 2022 announcement about plans to enter the metaverse and issue virtual NFT wearables.
Now, with this Project Unlock concept, they’re talking about RFID activation and blockchain tech for anonymized purchase authentication.
How do you feel about this?