What are the potential applications for blockchains in the automotive and mobility industry, and how could the technology make everyday life simpler for motorists? Upon hearing the word “blockchain”, many people immediately think of Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency is the best-known example of how this relatively new technology can be used. However, blockchains (or, strictly speaking, distributed ledger technologies – known as DLT for short) can provide an answer to a host of future questions and could also have a sustained influence on mobility in tomorrow’s world.
“Blockchain technology alone is not going to solve everything,” explains Dr. Andre Luckow, Head of Distributed Ledger and Emerging Technologies at the BMW Group. “Rather, it will provide us with the technical basis needed to take new approaches and create innovative solutions.” Dr. Luckow’s team is working together with specialist departments from all areas of the company to develop potential blockchain applications throughout the automotive value chain and test them out.
But, what exactly is a blockchain? Blockchains are essentially a new form of database. They store transactions (e.g. transfers, deliveries or purchases) in blocks that cannot be changed. The benefits of blockchains are rooted first and foremost in two principles:
A blockchain is decentralised. First, all participants establish what information is to enter the blockchain – in other words, they agree on the rules for their collaboration. They can then send their transactions to the blockchain with equal rights. All participants carry out reciprocal checks of the transactions. There is no central server that could fail or be tampered with. Anyone wishing to modify data at a later date must do so with the approval of over half the participants.
Each block has a digital fingerprint known as a hash. And each block contains the hash of the previous block, meaning that it effectively includes that block’s encrypted content. As a result, all blocks are interlinked (hence the name “blockchain”). If someone was to subsequently modify a data block, the manipulation would immediately be apparent as the content would no longer match the fingerprint.
The new technology holds great potential for the automotive and mobility industry.
“The hype surrounding blockchains has died down, and it is even met with occasional scepticism now. However, we remain convinced that blockchains represent a real opportunity,” continues Dr. Luckow. He can envisage them being potentially used for applications such as managing supply chains to increase transparency and efficiency or enabling vehicles to process transactions by themselves (e.g. paying parking or toll charges). He says that the technology could also be used for giving consumers more control over their data.
The successful implementation of such applications on the basis of blockchain technology very much hinges on whether cross-industry standards and ecosystems can be devised and established. To this end, the BMW Group has adopted a broad-based consortium strategy and is actively involved in initiatives including the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI).
“It is essential to create digital ecosystems that share a common infrastructure and use applications with agreed standards and control models,” emphasises Dr. Luckow. “The only way to speed up the development and acceptance of blockchain systems is to have common, open standards and ecosystems.”
In July 2019, the MOBI consortium – which was co-founded by the BMW Group and also involves other manufacturers and suppliers from the automotive and mobility sector – published its Vehicle Identity Standard. This standard is intended to form the future basis for reliable data communication within a mobility ecosystem and facilitate data transparency, coordination and automation of transactions between stakeholders.
“The Vehicle Identity Standard is a crucial element for future blockchain-based vehicle and mobility services. We are pleased to be participating in the multi-stakeholder proof of concept so that we can continue to drive the development of the standard and study its application,” says Dr. Luckow.
Further information and current BMW Group use cases for blockchains can be found in the web special.
Further information on the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative and the Vehicle Identity Standard is available here.
BMW AND MICROSOFT DEVELOPING A JOINT PLATFORM FOR INTELLIGENT, MULTIMODAL VOICE INTERACTION.
The BMW Group ushered in a new era of intelligent voice control with the introduction of the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant in March 2019. BMW’s Open Mobility Cloud powered by Microsoft Azure and the use of artificial intelligence are constantly enhancing the personal assistant’s capabilities. AI and machine learning are two of the hottest topics at the Microsoft Build developer conference taking place in Seattle on 6 – 8 May. The conference got underway today with words from Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft Corp., Scott Guthrie, Executive VP of Microsoft Cloud + AI Group, and Guy Duncan, VP Operations Digital Products and Services BMW Group, on the companies’ successful work together as technology partners since 2016 and their new joint projects.
From mass production to driver assistance systems to individualisation – technological progress shapes opportunities and demands for automobile manufacturers and mobility providers. Digitalisation in all its facets offers almost limitless potential. The BMW Group therefore provides a wide range of digital solutions for employees and customers across all areas of the company.
Digitalisation is one of the driving factors behind the transformation of individual mobility. The BMW Group is pressing ahead with systematic digitalisation across all areas of the company, continuously improving processes throughout the value chain. Achieving the best results possible depends on having the right tools – and this includes highly-advanced computers. Both scientific organisations and corporations are now developing a new, considerably more powerful tool – the quantum computer.