iTraceiT Pilots QR-based Traceability Program

In-depth
12/10/2021 16:13

iTraceiT, a new and independent technology and service provider, announced it has opened a pilot and will in the short term launch its traceability solution for the diamond and jewelry Industry. The Diamond Loupe spoke with Frederik Degryse, newly appointed CEO of the company.

The Diamond Loupe: iTraceiT emphasizes hot topics such as traceability and provenance, however, in practice, since there is no unique and foolproof “fingerprint”-like system for diamonds, traceability is only feasible for a limited array of goods, either purchased directly from the mine, or through an analog process where diamonds are submitted at each stage in specialized lab programs.

Frederik Degryse: You are correct. When designing the iTraceiT traceability solution, one of the key features our technology needed to provide was that it is a genuinely workable solution. A simple, yet robust process that doesn’t add time or high cost to the production process, and keeps in mind our industry’s complex supply chain and nuances. Moreover, we have the technical expertise in our team to easily integrate our technology into the inventory systems of our partners.

The Diamond Loupe: How do you validate your claim of providing a solution and how does the system work from a practical point of view?

Frederik Degryse: QR code technology lies at the basis of our traceability solution. Each iTraceiT member receives access to a personal and secured cloud database. From this database and with our software, the user can generate a unique QR that can be attached to single diamonds, melee parcels and invoices but also metals, mountings, etc. Anything can be traced with these codes so you can imagine the benefit to retailers who are looking for one unfirm solution to track and trace all their materials. Once a QR code is created, this is forever assigned to the user, even when passed on to their client (e.g. a QR on a parcel or invoice). A client who receives a QR from their supplier can then scan this code and create follow-up parcels, allowing him to break up their purchase into smaller parcels, each generating a new QR. Different QR codes can be given for every action, from sorting to sawing, cleaving and cutting. This way the chain is created. The chain can start at any point in the supply chain. We are already in conversation with some mining companies as it ideally starts at the production stage. However one of the beauties of a QR is that any type of document can be attached to it, from original invoices, videos of parcel openings and sorting, to images and certificates. Our experience tells us that different retailers require different levels of supporting documentation and we want to offer a tool that is flexible so it can be a solution to all.     

The Diamond Loupe: To ensure traceability, you will for example need buy-in from rough suppliers (miners and tender houses for example) and labs, is this something ITraceIT will take care of or do you expect clients to do that?

Frederik Degryse: We believe this is a great solution for mining companies and tender houses to promote their provenance and provide traceability to their customer base in a user-friendly way that doesn’t impose on their sorting or production processes and timelines. To that extent, we have been having conversations with them and will include a number of producers in our pilot phase. That said, any user can start the unbreakable traceability chain at any point in the pipeline.

The Diamond Loupe: What happens when the rough diamond gets lasered and polished into different polished stones?

Frederik Degryse: If a single rough diamond is cut into different polished stones, a QR is attached to each piece or diamond. iTraceiT does not place QR codes on diamonds. There are other technology providers in our industry that do this with great expertise, and I would see them as natural partners for us to collaborate with. QR technology offers the opportunity to attach supporting documentation like planning files to provide integrity of the pipeline. Moreover, we have developed an in-house AI that will scan the supporting documentation to ensure they are valid files. Based on the validity, an independent and transparent rating will be given to each step of the supply chain. Melee follows a similar process. Each parcel has its own QR when split or merged, so iTraceiT maintains the link at all stages.

The Diamond Loupe: What is the revenue and pricing model of ITraceIT?

Frederik Degryse: Our pricing will be published once the product officially launches in a few months. It will consist of a monthly service fee combined with a usage fee. Customers can choose between different subscription packages depending on the number of users and usage rates. It’s important for us that our product is affordable and accessible to all companies in our industry, whether they are a single-person company or a large corporation.

The Diamond Loupe: To what extent are you different from other solutions or platforms?

Frederik Degryse: We support all traceability programs that exist in our industry, with each having a different approach. We want to be inclusive, rather than create more fragmentation. We understand that there is a demand from the retail side to offer a single traceability solution so we would rather collaborate with other companies that provide traceability solutions instead of seeing them as competition. We are designing our solution so that it can easily be connected and integrated with other platforms. We believe in our mission of being an independent technology and service provider that provides a robust and transparent, yet flexible and user-friendly solution to our industry as a whole.

The Diamond Loupe: How does ITraceIT guarantee tamper-proof / fraud-proof processes?

Frederik Degryse: iTraceiT technology has quite a number of secret checks and processes in place to ensure the logic between every step from sorting to resorting, splitting and merging of melee diamonds is being maintained. For single, larger stones these checks are even easier. As all actions are captured in an audit trail that cannot be altered, it is also easy to find the culprit in case of a fraudulent action. We have also built a system that rewards partners for being more transparent, with a rating system that reflects the quality of their uploads.

The Diamond Loupe: Does everyone need to be on the platform in order to access the information a company wishes to share, eg a midstream trader to a retailer?

Frederik Degryse: Information that is being submitted to each partner’s personal database will not be available to the public. You will need an iTraceiT license to scan a QR code and see the accompanying information. Even within the traceability chain we are giving users the power to choose what information they want to share onto the next step of the pipeline and what will be reviewed by the AI but not necessarily shared.

The Diamond Loupe: Do you have partnerships already lined up?

Frederik Degryse: For our pilot, we have opened up a limited number of spots for every part of the supply chain. It is important for us that while the product has been tested in a diamond environment for years, we ensure our solution is thoroughly tested by companies of various sizes and locations in each step. It’s encouraging for us that we have already had to create waiting lists for certain stages where we have reached the max number of pilot partners. Anecdotal feedback from certain partners has confirmed that our technology has opened doors for them at the luxury retail level so we are confident that as the requirement for traceability continues to grow, it will motivate even more upstream participants to join.