In November 2021, Alpine offered 5 NFTs representing 5 liveries of a virtual model of Alpine GT style, created by a young Russian. On February 9, 2022, Alfa Romeo offered to equip the new Tonale with an NFT to certify workshop monitoring. But what is NFT exactly?
Blockchain: a first important point
When two people sign a contract, each keeps a copy. In the event of falsification by one of the two, it is impossible to say which contract is the real one. One solution therefore consists in making a third copy. Except that in case of falsification of two of the three copies, it is the original which passes for the false.
So imagine making a thousand copies of this contract. It becomes more difficult to falsify 999. If in addition, these 999 copies are encrypted and kept by third parties unable to read them, then it is won. Contracts are tamper-proof.
The blockchain is this concept applied on a much larger scale and in the virtual universe. Imagine that a file is not stored on a medium (server or hard disk in this case) but that it is in millions of copies on as many servers. Each modification gives rise to a new file and the whole is encrypted.
A bit like entrusting millions of copies of the contract to millions of different people unable to read it.
Blockchain is the technology used by crypto-currencies and in particular Ethereum. It is according to the standard of this blockchain that NFTs are generally created.
You follow ? The rest is simpler, don’t worry.
What is NFT?
Under the euphoria, we saw NFT appear everywhere, and for good reason, this non-fungible token as it is called (Non-Fungible Token) is a certified key. It cannot be copied or modified, it is unique. From there, the speculation can go well. Because the NFT is only speculation and that, the brands have understood it quickly and well: to sell an NFT is to sell the virtual which is easier to manage than a physical element.
More concretely, an NFT is composed of three things:
- An identifier that makes it unique.
- A computer code (smart contract).
- Metadata including in particular the link pointing to the file or work with which it is associated.
Let’s imagine that the link points to a file that no longer exists, then your NFT is worth nothing, since it points to nothing. You can easily create NFTs, but the creation is not free. For good reason, storing and keeping a file on the blockchain in memory costs energy. Because it’s the computers of the NFT miners that do the work, you know, those third parties who can’t read the copies of contracts that we talked about at the beginning.
Finally, NFTs are tamper-proof and therefore impossible to modify. We will see later why this is important.
NFT and the automobile: a marketing story
The future of the automobile is moving towards the electric. An electric car being roughly a smartphone on wheels, it was logical that a trendy technology invites itself into the world of the car to show that the brands are “in the game”. To sprinkle the presentation of a vehicle with NFT is to show that the brand is not a relic of the past but indeed an element inscribed in the future of the automobile.
But at what level is the NFT interesting?
Alfa Romeo really got the ball rolling, combining vehicle tracking security with this technology.
The idea is simple: any modification or maintenance of the vehicle generates an NFT. This allows tracking of the vehicle and here, of the Alfa Romeo Tonale. Impossible to change the mileage, to omit a shock and we even have the information of the dates of intervention.
No human intervention can corrupt the concept. Finally, on paper.
An almost good but vulnerable tracking idea
In Victorian times, nitroglycerin had not yet been invented. It was thus impossible to crack a safe. The solution was to create copies of the keys to the locks.
The NFT appears as the safe. For the Alfa Romeo system to work, it is essential to have your vehicle serviced at Alfa Romeo and for the NFT to be generated.
Knowing that the NFT cannot be modified, it will be necessary to create one for each intervention, which is costly both in financial and energy terms.
Now, let’s imagine that’s not the case. That we make a marble to an accident vehicle in an unofficial way. This intervention will never be indicated in the follow-up and traceability of the NFT then no longer has any value. Because the NFT cannot be generated automatically by the vehicle. In fact, when human intervention is necessary or simply possible, the system becomes vulnerable. The NFT is the original key. Overriding the system amounts to making a copy of the key opening the safe.
The Metaverse, another use of NFT
In the early 2000s, the internet became more democratic. We discuss with enthusiasts from all over the world on forums, we exchange knowledge, the internet is wonderful and knowledge is just a click away. This virtual presence gave rise to a fantasy: a virtual life. This is how Second Life was born with the idea: to transcribe the real world into virtual reality. 3D spaces, avatars, shops. A virtual utopia quickly taken over by brands who saw a new communication medium. This contributed, among other things, to the abandonment of the idea.
Until last year and the will of Mark Zuckerberg, father of Facebook, to create a new virtual universe. The Metaverse. The difference ? today, the technologies are clearly superior and the possibilities are therefore much greater. The Metaverse allows the use of virtual elements including the famous NFT. That’s the whole idea: unique virtual creations in a universe that is also virtual.
Metaverse, the future of the automobile of the past?
Thermal cars will experience a decline similar to that of film photography. However, the Metaverse would be a means of saving these machines, virtually at least, by continuing to make them exist in pixels. The NFTs would, for example, allow you to model your car model in 3D, down to the chassis number. We can even go further by allowing it to be used in video games, for example. Or create a thumbnail. The NFT would then be the virtual gray card of your virtual car. This is an example of use.
We could also take up the concept of tracing, but in specific registers such as car rental. The vehicle would have tracking of all usage.
The uses can be numerous without being essential, at least for the moment.
But this incursion of the automobile into this futuristic concept is above all more concrete than virtual proof that the car is going through its biggest transition since its creation.