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The new kid on the block

Is Blockchain a solution in search of a problem?
As a concept, Blockchain is actually quite interesting and is known as ‘distributed ledger’ technology. Pretty much everything we do online creates data and Blockchain is a new way of storing and moving that data. Data has to be held somewhere and usually gets stored in clumps in one place – whether that is on a company’s server, your own PC or in the cloud. With Blockchain the data is split into tiny pieces and spread out over thousands of places via a network and then held together with clever cryptography.


And that’s one of the problems: the very nature of Blockchain means there is no central controlling power over that data, which may be perfect for the anarchists looking for a way to create a decentralised non-government-controlled currency, but not so perfect for your company and your event. Events are owned/controlled by one company or agency and so it stands to reason that the organiser wants to have full control over the data that is held.

Another issue with the data held in a Blockchain is that it is in the public domain albeit encrypted. One of the reasons it is being heralded as a completely unalterable and therefore a safe way of holding data is because of the public nature of some of the data - if the chain is added to then the changes are there for everyone to see. Event organisers don’t want their sensitive data - such as the number of places they’ve sold - to be floating around the internet in a way that’s harder to protect.

The third issue is that Blockchain creates an immutable chain of data, so what can you do when the inevitable occurs and the data needs to be changed? Every piece of software has bugs that need to be fixed, or upgrades that need to be made, and human error means that mistakes happen too. Life changes, events change and so does the data we store.

This sort of technology does have many applications, but I’m finding it hard to see how it’s going to impact on events. Event ticketing has been the first element of the industry to be singled out for Blockchain to help. I guess that Blockchain could maybe help combat sales of counterfeit tickets by creating digital tickets that are a secure chain of transactions and therefore incorruptible, but there are many other ways to create digital tickets or combat counterfeiting that are far easier and cheaper than Blockchain. There is also a genuine secondary market for tickets, so they do need to be transferable in some way. Kickcity is a Blockchain ticket-based system but from looking at their website they only have around ten small events signed up and they’re not exactly earth-shattering things. ‘Youth Poetry Performance Session’ and ‘Toddler Tuesdays at Discovery Green’ are two of them. Kickcity does accept Bitcoin as payment, but even Bitcoin is a bit old school now with many sites such as Reddit refusing to take it for payments, because of its volatile nature.

Most event organisers are, I believe, more than happy with the level of security provided by their current event management platforms. Data is valuable and spreading it out like this is very alien to us. We are accustomed to keeping our valuables secure and safe under lock and key and we understand this way of thinking. Blockchain may work in some business processes – in digital rights management or crypto currencies for example - but not for the traditional business model.

I can’t think of any events that need a completely secure, unalterable chain of evidence-based transactions and I doubt I ever will. Blockchain is destined to go the way of ATM - an underlying networking technology that was going to change the world in the 1990s, but, instead, became something you almost certainly use but never know about.

The Blockchain pioneers are trying to fit it into everything; it’s like a solution in search of a problem. I admire them, because there is a place for this approach, but we have to remember that this is research – not development. They will try and fail several times and in many different areas before Blockchain finds its home.

Blockchain may indeed impact on your events in the long run but it will be a long and bumpy ride to adoption and, even then, your events may only be impacted by banks and other major institutions using it and not because you have incorporated it into your event planning. In a few years we won’t care about Blockchain as it becomes something we almost certainly use within our day-to-day online transactions, but never know or really care about.

So, tell me why does anyone think that Blockchain is suited to the events industry?

GDPR will make data misuse very obvious
 

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