Data filing and sharing – something we have been doing since the very first computer. And way before that, you could say, if you count books, songs and campfire stories. All the more reason to muse about the best approach nowadays. Would you go for test and tried method number one, file everything on your hard disk? Or would you go for the more modern alternative and move everything to external servers – in other words, the cloud? However well the latter works, there is an even more efficient option in between. A method everyone knows, but one that also comes with issues. It is mainly used for illegal practices.
You are obviously eager to know which method that is. A perfect moment for a roll of drums… The most efficient way to distribute data – on the technical side as well as for the user – is that of the controversial torrent sites. Obscure websites mainly distributing illegally acquired films, including Chinese subtitles and popcorn flying across the screen. Shady stuff so to speak, but the good thing about it is that this method uses the shared memory and capacity of all the computers connected to the torrent network. The users contribute part of their processor and hard disk to the aggregate. This results in a sort of cloud too, but without the additional data centres. Another advantage, the user has his data close at hand and at his own disposal.
So, a perfect model, albeit with a horrid reputation. How can we change that and negate its illegal character? The answer is blockchain. Thé way to make quick work of unwanted side effects regarding privacy, intellectual property rights, illegal distribution and other forms of digital piracy.
Blockchain ensures that each data transaction is conducted according to clear rules, registered and cannot be reversed. In addition, it’s a perfect way to organise rewards. When someone watches a film, he automatically pays a certain amount to the film maker (or another party that has the film rights), the distributor (like Ziggo) ánd the community (that takes care of the storage). In this way, streaming becomes not only efficient but also honest through and through.
Proof and pudding
Still in the future? Sure. But we have already made quite some progress. This development already started in 2017, when we commissioned Benjamin Rensen, a student of Innovation Management at the Delft University of Technology, to research business models in the field of torrents and blockchain. A year later, it delivered him his master’s degree - – and us numerous valuable insights. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. With the help of the blockchain specialists of IT company Xurux we therefore took it one step further, into reality. A room filled with blockchain fans recently watched the result, a test set-up demonstrating how content and money were being exchanged, controlled, automatically and fully transparently between the maker, distributor and consumer.
Learn and co-create
The business models have been developed, the test set-up is proof of concept and enthusiasm within VodafoneZiggo is high. A great start. But before this concept becomes reality, there is still a lot we need to learn. How? To start with, we want to expand our experiment. From a handful of computers linked together to a substantial group of students. By looking at their experiences – as consumers and as critical co-creating community – we get an understanding of how this technology can transform the future of hosting and streaming.
Jan van Boesschoten
The digital domain never rests, not even for a second. Jan van Boesschoten keeps VodafoneZiggo on its toes when it comes to digital. He does so in lots of innovative projects ánd with the new generation thinkers, users and employees. Exactly, students.