Beyond that, if your pair already has a Legit Tag on it, the app has an option to let you verify it and ship directly to the buyer. That's not something you can do on StockX or GOAT, but Sneaker Con is able to do this thanks to the NFC-powered system it's built. Alan Vinogradov, the company's CEO and founder, told Engadget that this has been in the works for three years. He said the hardest part was creating a database for thousands of shoes, as well as training his staff to understand that people's trust in the authentication method is what will make or break the company.
Vinogradov said this is particularly challenging at a time when fake sneakers are sometimes "95 percent" close to the real thing, so Sneaker Con's authenticators have to learn the ins and outs of every shoe that comes in -- from ink markings that can only be spotted with black lights to down-to-a-millimeter measurements.
Down the road, Sneaker Con's plan is to make the most out of NFC by adding extra functionality to the Legit Tags. Vinogradov said that will include videos explaining the authentication process as well as location-based alerts such as telling a user when there's a Sneaker Con event nearby. This content would be available to anyone with access to a Legit Tag. Right now, though, Sneaker Con says the main focus is to perfect its NFC-based authentication and bring peace of mind to sneakerheads.
Nike is another company that's been attaching NFC tags on products, but they weren't designed to be an anti-counterfeiting measure. Instead, the NikeConnect NBA Jersey gives people access to exclusive goods such as limited-edition shoes or videos and pictures from their favorite team. Adidas, meanwhile, embedded an NFC chip in its 2018 World Cup ball, the Telstar 18, which not only delivers exclusive content but also serves to authenticate it as the real deal.
NFC presents a great chance to give consumers a digital window into the sneaker culture, Vinogradov said, beyond being used simply as a tool for legitimizing products. "NFC isn't only a symbol of authentication," he said, "but it's also [an opportunity] to learn more about the shoe." At launch, the Sneaker Con app is only available for iOS, but Vinogradov said there are plans to roll out an Android version in a few months. And if its Legit Tags catch on, Sneaker Con's tech could make a real difference in an industry that's historically been plagued by fakes.