Sport on the Blockchain

I recently wrote a personal blog post entitled, Putting QS on the Blockchain. QS meaning Quantified Self.  At the sporting data is a subset of an overall quantified self.  The most well known blockchain is Bitcoin. While there is so much more to bitcoin than a currency, a cryptocurrency, a currency backed by the mathematics of cryptography. This ‘currency’ status feels like the core motivation of the community to-date that has been motivated to displace the existing centralised financial system.  We have exchanges, just like foreign exchange markets or event company share issues etc.  The fundamental difference between the old and the new financial system is one of centralisation v decentralisation.

Standing back and looking at the sporting world a large, it too currently operates around centralised Institutions.  Soccer – FIFA, Forumla 1 -FIA and in swimming – FINA.  The ultimate ruling body for ‘official’ rules and recording keeping etc.  But just like in Banking, there is no need for a centralised Trusted body to guarantee trust within the sporting community.  In fact, as recent and on going scandals, political in fight shows, these governing bodies are far from trustworthy.  In sport we do aim for a level playing field and a decentralised network of those participating in sport would provide a far more reliable, stable and democratic environment for sport to flourish, grass roots to world record holders.

Record keeping is a good example to focus on. What is a swimming world record?  Right now a world record is the lowest time recorded over a set distance for a set stroke, recorded on timing equipment certified to be accurate to a given specification.  The human identity is registered by joining the Governing body and the health, ie medical status clean on certain biological substances, simply put clear of banned substances. All this under the centralised governing body.  A couple of sentences written but with many knowledge definitions to be further explained:

Identity and health status:  A level playing field starts with the individual participating in sport.  Historically, competitive sporting bodies have firstly differentiated on sex but even this is becoming not so clear cut.  With a centralised rule book you adhere to the rules. Those rules documented in sporting Law and policed by testing etc.  How would a decentralised identity and health status be established?  The individual athlete would choose to put their sporting life “on the record”. The degree and transparency of the disclosure will be decided peer to peer.  Will that not lead to an un-level playing field?  Maybe, but it that not the case today?  A sporting event run on a self authored personal data would be a group of individuals agreeing to come together to race based on accepting each others status.  E.g. they could all use steroids or not, or in the future have gene therapy or not.  Sport is more than just the participants, it is the crowd or viewer too.  Again those individuals will have the same information as the athletes and will vote with the attention on what to watch, track or view.  The mechanism for all these individual peers to work all this out is the blockchain. It will not be time consuming as their own individual ‘smart contracts’ will be programmed to filter on their own personal preferences for participation or allocating their attention.

Recording the race, whether is be the time, distance or score.  Lets take a time – distance e.g. 100m freestyle long course ie 50m swimming pool.  How deep is the pool 2m or 3m, who did the measurements to certify this and what timing sensors were used?  Again, the centralised body rule book will set the standards and those will be guaranteed by the technology provider.  Again these sensors need policing and independently tested.  So, if a swimmer records a time lower than ever recorded in history before, they become the world record holder based on the accuracy of the sensor standards.  But does that mean they are the fastest in the world?  The increments in improvement are getting smaller and smaller, .01 even those times are recorded to 0.001 of a second, it just the accuracy of the sensor are not statistically reliable at those degrees of accuracy.  But the current touch/press based sensor can be replaced, e.g. by light ie  a photo finish with a high speed camera.  So, the world record in accordance or in the context of the sensor recording and our trust in them. These sensor will change with time.  While their is technical measurement uncertainty there is the much bigger question of who did actually swim?  Seems so straight forward to answer, the event organizer invited the swimmer to complete, the time keeper verified their identity and those watching or the recording of video provides evidence the race in fact did take place.  If such standards were achieved at any swimming race then we could agree the recorded time was indeed a world record regardless of the status of event?  Decentralised competition becomes possible as the sensors give more accuracy of the environment being played on is a level playing field.  Just because all swimmers are in the same swimming pool does not equate to a level playing field.  Competitive sport can be decentralised.

While competition and sport go hand in hand.  The meaning of competition will evolve too.  Again this goes back to the centralised rule book that states, freestyle technique is legal if it adheres to a b c of the stroke.  A judge, a human checks this is the case.  While us humans are amazing, our ability to see all swimmer at all time to ensure the entire swim is legal is beyond our attentions abilities. It is not for a sensor, video or smart water.  Human judges will increasingly give way to machines ie sensors plus software programmes.  Again those wishing to compete will choose the race judging rules and even the rules that the ‘winner’ will be declared, fastest time  or how a bout fastest time with pulse rate never going over 160 beats per minute, I am sure far better race rules can be dream-pt up.

A decentralised  blockchain swimming example, possible today:

Twenty swimmers attend their local swimming pool to train. A coach has prepared a training set (tomorrow a Machine Learning – smart contract will assist the coach or prepare it autonomously). The swimmers own various wearables to track activity and health vitals with an external timing system to keep all the wearables in sync and video analysis in real time from various cameras.  All the swimmers have their own tablet pool side providing analysis in real time.  This analysis based on their own data, peered connected data and the wider swimming sporting universe of data.  All the application run on e.g. platform on each tablet and with a storage service distributes backup across the twenty swimmers tablets.  Some swimmers have their genomes analysed and a AI system is processing correlations, this take more than CPU power for one tablet so they use compute network locally to share tablets processing power.  Once on the WWW, all data is synced and further analysed and preparation of future training session and predicted times for the next swim meet are visualized.

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