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Blockchain Tech Could Change the Way Shops See Vehicles

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March 16, 2020—There are so many potential uses for blockchain technology. Lucy Hakobyan, who is head of program at the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI), is an encyclopedia of a dizzying array of potential activities that could be supported by blockchain.

“Some of the use cases that we focus on in our working groups are vehicle digital identity and history; the concept of usage based mobility, usage based payment, usage based insurance; the concept of connected mobility and data marketplaces—the data that comes out of telematics, out of infrastructure and can be potentially shared with others to speed up potential use cases,” she says. “Supply chain; electric vehicles and grid integration, things like tokenizing carbon credits, enabling peer-to-peer energy service exchanges; and of course science and securitization, which can span all the way from securitization of loans in a vehicle as well securitization of infrastructure.”

As an organizer of working groups that discuss blockchain uses, Hakobyan brings stakeholders together to discuss the potential uses, pitfalls and solutions for blockchain technology in mobility and transportation.

Working group members include OEMs, other nonprofits, tech startups, NGOs and others. One big goal for MOBI’s work is to produce standardization models for blockchain’s deployment in all these use cases, Hakobyan says.

 

What is Blockchain?

The blockchain started as the technology backing Bitcoin more than a decade ago. It isn’t the digital currency itself, but it is how Bitcoin transactions are recorded.

Blockchain is a shared, digital ledger system that works best when it’s decentralized (or distributed), so that each individual in the system has the ledger and checks accuracy with one another. When a transaction or change is made, each system updates the ledger at the same time.

“A number of actors can be accessing a real-time information system,” Hakobyan says. “That doesn’t necessarily have to be public, and for certain use cases it actually won’t be public.”

IBM has a handy primer on the technology, but the basics are that blockchain is:

  • Distributed

  • Tamper-proof. According to IBM: “No participant can change or tamper with a transaction after it’s been recorded to the shared ledger. If a transaction record includes an error, a new transaction must be added to reverse the error, and both transactions are then visible.”

  • Includes Smart Contracts. These are a set of rules that govern a particular blockchain and have to do with its purpose, such as a particular kind of financial transaction.

 

Why Should Repair Shops Pay Attention?

One standard that MOBI is working to develop is a way for blockchain technology to be the bookkeeper of vehicles’ lives.

“I think one of the most appropriate use cases that we’re looking at is the vehicle identity itself,” Hakobyan says. “We released our first standard in July of last year.”

The first standard had to do with how factory specs and build data can be recorded as the vehicle leaves the factory. This starts a vehicle’s life cycle.

The next step will be to develop a standard for how everything else is stored during a vehicle’s life. And the decentralized nature of the blockchain means that auto shops will be able to access and add to that vehicle’s history.

“We are exploring the lifetime events that will become part of the vehicle identity,” Hakobyan says. “That includes repairs that are made. That includes part replacements, accidents and claims. And repair shops are one of the stakeholders in this ecosystem, and potentially one of the adopters of blockchain technology going forward and enabling, really, the concept of vehicle identity.”

Developing the standard means that there will have to be an agreed format for how shops enter data, how parts are logged, whether or not the reason for a repair is logged et cetera. That way, the vehicle identity is consistent and easier to use.

MOBI’s vehicle ID working group is chaired by Groupe Renault and Ford with support from Accenture, AIOI Insurance, BMW, Car Vertical, Cerebri AI, Cognizant, ConsenSys, CPChain, Dealer Market Exchange, DLT Labs, GM, Honda, Hyperledger, IBM, IOTA, Kar Auction Services, Luxoft, MintBit, Netsol Tech, Oaken Innovations, On The Road Lending, Quantstamp, Trusted IoT Alliance, and Xapix, according to a press release on the release of its first standard.

In that same press release, a Ford representative captured the ability for blockchain to increase efficiencies.

"The real power of blockchain comes from enabling networks of people and things to transact with each other without intermediaries," said Alan Gordon, a Ford representative and co-chair of MOBI's VID Working Group. "A crucial first step to enabling these networks is for participants to be able to identify each other in a way that everyone understands. Providing this identity for vehicles is the goal of the first phase of the VID standard."

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