No, football isn't coming home... but it appears blockchain is

This year's World Cup has, by anyone's standards, been a fantastic tournament.

Despite increased tensions between its host and the rest of the world, we've been treated to weeks of genuinely thrilling football that even I, someone who normally actively avoids the game, have been able to enjoy - even if England didn't quite manage to make it all the way.

Another equally contentious match was being played out alongside the tournament - the one between the BBC and ITV. For the second World Cup in a row, the two channels shared coverage duties equally. This meant that on those unfortunate occasions where ITV landed an England game, we were forced to endure standard definition through its flash-powered live feed, and the droning inanity of Glenn Hoddle's commentary.

But the worst part of ITV's coverage was its adverts. Normally these are just an annoyance, but one this year, in particular, was so misjudged that it bordered on insulting to its target audience. I'm talking about the 35-second plug for Hdac, a company that sells smart home technology powered by the magic of blockchain.

"Hdac's technology platform is smart and secure, thanks to the blockchain solution," a voice explains over scenes of a family returning home to a bewildered dog, who has had to sit and listen to various household appliances talking to each other all afternoon.

And that's all you get - a deliberately vague message about an incredibly abstract technology, beamed to the faces of tens of millions of fans watching a game of football. For all they know, 'blockchain' could be something you put in a car, or the name of a brand behind a range of new extra-strong bike locks.

We've covered blockchain in some depth over the past year, and I'll admit it's quite an exciting concept underneath all the marketing fluff and crud that's built up since it was first posited as the future of seemingly everything. Yet, even I am absolutely clueless as to what Hdac's product is and how blockchain fits into the picture.

What are you selling? Why is it safer with blockchain? Did you really think it was a good idea to leave your dog with schizophrenic furniture? These are the questions a viewer may have after the obvious "what the hell is blockchain?".

After a brief background check, I found that Hyundai Digital Asset Company (Hdac) is a South-Korean smart technology firm headquartered in Switzerland and, as the name suggests, is part of the massive Hyundai group.

The company is essentially attempting to create a service that supports networks powering smart devices. The advert in question refers to the smart home, where it's built a platform that allows users to manage their devices, and process whatever payments they may have to third-party companies, such as energy bills.

A month ago it posted on its site that it had secured an advertising package for the World Cup, serving its advert on all 32 games covered by ITV, including the final. While these sorts of advert deals are typically agreed upon as a package, the prices of which are highly secretive, the company must be forking out a fortune for the privilege. We know, for example, that advertisers were reportedly being charged as much as 300k for a 30-second advert during the last World Cup.

So then why bother spending so much money trying to flog a tech that most techies barely understand, let alone the general public?

Hdac's platform is "smart and secure, thanks to the blockchain solution" - people have already been sold on 'smart', though ask the general public what that means and you'll get a dizzying variety of perspectives. People also like security, that's another easy sell.

So then why bother including blockchain? The 'internet of things' was a hard enough sell to the general public, but at least that had the advantage of being tied to the technology they used day in, day out. Good luck trying to make distributed ledger technology relevant to a load of football fans.

Sadly, it's yet another example of the desperate need to commoditise technological innovation. It doesn't matter what the tech does, or how it does it - all that matters is that it's good and you should want it, especially if it's powered by blockchain. Did I mention it's great with animals too?

Dale Walker

Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.