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I am currently working on a project for school in which we have to come up with a product. I won't go into the mechanics of my product but essentially what my group has come up with is using tracking devices to track any object through a mobile/desktop application. When looking through tracking technologies, the idea of using blockchain technology to track physical objects came to mind.

However, I am not entirely sure if this is possible so I would like to know if it is and could it work in theory and in practicality? Has this already been done yet?

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  • Adding to Max's answer. If you track ownership each person could have unique private key and publicly known public key (linked to his identity), so the transfer of ownership is possible only if previous owner (according to database) and next owner both sign the transfer transaction.
    – croraf
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 19:49

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I forget who once said this, "If you think you need to use BlockChain technology, you almost certainly don't."

BlockChain technology is designed to show proof of ownership via a proof of work mechanism that ties an expensive-to-run algorithm to a cryptographically secure chain of transactions.

If your system seeks to track ownership of objects where ownership changes regularly, and you need to prove ownership, perhaps a BlockChain solution might be applicable. However, if your objects don't regularly change ownership, and you're simply looking to track geographical position, I would recommend some other data storage system, such as a typical relational database.

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In short, no.

Generally, this is known as the Oracle problem, and refers to the requirement of a blockchain protocol to refer to something external (the Oracle) in order to acquire some data necessary for some computation/decision/contract. The root of that problem is that the protocol has no way of knowing whether the Oracle is truthful or not, so must rely upon it as a trusted third party.

This is much like the idea of $gold ETFs - paper gold - certificates that are traded around and ostensibly redeemable for actual gold bullion, but as history has shown us numerous times, this trust is usually abused and the qty of "paper gold" dramatically exceeds the actual gold that exists.

In this example, it's the issuer of the paper gold certificates that is the trusted party. In the case of a protocol, it's looking for a data source upon which to make a decision - and ultimately that data source is controlled by humans .. who are by their nature, driven by incentives.

So the idea of tracking ownership of an object (say a land title for example) on a blockchain is pretty pointless, because ultimately the blockchain only reflects what the trusted Oracle tells it.

As Nick Szabo famously noted: Trusted third parties are security holes.

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