Monday, 28 May 2018

Smart ticketing system may finally outwit the ruthless touts

Two British graduates launch solution to rampant counterfeiting and resale profiteering

They are a scourge no one can get rid of. Ticket touts have been targeted without success by Adele and Ed Sheeran, Premier League football clubs and politicians. Now two graduates from Imperial College London have created software using cryptocurrency dubbed the “bitcoin of ticketing”, which could see the end of fake tickets and sky-high resale prices.

Annika Monari, 25, and Alan Vey, 24, face the first test of their invention this summer, at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, when the software will be used for more than 10,000 tickets to fan events around Europe and the US.

The Aventus Protocol is based on blockchain technology – used in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin – which would allow event organisers to give each ticket a unique identity that is tied to its owner. Because the tickets are based on blockchain – a linked list of records where each new one contains an encrypted version of the previous one – they cannot be faked. The software also allows event promoters to keep an easy record of who owns the ticket, which means they can control the prices.

Monari and Vey say Aventus will “virtually eliminate ticketing fraud and the scourge of unregulated touting”. For the World Cup they have joined forces with another company, Blocside, and expect to work with football clubs next year on season tickets. The two graduates founded their company Artos after completing their studies last year and now employ 15 people. They funded the project by selling “tokens” – a limited supply of cryptocurrency, which can be sold like shares. Aventus’s initial offering sold out in seven minutes for about £26m.

At the launch of the Aventus Protocol at Imperial College last week, the graduates said: “It has been an amazing journey. We used to sit in this common room having coffees and worrying about our coursework. But now, hopefully, we will be the people who can solve the problems in the ticketing industry. That would feel incredible and be such a huge achievement for us.”

The pair have first-class degrees in Artificial Intelligence and Particle Physics; their age never put them off tackling decades-old problems in the industry.

“There was the moment where I was like: ‘look, we don’t have mortgages, we don’t have husbands or wives, we’ve worked together before, we don’t have any kids – now is the time’.” said Annika.

Alan added: “Yes, but there have been times where people have tried to take us for a ride because of our age. Some people do assume by default that we don’t know what we’re talking about.”

It brings a refreshing solution that could end fraudulent activity and ticket touting once and for all
Touting and ticket fraud threatens the UK’s £4.5bn music industry, with the second-hand ticket industry alone valued at £1bn a year. The band Radiohead has attempted to combat this by requiring ID that matches the name on the ticket, but this had limited success. Adele tried to ban touts, but tickets for her 2016 Wembley shows appeared online at £9,000.

In the same year a Sunday Times investigation alleged that Premier League clubs were allowing fans to be ripped off by third-party resellers. This prompted a government report into the secondary ticket industry.

Professor Mike Waterson from Warwick University, who wrote the 2016 government report, was technical adviser to Monari and Vey. “It has a lot of potential,” he said. “Thinking through the market from a fresh perspective is very useful. If they get genuine buy-in from a wide enough range of people then it is going to have a big impact on the market.”

Monari and Vey also want to offer funding to postgraduate students for research into ticket touting: “We are keen to use our funds to help nurture and grow student and university research into blockchain with respect to ticketing.”

Entertainment industry veteran Bernie Dillon, known for work with artists such as Santana and Eric Clapton, said: “Anyone who has ever attended, hosted, or produced a live entertainment event has been affected by counterfeit tickets or extortionate resale prices. Aventus brings a refreshing solution that could end fraudulent activity and ticket touting once and for all.”

source: theguardian.com

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