How blockchain is used in mobility

21 of March of 2022

It promised to be the technology that would revolutionize everything, but a decade after blockchain’s creation and development, we still haven’t seen real applications in numerous industries. All its advantages – decentralization, transparency, and reliability, to name just a few – remained theoretical and didn’t manage to transform our environment.

However, we have begun to see the first success stories in some sectors in recent years. This paradigm shift is opening up a wide range of possibilities and serves to anchor an idea that has been repeated for years: blockchain goes far beyond cryptocurrencies in general and Bitcoin in particular.

This technology can transform business models, or at least parts of them, and the way we record what’s going on in the world. Mobility and other sectors associated with transporting people and goods are already seizing the first big opportunities.

Transparency to build trust in the brand

One of the major advantages of blockchain is its transparency: anyone can access its records and check its data, from the first transaction to the last, thus eliminating the uncertainty of many transactions based on trust between interlocutors. This allows companies to demonstrate their commitment and the validity of their actions, which users are increasingly demanding. This is especially true when it comes to social and environmental responsibility.

The Spanish startup VOTTUN has created a system that facilitates creating blockchain-based apps. This is a very interesting task since one of the main reasons why blockchain is no longer integrated into business models is its complex technology, which few come to understand in its entirety.

Thanks to VOTTUN apps, it’s possible to implement a product traceability system and create an immutable, permanent certificate that’s accessible to everyone. So far, VOTTUN has carried out projects to provide traceability for the food industry.

“Members of the ecosystem who record their data or transactions via blockchain can improve their processes in terms of transparency, trust, efficiency, and data security,” VOTTUN says.

For Ferrovial and Cintra, actors in the logistics chain and in infrastructure creation and maintenance, blockchain-based applications are a solution for establishing controls and being more trustworthy when recording information. For instance, they make it possible to know what types of vehicles have gone through certain places, at what time they did so, or what the applicable toll was. Offering this information in blockchain lets you be more transparent, therefore inspiring more confidence among users.

The case of Indra: improving interoperability in multi-operator mobility

Blockchain technology can have many applications in the highway sector. It makes it possible, for example, to facilitate cooperation between various agents: by relying on horizontality, transparency and immutability, there are no hierarchies in the blockchain and trust between the different agents is total.

ROADIS and Indra have taken advantage of this benefit to develop a blockchain-based project on the Saltillo-Monterrey highway in Mexico. Horizontality and transparency help them prevent any disagreements and facilitate settlement and auditing tasks. In addition, keeping a common record of transactions makes simple operations more and more common, such as offering discounts to users based on kilometers traveled.

Indra has incorporated this technology into its back-office toll system in digital innovation projects. The solution, developed under the European project framework “European Critical Chains R+D+I” is particularly suitable for blacklist exchanges, for example.

“Using blockchain offers operators and concessionaires a more robust, reliable solution that lets them record the data on processes involving several operators in an effective way, increasing the data’s integrity, transparency, and traceability,” says Rodrigo Castiñeira, Indra’s Innovation & Business Development Manager.

In the automotive industry, too

Many companies in the automotive sector are also now offering blockchain-based solutions so their connected vehicles can make their own decisions. For example, paying tolls, recording trips, keeping a list of breakdowns, and even sharing information with other parts of the infrastructure.

This opens up a whole range of possibilities for optimizing the use of vehicles, improving safety, and exchanging and monetizing data safely. While it’s still too early to see relevant use cases in this field, we expect to see vehicles as a part of the Internet of Value in the near future.

This goes beyond the exchange of content and generates a network of exchanges of information with real value. Examples are commercial contracts, stock market shares, intellectual property, and mileage points on airline cards.

From Play2Earn to Drive2Earn

Create extra value as you advance with your virtual character or drive your vehicle. This is the starting point of a business model that aims to monetize data and compensate the people who generate it, whether in video games (play2earn) or in the world of mobility (drive2earn).

COIN emerged from this model. This app tracks your mobile phone location through a physical IoT device or an NFC card. The aim is to show the vehicle’s actual location and then publish the information anonymously through blockchain technology. This way, a permanent record of this data is kept, and it cannot be altered.

In doing so, COIN validates the information and gives veracity to the transactions. What are the benefits of validating this data? It makes it possible to prevent apps that fake a GPS location from being deceiving. This is quite useful for guaranteeing transportation companies’ reliability or ensuring that access to low-emission or payment areas, which are present in many cities around the world, is upheld.

Web3, tokens, and new business models

The concept of the Internet of Value is one of the most familiar in the literature on blockchain’s possibilities. Recently, it has begun to be considered as part of a wider web3. José Luis Núñez, Global Head of Blockchain and Web3 Solutions at Telefónica Tech, offers clarity on what this is:

“Web3 is the conception of networks as decentralized ecosystems, where blockchain is the perfect technology for returning part of the value users are generating in digital services to them. And now, the tip of the iceberg of this movement of value decentralization is the tokenization of assets.”

A token is an entry in the ledger that the blockchain network makes up, and it demonstrates its ownership, uniqueness, and authenticity. Because tokens cannot be copied, they are the perfect mechanism for ensuring a digital asset’s authenticity. A token can also have an intrinsic value as a digital asset or be a mere instrument for representing a physical asset in the digital world.

There are already significant web3 projects that implement this idea of returning part of the value an intervention creates to the community itself. One such project is Helium, a wireless network rolled out by ordinary people who connect a simple device to the Internet at their home or office. Users make an initial investment and contribute their equipment to the network.

As the number of participants increases, the user who made their router or disk space available to the community receives remuneration in tokens that is proportional to the service offered to other participants. Far from having a stake in the company, the user has a direct stake in the business via the tokens that their own participation generates.

The near future is full of possibilities

The same model could be applied to implement mechanisms for compensation and remuneration for certain local communities impacted by the construction of a highway. Through blockchain tokens, small communities of interest that share certain benefits could be built: teachers at a center for learning, sick people who need to travel to area hospitals, large families, members of the Salvation Army in emergency situations… The possibilities are almost infinite.

Infrastructure operators could allocate a number of tokens to a specific community as a whole, and those tokens would be valid for traveling on infrastructure as important for mobility as urban highways. Once tokens run out, community members would become regular users who continue to enjoy the highway’s services, now at the usual price.

The ability to implement complex allocation rules in real-time through Smart Contracts hosted on blockchain offers much more versatility than other technologies like loyalty cards or points programs. Above all, benefits are distributed with total transparency for all members of the network, and they can access the entire history of activity recorded at any time.

Thus, this technology favors a transition towards a decentralized economy, where small communities with the potential to generate global impacts can take center stage. Large corporations like Ferrovial can use these as a way to encourage the sustainable development of their projects and create value that brings societal benefits to a high number of agents, not only their shareholders.

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