There’s a now a blockchain consortium for the automobile sector. The Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) has been formed, with participation from giant automakers BMW, Ford, General Motors (GM), and Renault.
The automotive sector is clearly the next frontier for big data, machine learning and other cutting edge technologies. Connected cars alone produce 25 gigabytes (GBs) of data every hour, and it will certainly increase manifold.
Even if we concentrate on other vehicles, the explosion of data is phenomenal. Every commuter spends over an hour a day in her car, and during that time the commuter is increasingly accessing the Internet, which could often mean asking their virtual assistants for direction.
Every tech giant wants to harness this massive amount of data, and they have already positioned their products for this purpose, for e.g. Apple‘s ‘Car play‘, Amazon‘s Alexa, and respective systems from Microsoft and Google. Big data opportunity in the automotive sector is estimated to be of over US $ 1 trillion.
It’s obvious that this massive amount of data can bring in fundamental transformation in the automotive sector. Just a handful of examples of how this data can be used are following:
- Improving driving habits;
- Assisting governments in enforcing better traffic disciplines;
- Cars coordinating among themselves to negotiate traffic choke-points better;
- Cars making micropayments to manage their carbon footprints by pooling with other cars.
For the above positive outcomes to become pervasive reality, the exponentially increasing data needs to be effectively shared. The current technology infrastructure encourages this data being accumulated in silos owned by the tech giants. This is where blockchain could make the big impact.
Blockchain ensures decentralization by design, because every computer on the network, called ‘node’, have the entire information on the blockchain, and there’s no dependency on a central server. The rigorous consensus algorithm requiring massive number-crunching operations before new block can be added, and the requirement of transaction approval from the majority of the nodes ensure that hacking blockchain isn’t economically viable.
Sharing the exponentially growing data generated by automobiles, in a decentralized manner, while ensuring immutability of data, is the key value that blockchain can bring to the table. However, we have quite a distance to cover before we get there.
While individual automakers may have done significant work on blockchain, that was in silos. There is no common standard using which vehicles of one make can readily exchange valuable information with another company’s car, interacting between blockchain platforms.
MOBI‘s first priority is to create common standards, and application programming interfaces (APIs) that will enable sharing of value between cars of different makes. The sharing of value could be in the form of data-sharing, or micropayment transactions.
Chris Ballinger, the chairman and CEO of MOBI, was with Toyota Research Institute earlier, and is a pioneer in building automotive industry blockchain consortium. He is clear that building common standards is the most important first step, because if every automaker brings their own individual products into the market, without any interoperability, then effective sharing of valuable big data won’t be possible, thus adversely impacting exchange of value.
As of now, MOBI‘s partners include automakers, car-parts manufacturers, tech companies, and blockchain industry groups. A few of the partners are BMW, Ford, GM. Renault, ZF Friedrichshafen AG, IBM, Accenture, Hyperledger, IOTA Foundation, and ConsenSys. There will soon be in-person meetings, and project teams will be formed to work on the following areas:
- vehicle identity and data tracking;
- ride sharing;
- mobility ecosystem commerce;
- data markets for autonomous and human driving.