New Kids on the Block at STAR’s annual ticketing seminar

This update is from Aventus Protocol Foundation – Medium

New Kids on the Block at STAR’s annual ticketing seminar

Yesterday Aventus founders Annika Monari & Alan Vey spoke at the annual ticketing seminar for the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), the self-regulatory body for the entertainment ticketing industry in the UK.

STAR makes it their mission to put the consumer at the centre of ticketing by championing cross-industry initiatives to combat ticket fraud, improve consumer confidence and make ticket buying simpler and safer. That means this was a perfect audience to explore how blockchain and the Aventus Protocol can be used to place controls upon how tickets are resold in the secondary market, and drive internal operational efficiency and transparency.

Alan & Annika were in conversation with Andrew Thomas (Director of the Ticketing Professionals Conference and Principal at The Ticketing Institute). With Thomas a self-proclaimed “blockchain doubter”, the audience had popcorn at the ready and were relying on the capable moderation skills of Rob Williams (VP Product Management, AudienceView and former Director of Technology & Innovation, The Ticket Factory).

Luckily nothing kicked off (ticketing conferences are not that rock n’ roll). Rob Williams set the scene with a 5-minute overview (no easy task) of what blockchain is, and how it can be applied to the ticketing supply-chain.

He used the example of an envelope containing a ticket, where the inside of the envelope contains confidential information, and the outside of the envelope contains some identifying information; for example: “This is a ticket for Wicked. It currently belongs to Rob Williams. It was sold on the 12th June 2016.” With the blockchain, he explained:

“We can put that envelope in the cloud and allow that to be visible to everyone. They can’t see what’s inside the envelope - the secret confidential information, the barcode, the payment details — but now there’s a record on the internet of that ticket. What we can then do is distribute this ticket out to thousands of servers out across the world. Why would we do that? It makes it makes it very challenging to hack that ticket. If someone hacked that ticket stored on a server, what happens with blockchain is all the others say, ‘No no no, that’s not right — there’s hundreds and thousands and millions of copies of that ticket, and that’s not what it says, so let’s correct that and put it back to normal’….We make it very secure by distributing that information — keeping the information on the inside of the envelope secret, but allowing people to see what’s on the outside.

The second thing is, every envelope needs a stamp. What does a stamp do? It allows you to say where the envelope can go: it can go outside the UK or inside the UK, what speed it should travel at, whether it’s insured, whether it can be opened tomorrow or next week. With blockchain we can put all sorts of stamps on envelopes. This one says, ‘I can only be opened on the 20th July 2012 at 12 o’clock at the venue.’ This one says ‘I can only be opened on the 20th July 2012 at 12 o’clock at the venue on this mobile phone.’

So our ticket’s now stored in a way that means it can only be used on the phone it was downloaded to. That’s great, because it means that can’t be transferred to anyone else. But maybe we do want to transfer it? Well, ok, we put a different stamp that says: ‘I can be transferred, to another phone, once’. What happens when we transfer it? It then says: ‘This is a ticket for Wicked. It currently belongs to Vic Williams (my beautiful wife). It used to belong to Rob Williams. It was sold on the 12th June 2016.’

So now we have rules that we can apply to these tickets, and on the outside of the envelope we can see everything that’s happened to the ticket before: we can see when it was issued at the venue, when it was sold through an agency, through to when it was transferred to a customer, when it went on secondary, when it went on secondary for a second time, and then when it was scanned in the venue. And that’s blockchain.”

The following debate addressed some of the current misunderstandings around blockchain and barriers to adoption of new technologies in the industry. For example, said Thomas, barcodes have been around for 20 years and there are still venues not using them , and still venues using entirely physical ticketing. This is down to organisational scepticism, or perpetuated ideas that the consumer prefers a ticket they can hold in their hand.

Another barrier to adoption named was the conflation of blockchain with BitCoin; a misconception that is understandable, given the media focus on cryptocurrency and BitCoin in particular as a use-case.

There was agreement across the panel that blockchain could never be a holistic solution to all challenges in the ticketing industry, but it could play a part — or example, in delivering more controls over how ticketing inventory can be resold on the secondary market:

Though, Vey continued, the Protocol is designed to go further than simple controls around the secondary market, by creating a decentralised ecosystem that is entity-agnostic (that is to say, it favours no one party over another), and underpins the ticketing supply chain in a secure and traceable manner.

The subject of UTNs (Unique Ticket Numbers) was widely discussed throughout the day, with incoming legislation stating that tickets listed for resale on secondary platforms should include the UTN allocated to the ticket by the primary seller. Martin Fitzgerald (COO of SeeTickets) described how SeeTickets is working in partnership with the Roundhouse to become the first to issue UTNs for an upcoming Pixies gig.

Despite agreement that UTNs were a good idea overall, there was a feeling that legislation around it both didn’t go far enough (UTNs will currently only be required if they add extra information pertinent to the ticket, such as seating arrangements), and was too easy to circumvent. For example, a tout listing a ticket on a secondary platform could falsify a UTN, and a consumer purchasing that ticket would have no accessible universal repository in order to confirm its veracity.

The potential use-case for blockchain as a secure, verifiable distributed ledger for tickets and their associated UTNs was one which seemed to win over even the more sceptical voices in the room…

While the panel as a whole couldn’t predict what the ticketing technology infrastructure of the future would look like, there was agreement that blockchain would probably end up playing an important role — though exactly what that ended up looking like was still up for debate.

With that in mind and everything to play for at the moment, Alan & Annika issued a call to action to the ticketing industry to start exploring the benefits of blockchain, working with us to design the ticketing infrastructure of the future.

New Kids on the Block at STAR's annual ticketing seminar was originally published in Aventus Protocol Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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