Dr. Satya Sharma
Published in
7 min readNov 28, 2022


Connecting Physical World to Web3 (Part 2) — Trustless Physical World and Importance of Identity and Tamperability

Satya Sharma

In the previous blog- Connecting Physical World to Web3 — Part 1, we described the necessity of linking the physical world, where we live, to Web3 and the metaverse, in order to realize their full potential.

One critical tenet of Web3 is the protection of privacy and security of data, individuals, and transactions. Therefore, the challenge in connecting the physical world securely and authentically to Web3 must be addressed. For example, community-driven platforms in Web3 must offer frictionless services and trading by connecting the physical world to digital channels in a secure, convenient, connected, consistent, and customer-centric manner.

Trustlessness is central to Web3. It implies that you do not need to place your trust in third parties, institutions, or individuals in order for a network or system to function. However, trustless does not mean that the system is untrustworthy. Rather, it means that the trust happens without humans or institutions and that there are built-in mechanisms in place by which all parties in the system can reach a consensus on the truth. Perhaps a better way to describe this is that the system is built on the basis of distributed trust of all the stakeholders in aggregate. Smart contracts facilitate trustless interactions between users because they are immutable. Once they are deployed on the blockchain, users can trust that malicious actors cannot change the functionality of the code and the system, and this is what makes the system trustless.

We need the same level of trustlessness in the physical world where we transact business or acquire goods and services from third parties. When we buy a product from a retail house or online, we need assurance that the product we bought is indeed the genuine branded product that we paid for, irrespective of the fact that the product may have followed a logistics journey around the globe and gone through multiple actors and stops in this product journey.

NFTs are increasingly being used to model a digital identity of physical items. However, NFT records on the blockchain cannot assure that the physical items represented are authentic. A blockchain can only tell you about the history of ownership of things anchored on it but it cannot tell you whether the things are, in fact, “authentic” or whether an NFT represents, for example, a real Picasso or merely a copy.

Brand owners and authentic item creators have tried various methods to assure the security and integrity of their supply chains. In general, the existing methods of securing a supply chain fall into two main categories: a type of track and trace technology, and a type of anti-counterfeiting technology. In the track and trace method, barcoded labels or RFID tags are typically used to track the movement of articles along the supply chain. However, RFID tags can be tampered with by unscrupulous parties, and barcoded labels can be easily copied. Barcodes and RFID technology or other markings can identify, but not authenticate the item or package. On the other hand, almost all of the current authentication technologies are generic and any generic technology can be copied, duplicated, or reverse engineered.

In order to create a trustless system for physical items in the world, each item must be given a unique identifier that uniquely identifies that item and cannot be cloned. As mentioned above, barcodes, including QR codes and RFID tags are only pointers to data, and aren’t enough for the NFT and the Web3 space and certainly cannot guarantee the authenticity of physical items and thus create a trustless system that does not depend on the credibility of every single supply chain partner. Brand owners and authentic item producers are the creators and certifiers in this creator economy and must reap the appropriate benefits.

To solve this problem, a more advanced physical feature that not only identifies an item but also assures its authenticity is needed. Trustless IRL (TIRL) has invented a globally patented, 3D optical fingerprint that cannot be cloned and acts as an inimitable authentic mark. TIRL’s inimitable physical tag is comprised of a structure with a two dimensional (2D) barcode that incorporates a serialization number and a unique three-dimensional (3D) “optical fingerprint” that utilizes a random distribution of 3D particles in a curable medium.

One of Einstein’s many scientific contributions was modeling Brownian motion, the movement of small particles suspended in stationary liquids. Jean Perrin later won the Nobel Prize in Physics for experiments which verified this movement. Trustless IRL has applied this principle to create unique optical fingerprint structures that identifies and authenticates at the same time and thus links unique physical items to unique digital records such as NFTs.

Due to inherent randomness and the many manufacturing variables, the number of possible outcomes in generating the TIRL optical fingerprint exceeds 1060 — an extremely large number, putting it in the same class as human DNA and making it impossible for anyone to replicate any TIRL feature. 3D elements also have characteristic colors further enhancing the randomness of fingerprint structure. It is the most effective and inexpensive way to assure the authenticity of any item, product, document, or article anyplace anytime by anyone.

TIRL’s optical fingerprints are unique and cannot be duplicated by anyone, including TIRL itself. It does not rely on consumer or supply chain partner knowledge other than to be able to use a smartphone or standard image-based barcode reader. The solution is easy for anyone to use. It provides item-level identification so that items having TIRL fingerprints can be differentiated from each other. It requires no new infrastructure to implement and can be scanned as easily as a barcode or NFC tag.

This technology can be deployed in multiple ways. For example, stick-on TIRL tags adhered on physical items serve as an unfalsifiable proof of the connection established between the unique physical asset and the NFT. Another deployment paradigm involves tags that are embedded onto wallet sized cards and can be used as a proxy for identity or physical key that cannot be cloned by any one and can serve as the medium to connect both the physical world, Web3, and the metaverse. A TIRL tag or key can be scanned by any mobile device such as a smartphone.

As an example, an artist can produce a masterpiece and a limited number of copies of that masterpiece each having a TIRL 3D tag adhered to it, making each of these iterations unique. An NFT can be minted for each piece with a record on the blockchain. Artists and creators can then choose to create unique experiences for owners of their masterpiece and its copies without having to determine who these people are in advance by using the TIRL key, showcasing the flexibility of the technology and enabling NFTs that come with special access rights to become incredibly valuable.

Artists can also share in any royalties based on the smart contract associated with the NFT as the authentic art pieces change hands. One can buy an NFT associated with a unique painting which may guarantee shipment of a physical painting. Both have value that can appreciate. The NFT is used for digital access and community features, and the physical tag attached to the painting and the TIRL key is used to prove the authenticity of the painting and its journey and ownership.

E-commerce will also migrate to Web 3 running on community based platforms in the next few years. E-commerce has shown rapid growth in the past few years. The industry had an 18% share of global retail sales for 2020 and is forecast to have over a 1% annual growth rate, achieving a nearly 22% share of global retail sales by 2024. It is estimated that more than 85% of the world’s online population has used the internet to make a purchase.

However, assuring the authenticity of products purchased through internet sites is a daunting challenge. A TIRL Key and a TIRL tag can assure that the products purchased on community based Web3 platforms are genuine and that the journey of the product from source to end consumer can be transparent. One such platform, currently running on Web2 but which will migrate to Web3, where product authenticity is assured and the journey of the product from the source to end consumer can be tracked on the blockchain is Authenticbay.

There are innumerable use cases such as tokenization of any physical asset where users register a new physical asset with the smart contract and receive a TIRL Key that is associated with the physical asset. Anyone reading the TIRL Key can reasonably determine properties such as the metadata and chain of ownership of the physical asset presented to them. Examples of use cases span diverse areas such as event tickets, supply chain integrity, identity solutions, loyalty programs, data privacy, soulbound tokens, heritage planning, and digital asset ownership.

Builder’s protocol: TIRL’s protocol allows other Web3 builders to build their own solutions by scanning the key to prove a connection, ownership, or identity attributes. The protocol lets developers securely prove the connection between physical and digital items and facilitates a variety of real-life applications that don’t compromise on privacy or decentralization. TIRL is a builder’s protocol to foster a horizontal, community-based ecosystem of like-minded organizations building applications that are decentralized, secure, and protect data. Developers integrate with TIRL technology in order to deploy killer apps which are currently impossible to build with existing Web2 solutions. The TIRL Protocol requires neither new scanning hardware nor new wireless networks, and in doing so empowers builders and individuals to connect the physical world to Web3 applications, opening new possibilities while protecting the control of data and assuring authenticity.

There are various features of TIRL’s 3D optical fingerprint that will become critical elements of Web3 where the physical world needs to be connected to Web3 or community-based multiverses. For example, the TIRL Key can also act as a Trustless Decentralized Identity

In the succeeding blogs, we will discuss this and other examples of the TIRL protocol.



Dr. Satya Sharma

Cofounder TrustlessIRL | Professor at Stony Brook University. Formerly at Bell Labs, Symbol Technologies, Lucent, and Zortag.