Chain reaction: West Brom star and founder of Sports Ledger Hal Robson-Kanu on the sporting potential of Blockchain

Chain reaction: the football star Hal Robson-Kanu on the blockchain sporting potential

People are always opposed to change, "stresses Thomas Robson-Kanu discussing the merits of cryptocurrency and the technological advances made plausible by the invention and the development of blockchain.

Thomas by birth, Hal by virtue of popular culture, Robson-Kanu is a name now imbued with Welsh sports folklore. Having scored one of Wales' most famous goals en route to the Euro 2016 Uyfa semifinals, the wing now does its job for the West Bromwich Albion Championship team, while the 29-year-old focuses on taking the curious blockchain enigma in the mainstream.

It is a sphere that has fascinated Robson-Kanu since he read the original bitcoin white paper in 2008, and it is the same charm that inspired the concept behind Sports Ledger, the blockchain-centric multinational company of the co-founded company in 2017.

He is facing the business head-on, commuting almost daily from his club's training complex in the West Midlands to the company's office in Chiswick, west London. It is, he explains, an effort that requires his full attention, especially given that he is launching Sports Ledger in a scenario of skepticism, not only as a professional athlete, but with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the deeply complex world of distributed ledger technology . .

"Look at the industrial revolution and the opposition to it," he says of a social trepidation surrounding the technological progression. "Let's look at the early stages of the Internet – there was opposition to that, let's look at the early stages of electricity – a lot of people said that electricity would burn your house.

"That was the narrative, he was not talking about the potential values ​​of it and the way we use it now."

The same traditional restlessness is connected to the blockchain. Robson-Kanu, however, has no doubts about his potential; Sports Ledger brings a line of ambitious straps – "The Future of Sports".

Robson-Kanu scored a memorable goal in Wales' 3-1 victory over Belgium at Euro 2016.

His advantages, he begs, are undeniable: a property of personal data in the midst of a proverbial struggle against the giants of today's social media; an ability to profit from the creation of content; a means to cut costs; a place to engage more closely and deeply with a fan base; a platform to protect, access and share biometric data; even the possibility of using statistics to find untapped talent. The list is endless.

His biggest challenge, he acknowledges, is to convince the masses to buy into a concept whose finer digital minutia requires a significant level of experience. However, as Robson-Kanu points out, there are few who understand the inner workings of our modern foods.

"Realizing the full functionality and full potential of all the infrastructure behind blockchain will take people a long time," he acknowledges. "But nobody really understands how the Internet works.

"They know it works, but what they also know is that they use it and use it because the applications and use cases have been created on the Internet – whether it's a Google search engine or if it's a video call on Apple. "

Where the Internet differs from blockchain, however, it is in its main function. The development of technology since bitcoin first appeared in 2008 means that it is now possible to build a centralized model, where not only information but value can be exchanged.

As the former Reading midfielder says: "Internet is the Internet of information, blockchain is the Internet of value Basically, the adoption of blockchain will occur through the use case .

"With what we are building in Sports Ledger, you will simply use it as an application." It is not a case of having to understand the concept of blockchain to use it – you do not. "

In a changing society, the notion of focusing on the benefits of blockchain rather than its technological complexity marks a crucial change in attitude. In fact, it is a market in continuous growth – according to a report by Research and Markets, the blockchain industry is set to be worth $ 7.59 billion by 2024.

Internet is the Internet of information; blockchain is the internet of value.

As Robson-Kanu says: "People are starting to understand the core values ​​of the blockchain and how it will improve the life of every single person, whether it is registering the land registry on blockchain or registering medical records, make purchases of a home, which normally lasts six to eight weeks, but could occur instantly, completely verified and completely transparent.

"The adoption of blockchain will happen at a faster rate than the Internet's adoption.This is simply because, if we keep track of technological innovation and revolution, we are on this upward trend in terms of of current technological innovation as a human society and a human race – it will not take as long as the Internet – it's going to happen much faster. "

It is a chronology corroborated by Omar Jackson, the director of Cryptech, a blockchain technology company owned by Berkeley Assets. He argues that the sports industry has little choice but embrace the benefits of technology.

"All the leading football clubs and top sports institutions will adopt some form of blockchain technology within the next 24 months," he predicts. "Clubs have so much data that they have to keep their system at any time, the safest way to hold back what time it is through blockchain.

"It's harder to hack, it's more efficient, and it's a lot less paperwork, it allows clubs to massively reduce costs and save on overheads, where there was paper and individuals needed for transferring documents from one party to another, this will not be required because it will all be on a digital ledger. "

In short, a primary consequence is that the blockchain could see the death of the intermediary – both digitally and, perhaps, physically. In an article for Harvard Business Review, professors Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani describe the technology as "an open and distributed register that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent manner".

For Robson-Kanu, the key term is & quot; peer-to-peer & # 39; – encapsulates the fundamental selling point of the blockchain. He uses the example of smart contracts to illustrate how technology frees a transaction from the need for a third party to create a direct chain, which documents the full scope of any transactional agreement. "If I had to do X and I should do Y, you will receive Z", he says.

The intelligent contract without Blockchain's intercession also brings more transparency, as the main feature of the technology is the ability to document the exact path of each transaction, which has clear implications for transfers of players, salaries, third-party properties and other reports often opaque .

"The ability to transfer a player from one club to another will be done much faster, much safer and much more efficiently than before," suggests Jackson. "We are talking about the transfer of documents, because it is a peer-to-peer system.You will have all the details of the player, all the information and data contained in a blockchain, and this can be transferred from club A to club B so that club B owns the rights to such data and, therefore, on the player. "

An additional, perhaps little appreciated, advantage of the blockchain potential of altering the transfer market is its speed. Jackson raises the recent case of David de Gea, the Manchester United goalkeeper whose proposal for a transfer to Real Madrid was brought back to the last occasion by a slow fax.

Omar Jackson explains that the blockchain has the potential to make monetary transactions snapshot, allowing the sport to avoid the kind of delay that saw the resumption of David de Gea from Manchester United to Real Madrid.

The technology of the ledger on which the transfer data could be kept would prevent such a problem. "If the blockchain was used at the time, [the transfer] it would have been instantaneous, "explains the director of Cryptech." It would have been done within two or three seconds. It can make a big difference. "

As for Robson-Kanu, the opening to the mysterious complexities sometimes of the sports industry is crucial for the future relationship between clubs and fans. "We are not entering to destroy and destroy the sector", he underlines, underlining the difference between evolution and revolution. "What we are actually saying is we look at sport and what actually contributes more to the sport – the fans.

"Fans have the right to understand and see in a transparent way what they are paying and the people who are paying to see and what they are doing day by day, or what they do during a game at a detailed level.

"Rather than being an industry based on public opinion, it would switch to an information-driven industry and, apart from that, to a transparent information-based industry, which is a massive catalyst in terms of what the blockchain can do ".

Opening the sports industry to its supporters is one of Sports Ledger's many ambitions, which go far beyond the mere advantage of additional security provided by the virtually inaccessible cryptographic transactions of the blockchain.

The Sports Ledger white paper features a myriad of technology applications, including a social platform for fans, athletes and clubs to share content. On that platform, cryptocurrency – in this case, the Sports Ledger SPSL token – served as a key to unlock and purchase the right to view the content of other users.

The use of digital tokens in the sports sphere has already begun in earnest, with the National Football League (NFL) and the Major League Baseball (MLB) that have collaborated with Hashletes and Token respectively. Both companies rely on the purchase of digital tokens to achieve tailor-made "cryptography", such as digital player collectible cards. MLB Crypto – built on the Ethereum blockchain – has sold $ 500,000 of "crittogoods" in its first two months of existence.

Another company that operates in space is the French crypt Sorare, which recently signed the world's first blockchain collection contract with the Belgian Jupiler Pro League. The deal arrived just 12 weeks after the launch of the company, a clear proof of a thriving collector's market which, according to Forbes, is now worth 370 billion dollars.

"We really want to bring the crypt into traditional Europe", explains Nicolas Julia, Sorare's founder. "Everything we do can be used by traditional customers, you do not need to have any cryptocurrency, you do not need to understand blockchain Everything you see on our platform is designed to test and replicate the normal experience you would have on Amazon or Ebay.

"There are no competitors in the world that allow their customers to pay with normal currencies and cryptocurrencies – it's something we offer – that people can get into our platform through their credit card and get an encrypted reward from it."

The Sorare agreement with the Jupiler Pro League was the first of its kind between a professional league and an encryption-based company.

The concept of Sorare is based on the auction, with fans able to bid to win the cards of the digital player, which can then be used in a fantasy world game, competing with other users whose player cards refer to a series of global championships. "It's related to the real world," says Julia. "We want to bridge the digital world and the natural world, every week you are ranked in the rankings and you can win a prize."

It's a modern extension of Panini's sticker craze, he adds. While traditional adhesives and even digital papers are replicable, the technology behind blockchain means that every collectible item is unique and impossible to duplicate.

The potential of using tokens, however, goes further, with the concept playing a key role in the social platform focused on the sport that is at the heart of Robson-Kanu's plans. In the Sports Ledger platform, fans control their personal data, which is a key departure from the model used by the major social networks.

"If we take Facebook as a model", he explains, "the way in which the whole business model is monetised is through the sale of the digital identity of its users to a third party who intends to monetize. the profile of that user or to sell a product to that profile of the user. "

With each search, the fingerprint of an individual grows, with the social platform that sells on the user identity enriched to advertisers and third parties. As Robson-Kanu makes clear, blockchain has the power to transform the ownership of such data to the user, which in turn could lead to monetary gains.

"We want users to share social content but also to have the digital identity through which they are creating that content of social sharing and analytical behavioral ones," he explains. "As a user, they will then have control and then they could say:" Well, actually, I would like to keep my private digital identity. "But at the same time, it will allow those who say:" I the mind has been communicated ".

"What would substantially allow for are external companies and advertising companies that have a vested interest in you as a target market to enter the application and rather than pay for the likes of Facebook or Instagram for access to your digital identity to communicate with you, now they can – peer-to-peer – make that communication with you.

"They can tell you:" Can I see your digital identity? "And in return, rather than giving your value to a third-party company, they give the value to the user. whole model. "

The rationale behind the concept is both solid and late, with the general population starting to understand how social platforms work. "I think people did not understand five years ago why these social sharing content platforms were so popular," suggests Robson-Kanu. "I think users now begin to understand that they are actually the ones that get monetized.

"This data should be held by the rightful owner and that owner should have the opportunity and the right to monetize it".

When Robson-Kanu discusses the data, he does so with greater ambition than simply benefiting consumers; he also wants to help his fellow athletes. Currently, its biometric and physical data are stored in a centralized system in what it describes as a "cumbersome legacy mode" – an inconvenient and obsolete mechanism that borders on inaccessible.

Also to see his personal figures, he must request access. Once in possession of its numbers, they remain of little use due to the lack of any technological interpretation tool. The data apart are useless, with no equipment to compare, for example, this season with the previous year.

Sports Ledger plans to change the situation by creating a platform through which athletes can analyze, understand and compare their statistics. "It will be adopted by showing the values ​​within the application to professional athletes and clubs," says Robson-Kanu. "We have already talked to many clubs and the appetite and the interest for this are there.

Such data should be held by the rightful owner and such owner should have the opportunity and the right to monetize it.

"Part of our market research was to interview key people in the sports space and see where they felt that lack of value or value was lacking due to lack of technological innovation." We are aware that sports space is hungry for this type of platform. "

An extension of the creation of a decentralized platform on which to store personal data is the production of a biometric passport, as well as the ability to compare the performance of athletes. It is a technological step that Robson-Kanu believes can help bring to light a new generation of athletes in parts of the world that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Using wearable technology, young athletes from disadvantaged regions around the world will have the opportunity to produce their biometric data, which can then be automatically placed on the platform and consulted by scouts and club analysts. The technology will be provided by the Sports Ledger charity arm, whose purpose is to use the blockchain to open up opportunities in the global sport sector.

"All they need is an intelligent device and a GPRS signal to load their data into a profile they own," explains Robson-Kanu. "The exciting thing here is that if the child wears this for six months, he then created an enriched digital performance passport."

This is a long-term plan, but it highlights the potential of the blockchain to revolutionize the industry. And making the difference in the mainstream is certainly the Robson-Kanu zenith. As Welsh says, the arrival of the blockchain is about evolution rather than revolution. But it's coming and it's here to stay.

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