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Pocket Network owes its existence to a carpool group.

In 2015, four mobile app developers found themselves with only one car and a shared destination. What began as a convenient commuting strategy turned into a daily blockchain and bitcoin think tank. On daily commutes, they dreamed up an ambitious blockchain-powered mobile app that would revolutionize the way consumers purchase and use mobile data during international travel. However, to their frustration, technological infrastructure did not exist to support the project they had in mind.

“That became Pocket Network,” said Patrick Maguire, marketing director of the Tampa-area firm.

In an ideal world, blockchain is completely decentralized. Unlike the hub and spokes of a bike wheel, decentralized blockchains are more like a fishing net. In the case of cryptocurrency, for example, the blockchain manages transaction requests between individual users – “nodes” – rather than funneling them through a bank. By coordinating the information transfer between individual nodes on the blockchain, users can send and receive funds directly. This decentralized method ensures safer, more efficient transactions.

While the benefits of a decentralized blockchain are widely recognized, the Pocket Network team found many blockchains were still operating on networks that looked more like the traditional hub-and-spoke method. Unfortunately, as applications developers were creating technology for the blockchain, there was little incentive for them to manage nodes, so information would travel through a single service provider. This finding is what sparked Pocket Network’s research and development of an architecture that could operate as a decentralizing mechanism for blockchain applications.

“The validity and the benefits of a decentralized network depend on these full nodes to manage requests and ensure that everyone’s database state is the same,” Maguire said. “However, in most of these platforms, there isn’t a direct incentive for an individual to run a node. So, the remaining full nodes are all centralizing into single service providers.”

In other words, Pocket Network began acting as an intermediary to connect application developers with full nodes so they wouldn’t have to bear the burden. In a cryptocurrency transaction, for example, a decentralized application – like a cryptocurrency wallet – must communicate with a full node to coordinate the transaction between buyer and seller. If the node stops working, Pocket Network’s technology enables the request to be fulfilled by the next available node. This coordination ensures reliable infrastructure, which is fundamental to the success of any decentralized network. It also reduces risks associated with a single, centralized point of failure in the blockchain.

By facilitating communication between decentralized applications and the blockchain database, Pocket Network makes it easy for developers to build a more expansive network, which in turn makes the blockchain more reliable and facilitates the creation of new peer-to-peer applications.

Adding full nodes to the blockchain database also makes the network more valuable. This is the impetus behind Pocket Network’s incentivization program launching in December.

“We created an economic model that incentivizes full node operators directly,” Maguire said. “This will increase full node counts – not just from single providers, but from individuals who want to use a spare laptop as a node or run a personal rig at their house, like in the early days of bitcoin.”

Floridians are no stranger to the concept of net metering, the process wherein solar panels or other renewable energy generators are connected to the grid, allowing consumers to sell energy back to the utility provider. Pocket Network’s new incentivization program models this approach, leveraging full nodes for their computational power and storage. Individuals who engage in this practice – referred to as “blockchain mining” – are incentivized usually in bitcoin or transaction fees.

Pocket Network is particularly interested in the application of this technology to video games; specifically, the untethering of assets from their original games. It all started with Banano Quest, a game developed to demonstrate Pocket Network’s ability to create apps that run on Ethereum, a popular public blockchain. The Banano Quest use-case was so successful that Pocket Network attracted the attention of the Aion Foundation from which it secured a grant to create tools and develop another game built upon the original Banano Quest code. In the new game, Monster Chase, users catch monsters and trade them across the Aion Network.

Pocket Network isn’t alone in tapping into blockchain applications for the video game industry, which is projected to become a $300 billion business by 2025. As the video game market continues to dwarf all other entertainment markets from sports to music streaming, momentum for blockchain development for video game collectibles is rapidly accelerating.

“Any type of digital asset management, particularly art and collectibles, is really coming alive recently,” Maguire said. “For instance, Counter-Strike is a first-person shooter game that has a huge collectibles economy. Let’s say we’re watching a tournament and a person wins the tournament with a specific weapon. As it exists today, you wouldn’t be able to know that that gun was the gun he used to win the tournament, whereas – if that information existed on a database like this – he could say, ‘look, this was my tournament-winning asset,’ and can then auction it.”

With innovation and ambition at the Pocket Network’s core, Maguire believes big things are in store for the project. Pocket Network has plans to deepen its roots in Latin American markets and begin an expansion into Asian and European markets. Key to that growth is the company’s roots in Tampa.

“Michael O’Rourke, our CEO, moved to Tampa Bay at an early age and – just like most of us – fell in love with the region,” Maguire said.

“For blockchain, the Tampa Bay area is coming along really well. We’re a fairly close community, so everybody’s really supporting everybody, whereas there might be way too much competition in another area.”

Left: Luis Correa, CTO Pocket Network, presents a 2-day workshop focused on teaching developers how to build their own decentralized applications using Ethereum smart contracts in the Dominican Republic.

Right: Valeria Benitez Florez, brand director, participates in a remote meeting with team members located in Tampa Bay and the Dominican Republic

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