A series of Blockchain-based mail stamps will hit the market on Sept. 6. The idea is to make mail more secure, although it’s probably more of a marketing stunt than anything else. Still, nice idea!

Physical mail might one day be a relic of the past, but it isn’t yet. All too often, we still need to send original documents per mail to finalize contracts, cast a democratic vote, or send a love letter. While paper might give the latter a somewhat romantic touch, we shouldn’t need mail anymore to do business in the 21st century as we have the technologies to bypass this rather antique way of communicating.

That said, we’re not there yet. As physical mail remains a medium of communicating and that’s unlikely to change for at least a few more years, Liechtenstein Post has developed a way to make it more secure. Blockchain-based postal stamps, or “crypto stamps,” will enable mail receivers to verify the originality of a letter.

Crypto stamps with QR code

Liechtenstein Post will issue nine such crypto stamps on Sept. 6. The post’s philatelic service Philately Liechtenstein said, “The crypto stamp is valid for postage, forgery-proof, interactive and exciting.”

It looks like a typical stamp but comes with a secure QR code that appears in the lower right of the stamp design. Users can scan the code with their smartphone for verification through a special app. Scanning the code also reveals a hidden character.

Liechtenstein-themed designs 

The @ symbol used in email addresses is featured on a new 1-franc stamp, designed by Detlef Behr. It is meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary of email communication system. Philately Liechtenstein said: “In 1971, the American computer scientist Ray Tomlinson discovered a way of sending a file from one computer to a user on another computer. The recipient was able to read the file, save it, change it and send it back again. 50 years later, Emails have become our dominant way of communication.”

The 5.20-franc stamp was designed by Sereina Hatt and printed in a souvenir sheet by Gutenberg AG of Schaan, Liechtenstein. Three other new Liechtenstein stamps mark the 100th anniversary of the country’s constitution, the 140th birth anniversary of artist Eugen Zotow, and the 700th death anniversary of Italian writer Dante Alighieri.

You can find more designs here.

No game-changer

The stamps are a good use case that combines the new world and the old world. It’s also relatively easy to implement that, and if it adds an extra layer of security, all the better.

That said, they are more of a gimmick than a disruptive innovation. The stamp being valid doesn’t mean the insight of the letter is also valid. A bad actor could still open the letter, change its contents, and close it again. So to maximize security, wouldn’t it be better if the contents were verifiable?

And that brings us back to the opening lines of this article. The key question is, why do we still use paper in the first place? We have qualified digital signatures that are actually more secure than physical documents. The real reason why we still use physical mail is that we’re slow to change our systems. Thus, instead of trying to make physical mail better, let’s try to get rid of it altogether and go entirely digital. Nevertheless, the crypto stamps are a cool idea and good marketing for Liechtenstein. Just don’t expect them to change the world.

Image: (C) Philatelie Liechtenstein