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Meet IYK, The Team Behind Your Favorite Drops and Activations

IYK uses blockchain and NFC technology to bridge the digital and physical worlds

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Loveleen Kaur/IYK

There is no denying that 2021 was the year of the NFT. Trading volumes in 2021 spiked to over $17 billion, an increase of 21,000% from 2020. On the heels of the COVID pandemic of 2020, people were still spending most of their time connected to their work, family and friends in cyberspace or as many like to call it, “The Metaverse," but that was going to slowly change over the course of the next year as governments relaxed restrictions. 

IYK Logo
IYK

Ryan Ouyang and Chris Lee(creeefs.eth) met during this time period and bonded over making NFT “sniping” bots or automated programs that would find undervalued purchase opportunities in NFTs by monitoring data and buying them before the average consumer could. They both also had backgrounds as software engineers. With the staggering increases in NFT sales volumes during 2021, many large web2 companies were becoming more and more interested in NFTs. Many of these companies were intensely physical consumer brands. Ryan and Chris noticed that in many situations, the way companies were executing their activations in the NFT space did not seem meaningful enough. In many cases after consumers purchased products, the NFTs associated with the product would become disconnected from their physical counterpart. Utilizing their backgrounds as engineers, Ryan and Chris decided to form a company called IYK with a simple idea, to create a world where the digital and physical realms could be seamlessly interconnected. 

By bridging the use of NFC (near-field communication) chips and blockchain technology, IYK is one of the first companies to offer a product that solves two problems at once, marrying physical and digital products together and allowing businesses to reward customer engagement across the entire spectrum of consumer experience with endless possibilities.

The Tech

At the core, IYK’s technology lies within the tech stack they developed for delivering secure web experiences through NFC chips. They work with a variety of chips in different form factors, and these chips can be placed onto a variety of surfaces including apparel, wood, glass, rubber, and plastic. As a majority of modern smartphones are equipped with NFC reader capabilities (the same scanning technology that Apple Pay and Google Pay use), after a product is chipped, owners of the product are able to tap the NFC chip with their phone and claim exclusive content like NFTs, attendance tokens, web links, and other exclusive content.

This also offers a use case for authentication of physical products as the NFC chips have unique encryption keys and emit dynamic, expiring links, so you can be sure that anyone accessing authenticated content from an IYK device is doing so from a genuine product. Another interesting feature is the NFTs that couple to the physical product can only be transferred utilizing the chip itself(you cannot transfer or sell it directly within your wallet.)

Consumer Engagement Utilizing Blockchain Technology

It is in this area where the magic of the technology lies. Since the NFC chips link physical products directly to the blockchain, companies, communities and creatives are able to amplify the purpose of consumer goods to reward fandom across the entire spectrum of consumer engagement. Two prime examples of this are partnerships IYK secured recently with VÉRITÉ, a musician, and gmoney, founder of 9dcc, one of the first crypto native luxury brands. 

verite crewneck
Verite

VÉRITÉ created a crewneck and partnered with IYK to embed a chip into the sleeve. Buyers of the crewneck were able to scan the chip and register which gave them early access to the first single off her upcoming album, an NFT linked permanently to the crewneck, as well as an exclusive message. When gmoney launched his first product, the “Iteration-01” luxury tee shirt, and embedded IYK chips into every shirt, buyers were able to scan the NFC chip to claim the digital NFT of the shirt as well as individually dispense POAP (proof of attendance protocol) tokens to people they met IRL expanding their own personal networks. This can enable future NFT utilities with both the POAPs and the shirts digital NFT token.

IYK Art Basel Miami Activation

In Dec of 2022 for Art Basel Miami, IYK was seen at 6 different activations and multiple other activations. The team utilized their IYK Disk for POAP Distribution.

iyk disk
IYK

Activations IYK was involved in:

gmoney/9dcc x SnowfroIteration-02 Tee launch: Arguably the most intricate activation ever conducted for a luxury brand. The entire IYK team lived here for multiple weeks and the activation was planned for multiple months before the launch. Gmoney and generative artist Snowfro, founder of Art Blocks, collaborated to create a generative artwork version of the 9dcc logo utilizing a variation of the same algorithm as the famous Art Blocks collection Chromie Squiggles, rarity structure and all, to create individualized tee shirts and printed them live onsite with state of the art equipment. IYK then activated and tested each chip individually before being packaged and given to the buyer as they watched behind a large glass wall. Upon scanning any Iteration-02 tee shirt, each digital NFT shows an exact mirror of the unique art generated on the physical shirt. Like the Iteration-01, each shirt contains individualized POAP dispensers that at the time were loaded with special Art Basel Miami edition POAPs for holders to give out. Gmoney also conducted a POAP distribution and collection competition where the winners received free Iteration-01 shirts.

Tyler Hobbs Physicals: Generative artist Tyler Hobbs created new generative art outputs but instead of launching them as NFTs only he flipped the script. He printed editions of each work and utilized IYK chips as the COA(Certificate of Authenticity) for each piece. When you scan the chip you can see a digital NFT version of the physical.

Johnnie Walker x Vandypink x 88rising NFC Chipped Bottles: Attendees of the activation had the chance to vote on a custom scotch label created by Vandypink simply by tapping their phone on one of the bottles on display. After submitting their vote, attendees received a POAP.

Porsche: Yes, the car company. Porsche recently announced their entry to web3. The team at POAP helped the company distribute special POAP tokens to attendees of their activation with a POAP distribution disk created by IYK.

Shefi x Ensō Collective: IYK powered a limited-edition drop of tie-dye Shefi hats in collaboration with the Ensō Collective. Each hat is linked to an exclusive NFT.

Ensō Collective x Mija x Boys Club Crypto: IYK powered an ultra-limited run tee linked to an exclusive boys club x enso NFT. Only the first 20 people to meet Mija or Natasha from Boys Club at their party received a tee.

Founders' Vision

ONE37pm down for an interview with founder Ryan Ouyang.

What was your inspiration to start IYK?

We were seeing so many brands we recognized entering the NFT space but not issuing NFTs in a way that felt meaningful from the consumer perspective. Many were doing just redemptions on web forms and “airdrops” but the mechanics to link the physical with the digital NFT seemed off. For example, if you sold the NFT and were able to keep the physical or sold the physical and were able to keep the NFT, it did not make any sense to us. It was more like a “goodie bag”, and didn’t carry the same level of thought that we came to expect from these companies..”

Who was one of your first partners to utilize the technology?

Index Coop which is a DAO that creates crypto index tokens utilized our chips in their $GMI token branded sweatshirts that when scanned, buyers were able to claim an NFT. Each sweatshirt also contained 1 $GMI token buyers were able to claim to their wallet.

What does proof-of-proximity mean?

Ryan- “The IYK NFC chips in products emit dynamic, single-visit links via the NFC. Scanning any of our NFC chips with a phone can only be done at a range of ~2cm. These links expire after they’re hit making it hard to share the page. This allows us to be reasonably confident that whoever is on that page is right next to the product. This, for example, can allow for products to be “checked in'' to IRL events and concerts if they utilize products like Tokenproof for ticketing. This can be a tool artists, musicians and companies use to connect to product holders and to gather loyalty data.

What is IYK’s vision and what is IYK working on right now?

The vision for us is this idea of being able to retain possession of a digital item as long as you hold the physical as well as being able to give tools for creatives and companies to be able to activate their consumers in meaningful ways. We currently link physical products  to NFTs, attendance tokens, web links and recently rolled out video “Beams”, and third-party token-gated platforms where customers can log in and view the content if they have the correct NFT but we currently don’t have a self-serve brand portal yet. Besides this we are also working on building out support for other types of content such as raffles, discount codes, games, and announcements.

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