Software developers Zachary Collier and Jared Horvat spoke on the work they have done on cryptography.
Zach started by noting that the work he was describing was inspired by Pueblo Makes and the need to protect makers from people who copy the work of others. Their company is cyphr.me. He gave two caveats. First, he stressed that this was not a sales pitch. The product, stickers to place on your products, is free for all Pueblo residents and will be forever. Second, he gave an alpha disclaimer; the product is still heavily under development; “we work on it every day.”
A June 23, 2019, article in the New York Times described the huge number of counterfeit products for sale on Amazon. Knockoffs can appear within a week and may be indistinguishable for potential buyers. Zach pointed out that some products will have mixed reviews, with some saying the product is wonderful and others saying that it doesn’t work as advertised, and the explanation can be that some bought a counterfeit product without realizing it. The cost to the US economy is in the billions, with very little of the counterfeit products detected and seized.
Some manufacturers add serial numbers, but the unscrupulous can simply take one serial number and put it on all their products. Other gimmicks, such as special tags, medallions, and holographic code can also be copied. The producer of Puff Bar vaping products has a 20-minute video on YouTube describing how to be sure you are purchasing an authentic product: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qW76Dwy19zM. Counterfeit products can harm your brand, can harm the health of your customer, and can hurt the environment. The counterfeiter may, for example, allow contaminants in food products because they don’t care.
Zach said the answer is cryptography, which is based in math, physics, and the cosmos. It is natural to the natural world. Their product is a sticker with a unique code for that particular item; it is not just a code for that product line, but rather for that particular item. When scanned it takes you to a web page that you have created, that verifies the product is legitimate. ACs (Anti-Counterfeits) are cryptographically signed, impossible to guess, signed by the manufacturer, track products through supply chains, easy to scan by users, and defeat counterfeits.
A counterfeiter can rip off the label one time, but a company can combine the use of the stickers with the gathering of metrics to detect counterfeits. For example, a code that is scanned 14 times, but the code is inside the product, indicates that someone has counterfeited the product. Users have incentives to report suspicious data, thus enabling crowd sourcing of the detection of counterfeiters.
Zach said he wouldn’t talk today about how cryptography works, but the code embeds a signature that can be verified. Zach and Jared submitted a patent application in February 2021 for their product.
The skills need to be a successful software developer include: learning to learn, writing good code, knowing algorithms, testing, operations, documentation (reading/writing), new technologies, good at googling.
Zach and Jared work together on zoom all day, sharing views of their code, websites, and output as the program runs. They use the website Trello to keep track of tasks, with lists of tasks for each person and for projects.
Zach offered free stickers. See https://old.reddit.com/r/cyphrme/comments/s76lnu/links_for_pueblo_makes/ for a list of useful links related to this talk, including this one to request free stickers: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12wAO_XQTygOFZv8eUOHmqglrojYpdhdKwourXA5-4Yw
Zach showed some of the items Jared has made and their use of stickers in amusing ways, especially on gifts. The recipient can scan the sticker and see the person’s message on the linked web page. Jared makes wine and pickled jalapenos. He is also making the furniture for the new food court at Fuel & Iron (in the old Holmes Hardware Building). Jane reminded the group that the connection for the furniture was made through Pueblo Makes. Zach scanned the sticker on the wine and showed us the linked page:
Zach is putting stickers on lots of items: his water bottle, his coffee mug, etc. If the item is lost, Zach hopes the finder will scan the sticker, and be able to find out who owns the item to return it. They are working with TankMatez, who make bubble fish traps. That company is worried about knock offs so intend to use the cyphr.me stickers.
Zach explained that the code has so many variations that a code can be generated for every atom in the solar system, and almost for all the atoms in the observable university.
The group discussed various uses, by businesses, for fun, and to verify that a student received a stated certificate. The information on the page linked to the code can contain up to 1 meg of data. A sticker could be used for a product line with a main landing page, but then with, say, 30,000 stickers tied to the line. The manufacturer might have a sticker and the retailer might add one too.
Zach said that working with Jared all day in zoom is more efficient than working together in person. “I can pop into his code.” Drew asked if Zach would talk to the students at PSAS about the skills needed to code and Zach agreed to do so. Drew said the students will be coding their own video games.
Jane mentioned that Gregory Bateson wrote about learning to learn to learn. Sam said she took a course on learning to learn, which she recommends: https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn
Zach said he has been working on cryptography for 12 years and his goal is to build tools to make it easier to use. He said that cryptography could be used to verify that a tweet or reddit post was actually done by the person listed on the item. Instead of having to trust twitter, you can verify that that person did it.
We next heard announcements from attendees.
Ryan Yanke said that he had recently retired from social services, after having 70 jobs since he was 12. He is now focusing on being an artist and decided that he can help a lot of people in the community by using art as a vehicle to help students develop social emotional understanding of themselves. He has successfully worked with groups and with individuals. Starting in February, he and his wife Constance are offering art classes at space in the RMSER building, formerly the John Neumann School, at 330 Lake Avenue. See www.Acesexpression.com (still under construction). He is recruiting other artists to teach there too, after they are trained on equity, inclusion, and diversity as well as trauma informed teaching. The building offers other services including a stage, commercial kitchen, and auditorium, which they will be able to use. Ryan can be contacted at 719-299-8922, firstname.lastname@example.org
Drew announced that the 5th year of the STEM fair at PSAS will be virtual (this decision was just made) and he is looking for judges. You can sign up at https://forms.gle/PUhmrSJPUajwZheY8. Students were asked to find solutions to problems and to evaluate them based on the three pillars of sustainability. Judges will get access to an online folder and a rubric with the items to be judged. The judging must be completed by 31 Jan. Meral Sarper will contact volunteers. PSAS encourages students to be inventive and creative. Drew can be reached at 303-905-9067.
Bahaa announced that the technology building at CSU-Pueblo will be renovated, using $17 million from the state, so the Department of Engineering will be moving out of the building for a while. In spring 2023, he will have to teach manufacturing without access to the machine shop or foundry, so is struggling with how to do give students the hands-on experience during that semester. He is continuing to mentor students in the Discovery Scholars program on using AI in the detection of forest fires from satellite images
Lois said her woodturner pieces are available for purchase at pieces at Books Again; she appreciates the opportunity to have her pieces there and appreciates the people who purchase her items.