In May 2019, ICONLOOP launched broof, an online service that allows users to issue certificates on the ICON public blockchain. As part of the initial launch of broof, ICONLOOP partnered with a number of institutions including POSTECH and Studypie to issue certificates. For example, on May 29, 2019, broof certificates were issued to 28 graduates of the “POSTECH Blockchain Executive Program”. Recently, ICON announced that POSTECH “will begin using [broof] to issue graduate diplomas”. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at ICON’s relationship with POSTECH, and the signifcance of broof in the academic sector.

Graduates of POSTECH's Blockchain Executive Program received diplomas issued on the ICON public chain with broof.
Graduates of the Postech Blockchain Executive Program.
Source: ICON Foundation

ICON’s History with POSTECH

POSTECH, short for “Pohang University of Science and Technology”, is one of the leading research universities in South Korea. With over 3,000 students and a worldwide ranking of 83 according to Quacquarelli Symonds, POSTECH is not “small fish” by any means. So, what’s the story behind POSTECH’s history of collaboration with ICON? I suspect that POSTECH’s heavy involvement with ICON is due to two underlying factors.

  1. POSTECH is interested in exploring blockchain technology for various use cases, and ICONLOOP, with its close ties to the Seoul Metropolitan Government and other household names, is one of the most well-regarded blockchain companies in South Korea.
  2. J.H. Kim, CEO of ICONLOOP and ICON Foundation council member, and other ICONLOOP team members are graduates of POSTECH. Thus, they likely have the necessary personal and business connections to secure POSTECH as a partner for blockchain adoption.
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What is broof?

Now that we’ve established ICON’s history with POSTECH, let’s discuss what “issuing graduate diplomas” with broof means. Broof is an online service that was designed to replace the cumbersome process of issuing physical certificates. If you think about it, a “certificate” is just something that proves something. A certificate doesn’t have to be a physical object in order for it to mean something. That’s where broof comes in with several improvements to certificate issuance.

An immutable certificate issued on the ICON public chain.
A broof certificate issued by P-Rep team ICON DAO on the ICON public chain.
  1. Broof reduces usage of natural resources. In the 2015-2016 academic year, 1,920,718 Americans graduated with a bachelor’s degree. This number does not include MBAs, PhDs, or the millions of other graudates outside the USA. Think about how much paper is wasted on printing and manufacturing educational degrees on a yearly basis.
  2. Broof makes it easy to verify the authenticity of a certificate because the details of a broof certificate are visible on the ICON public blockchain. This means parameters such as origin, destination, and transaction time can be verified by looking up the relevant ICX transaction. Since ICON is a decentralized permissionless blockchain, it’s impossible to rewrite previous transactions unless you have the excessive financial means to do so.
  3. Forgery of certificates and other credentials is a real issue. Broof tackles that problem by making the issuing party and immutable transaction data known. If someone claims to have a POSTECH degree issued by a non-POSTECH address, that’s a big red flag.
  4. Since ICON is a public blockchain that can be queried with APIs, it would be possible to build out automated filters to check for certificate validity. A system like this can be tied into blockchain-based identify protocols like MyID to create a fully automated “proof of credential” system for HR departments, government background checks, educational institutions, and more. This is much faster and more reliable than the traditional method of calling someone on the phone to verify credentials because it effectively takes social engineering, administrative mistakes, and other human-induced factors out of the equation.
  5. Broof can be used by anyone for anything. It can be used to create immutable digital certificates for everything from university diplomas to a participation award for the your office’s annual Halloween party.

Conclusion

I don’t view POSTECH using broof to issue diplomas as a simple ICX transaction generator. It’s much more than that. POSTECH is an extremely reputable educational institution, and the fact they are specifically choosing to issue diplomas on a blockchain speaks volumes. Meaningful certificates like university diplomas need to persist over time. If POSTECH didn’t think ICON would be around in 10-20 years, I doubt they’d choose to issue diplomas with broof. The same can be said about Seoul’s Metropolitan Government issuing appointments on the ICON public chain. A trend has been established. Let’s not deny it.

This situation is even more exciting when you think about it in the context of Seoul’s transition to blockchain-based IDs, and South Korea’s positive outlook on implementation of DID products like ICONLOOP’s MyID, which over 40 companies, houshold names included, have signed on for. Our credentials, which are often proven by certificates, are what define us when it comes to both our personal and professional lives. Thus, it only makes sense to make certificate creation, access, and verification secure and digitally accessible. The ICON public chain provides both – a decentralized permissionless environment for immutable and secure verification, and a complete API that enables digital certificates to be integrated into any digital pipeline.

If you’re interested in learning more about broof and issuing your own certificates, check out broof’s official website.