A primary ticket outlet that sells millions of tickets a year bought out a little known start-up for an undisclosed amount. Justin Burleigh, Chief Product Officer at Ticketmaster, said:
“Ticketmaster is constantly exploring emerging technologies, and there aren’t many that have the unique possibilities of blockchain.”
While Sandy Khaund, Founder and CEO of the acquired start-up, Upgraded, said in a statement:
“Upgraded leverages Blockchain to maximize trust for ticket holders, give control and flexibility to content owners, and data to teams and performers.
We’re proud of what we’ve built and are looking forward to working with the incredible team at Ticketmaster to help us scale.”
Finding some technnical detail on this start-up was difficult, but the general idea seems to be a limited and very backend usage of ethereum’s capabilities.
In particular, the ECR721 non-fungible unique tokens standard. There, the only thing they appear to be using is the ID of the token around which revolve all the other more traditional functionalities.
“Since the ticket is interactive, it can become a conduit between the team and the fans. The ticket is then a way to do targeted marketing. If the team knows you’ve gone to 14 Yankees games this year, it may want to sell you an Aaron Judge jersey. The team could also try to sell you more tickets,” Khaund says.
They call it a smart ticket, because unlike static PDF tickets, here you can automatically change the time of a concert for example if there was a delay.
Moreover as this is digital, they can show the ticket barcode just two hours before the event. Forging it at that point would be difficult, compared to static PDF barcodes which could potentially be printed out and given around.
With the token here effectively being a database ID, but one that you’d think can’t just be copied and pasted around as each token is unique and there is only one of each.
Their hiding of the barcode, however, suggests that copying could be possible in this design. How well exactly this is integrated, therefore, is not very clear.
That’s because if one ticket is one token, then you can share the private key around all you want, it is still just one ticket, one access door. How that connects to a barcode is not clear, but with a QR code, you scan the QR code with your phone which has the private key, and so verify the public key QR code belonging to the vendor. At that point your ticket token moves to the vendor.
They further claim limits on the transferability of a certain token, but how they do this exactly is not clear. Just as it is completely unclear how they can set-up a cap on the price of a tokenized ticket, with the start-up saying:
“The UPGRADED platform allows an event owner to place restrictions on resale. This includes preventing resale completely for all tickets, a subset of tickets, placing price caps on the resale value.”
Just how they, or anyone, would know how much was paid for the ticket is unclear because all everyone sees is that the token/ticket moved. Whether $1,000 or $3 was paid for it through fiat rails, no one would necessarily know.
“Event Owners can provide integrated opportunities for fans to purchase merchandise, parking or other items directly from ticket,” they say, but we’re struggling to understand how this tokenized ticket is magically doing all these things.
In fact from the demo it is difficult to see any blockchain aspect. Ethereum based tokens run on ethereum. That means they “sit” on an ethereum address. So you need to give an eth address to receive a token.
Here, instead, you just create a password. Arguably at that point the app itself could create a new address with a token on it, but they’re never given a private key, they’re never given ownership of the ticket. When they want to transfer a ticket, they have to give an email address for the receiver.
The receiver is then sent an email, is invited to go to the app and enter a password, and now they’re basically on a database.
So the ethereum or blockchain part is difficult to see because targeting email addresses isn’t a blockchain related new thing. Nor is knowing how many concerts a database id/username has attended.
Likewise, updating concert times on a database has nothing to do with ethereum smart contracts, which usually you can’t just change. While hiding bar codes and making them visible to only individuals within 1 km of the event suggests they are as copiable as the words on these pages.
Raising the question of whether blockchain is just a word they’ve used for Ticketmaster to appear like they’re keeping up with their competition. When proper ethereum based tokenized tickets aim to get rid of stuff like this:
“A flat fee of $2 to $4 a ticket, plus a percentage of the ticket fee. The fans pay the fee,” according to Khaund.
That’s a fee on top of the PDF option, in addition to whatever Ticketmaster charges, when proper blockchain tech solutions don’t need either Khaund or Ticketmaster as the whole thing can be automatic, running on smart contracts without necessarily needing to sign up for anything and without needing to provide an email address.
The smart contract can instead say if x amount is paid and if ticket limit not reached then send ticket token. At the event then they have a public QR code address which you scan with the private key so transferring your token to them. They then recycle the tokens, and so begin the process once again.
Fraud here is completely eliminated, but on the other hand the user has to make sure he/she doesn’t lose the token’s private key because if they do then there is no password reset. Meaning this needs to be integrated with some sort of smart phone wallet, so solving to a large extent that aspect.
They’d also need some sort of ethereum address, which the wallet can automatically create. They’d further need to pay in crypto if it is going to be automatic, or they’re somewhat manually sent the token if they’re going to pay by a different method.
The token aspect could perhaps be hidden and made backend, but the token has to move. There has to be a private key somewhere that when signed through QR code scanning turns the 1 access token into 0.
That may be what this specific start-up does, but in that case their claim would be nothing more than unforgeable, and if they were confident that their design can stand up to that claim, they would not hide the barcode. Nor would they, more fantastically, add “an animated imagine in the background [which] helps avoid screenshotting to reproduce tickets.”
How do you screenshot a token? The 101 of cryptos is that you can’t copy them. They can be stolen if someone learns of your private key and so quickly sends your token to an address where only he/she has the private key, but you can copy and paste a private key all you want. It still has only one token/ticket if it hasn’t been moved already.
That has many advantages, including that anyone can create these tokens/tickets without needing Ticketmaster, but targeted advertising in the way stated is not an advantage related to eth, nor is a cap on re-sale prices as far as current tech and our awareness of it is concerned.