How Blockchain can supplement IoT in transforming our idea of a car

While distributed ledger (aka Blockchain) is all the rage in the fintech world, people in other industries have also started grasping its power. Take the car industry, for example. Most of the automotive majors are now focused on building the next-gen cars that are truly autonomous and intelligent and are not just a medium of traveling from point A to point B. In that respect, we are now probably at the same inflexion point as mobile phones were in 2007 before iPhones were launched. So, in future, we would expect ours cars to navigate the roads on its own, taking the shortest route to the destination. They would also remember that your daily morning routine includes stopping at the local Starbucks on your way to work and would order and pay for your coffee. They would also present you the current news and other happenings on the social media as you relax at the back seat of the car. Running out of fuel? No problem. Your car knows how to find the nearby gas station and go and fill up the tank. And pay too. If it is time for periodic maintenance, they would book an appointment with the local service station.

Well, does all of that sound fancy today? May be, yes. But then, if you remember the evolution of mobile phones and the apps, you might think this could become a reality sometime in future. The plethora of smart devices that nowadays goes inside a car does portend to that future. These devices can read the car temperature, tyre pressure and various other operating parameters of the car. Add IoT to the mix and now you have billions of car devices sharing information amongst themselves and then applying analytics to make smart decisions.

But, there is one problem, though.

As these smart devices from diverse OEMs and manufacturers start communicating between themselves, you would need a central repository where all such messages and data could be stored — transparently, securely and with knowledge that nobody can alter this data. Because, the smartness of a car will only come when you apply analytics on this data coming from all kinds of sources. Today, many of the car manufacturers are using cloud solutions to host this data. However, that will only result in data silos. What you need is a global data repository, at internet scale, where you can push/pull data to/from with the knowledge that no single organization owns and manages this data. So, no single point of failure, no censorship.

Fortunately, we have the technology available to solve this. That’s Distributed Ledger (or Blockchain). A Blockchain can assign a unique digital identity to every smart device and allow them to publish messages that can never be tampered with. Sort of written in stone. And since every participant gets a copy of this data, there is no single point of failure. While it is quite possible that every end user may join such an Internet-wide distributed ledger, at this point, I think the more plausible outcome would be an industry-managed permissioned Blockchain network with service providers allowing devices access to read and write into this ledger. Already, people are thinking of using similar concept while solving another problem in the car industry — how do you manage the history of a car in a public ledger, that is above all, tamper resistant. In my previous article, I had described what it takes to implement such a solution. Happy reading !!