Connected transport: MOBI blockchain consortium expands with WEF, new standards groups

Connected transport: MOBI blockchain consortium expands with WEF, new standards groups

When the MOBI blockchain consortium was formed in May 2018 by some of the world’s biggest automakers and cutting-edge technology providers, it promised to revolutionise connected transport. With new associates coming onboard this week, including the World Economic Foundation, Chris Middleton catches up with MOBI to find out what it has achieved to date.

The World Economic Forum, Achmea, Faraday Future, FutureMove, Filament, Riddle&Code and others, have joined the MOBI consortium – the alliance of major automakers and tech companies aims to use blockchain to make transport more efficient, accessible, greener, and safer.

Two new advisors, seven new partners, eight new sponsors, and three new affiliates have come onboard this week, according to an announcement from MOBI.

The new advisors are: Iliana Oris Valiente, managing director at Accenture and Global Blockchain Innovation lead; and Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures and executive advisor at the Toyota Research Institute.

MOBI’s new partners are: Financial services giant, Achmea; data decentralisation specialist CarVertical; automotive tech provider, Denso Diam; advanced mobility experts, Faraday Future; Chinese mobility tech maker, FutureMove; blockchain mobility firm, MoveCo; and West Coast connected car services startup, Tesloop.

Sponsors joining the initiative are: Peer-to-peer payment specialists, Chorus Mobility; distributed ledger network, Constellation Labs; blockchain network security company, Cube Intelligence; enterprise and industrial blockchain developer, Filament; blockchain IoT security firm, NXM Labs; open source data infrastructure provider, Streamr; data monetisation specialists, Xapix; and secure blockchain software and hardware maker, Riddle&Code.

And the new affiliates are: the World Economic Forum (WEF); open source network organisation, the DAV Foundation; and self-sovereign online identity group, the Sovrin Foundation.

The WEF has been active this year producing a range of in-depth reports on AI and Industry 4.0, and the impact of new technologies on industries such as financial services and manufacturing.

But what exactly does MOBI do?

MOBI’s purpose and aims

As previously reported on Internet of Business, the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) was launched in May to explore the use of blockchain in systems that could “make transportation safer, more affordable, and more widely accessible”.

The non-profit foundation was also formed to accelerate adoption and promote standards in blockchain, distributed ledgers, and related technologies, for the benefit of both the transport and mobility industry and its users.

Its stated aim is to develop “simple, standard, and digital ways of identifying cars, people, and trips, of paying for mobility services, and securely exchanging and monetising data in ways that preserve property rights and privacy”.

Its 37 founder members included: Accenture; Blockchain at Berkeley; BMW; Bosch;; Ford; General Motors; Hyperledger; IBM, the IOTA Foundation; Luxoft; Renault; and the Trusted IoT Alliance.

Together, members are working on blockchain opportunities in:

  • Vehicle identity, history and data tracking
  • Supply chain tracking, transparency, and efficiency
  • Autonomous machine and vehicle payments
  • Secure mobile commerce
  • Data markets for autonomous and human driving
  • Car sharing and ride hailing
  • Usage-based mobility pricing, and payments for vehicles, insurance, energy, congestion, pollution, and infrastructure.

Global cooperation

MOBI plans to connect global mobility providers with blockchain innovators, as well as government/non-government agencies and other institutions, to collaborate on the development of these services.

“The community is working hard to create a minimum viable ecosystem that aims to standardise blockchain and related technologies to bring transparency and trust to the industry, consumers, and communities, reducing risk of fraud, and reducing frictions and transaction costs in mobility,” said MOBI chairman and CEO Chris Ballinger this week.

“With the onboarding of new members, we are adding diversified expertise that ranges from components and vehicle checks to insurance, technology solutions, and rewards, as well as more focus on collaboration between the private and public sector.”

Ballinger is former CFO and director of Mobility Services at the Toyota Research Institute.

Joining Ballinger as co-founders and board members in May were: Ashley Lannquist from Blockchain at Berkeley; and David Luce, previously of FICO and Toyota. On the advisory board at launch were: Dan Harple, CEO of Context Labs; Joseph Lubin, co-founder of Ethereum and founder of ConsenSys; Brian Behlendorf, executive Director of Hyperledger; Jamie Burke, CEO of Outlier Ventures; and Zaki Manian, executive director of the Trusted IoT Alliance.

“We’re incredibly excited to be part of this initiative, which already connects several of our portfolio with the world’s automotive companies. We see mobility as ground zero for the convergence of AI with DLT and IoT,” said Outlier Ventures’ Burke in May.

Outlier is a key investor in 2016 startup, Fetch – another MOBI contributor. As reported on Internet of Business in the Spring, Fetch is behind the world’s first AI-powered self-organising smart ledger technology for decentralised transactions.

But perhaps the most interesting MOBI member so far has been the IOTA Foundation, whose lighter – or less ‘blocky’ – distributed ledger system is optimised for machine-to-machine micropayments, via Tangle / Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) technology.

In May, Dominik Schiener, co-founder and chair of the IOTA Foundation, said, “As the world is starting to recognise the huge potential of decentralised ledger technology, it is essential to establish the key functionalities for a scalable ecosystem based on the principles of open source, collaboration, and permanent innovation that drives broad-scaled technology adoption.”

So what has MOBI been doing since then?

What MOBI has been doing

Blockchain’s distributed, peer-to-peer nature requires standards and collaboration. As a result, MOBI says it is introducing open innovation techniques to the mobility industry to help it innovate and grow “in same way these techniques have benefited the technology sector for decades”.

Its membership already includes more than 80 percent of the world’s automakers by volume, it claims, and MOBI has initiated several working groups and committees to achieve its purpose.

These include:

The Vehicle Digital Identity and History working group has launched to work on future standards for a digital vehicle identity on the blockchain.

Many automakers have already worked on vehicle ‘digital birth certificates’, passwords, and other related proofs-of-concept using blockchain. Creating standards will ensure interoperability and secure, reliable access to vehicle history and usage data, says MOBI.

Meanwhile, the VID working group will create a foundation for all future blockchain use cases in the sector, including usage-based services such as insurance, taxes, car-sharing, and more. It will also be foundational in allowing consumers and other to maintain control over their data, says MOBI.

The core team of this working group comprises members from Renault and Ford, as well as BMW, Bosch, IBM, and Accenture, among others. Sebastien Henot, manager of Business Innovation at the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance Innovation Lab (Silicon Valley), and Alan Gordon, technical leader of Software and Computing Research at Ford, are leading the initiative as working group chairperson and vice chairperson, respectively.

Meanwhile, MOBI’s Usage-Based Insurance working group has been launched to establish insurance standards for connected cars, autonomous vehicles, and other IoT devices.

MOBI believes that self-certifying technical systems will become the trusted backbone of mobility solutions and accident settlements in the era of self-driving vehicles – analogous to the growing importance of personal fitness devices in human life insurance, for example. Aioi USA’s Michael Fischer and Achmea’s Jeroen Bartelse will serve as group chair and vice chair, respectively.

MOBI has also formed an Economic and Business Model committee to explore how blockchain, distributed ledger, and related technologies, create new models for the mobility services industry. MOBI chief Ballinger is chairing that.

And the work doesn’t end there, says the organisation. The new Intellectual Property, Licensing, and Rights committee is evaluating and establishing ways in which the community can handle these issues, whether they relate to code, written works, or data. David Luce from MOBI and Michael Fischer from Aioi USA will serve as chair and vice chair, respectively.

And last but not least, the Tools and Methods committee is working to define and provide procedures and infrastructures for the MOBI community.

Plus: Outlier’s predictions for future mobility

In related news earlier this week, MOBI member Outlier Ventures has published an analysis of, and predictions for, a future mobility sector, in which people and goods can move freely and easily.

Predictions for the sector include an expected CAGR of over 91 percent from $0.5billion today to $2.3 trillion in 2030, with the huge growth coming from the popularity of vehicles with built-in Internet of Things sensors and data-driven business models.

A number of trends are expected to reshape the industry over the coming years, said Outlier. These include: Electrification of vehicle motors; developments in automation software; the successful applications of LiDAR in automated cars; and the growth of access-based, rather than ownership-focused, business models, such as car-sharing, ride-sharing, and car-pooling.

Much of this convergence will be enabled by blockchain, said Outlier.

Internet of Business says

When Mark Carney laid into cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies earlier this year, he suggested that they are failing as money and as trusted systems, respectively. Part of his argument was that there is no critical mass of support, and the technologies are fragmented and largely self-serving – even facilitating criminal activities.

However, alliances such as MOBI demonstrate that those accusations were inaccurate and short lived, as a range of organisations and solutions coalesce around shared objectives to forge industry-wide standards, decentralise data, take back ownership and control from data landlords, and consign monolithic systems to the landfill of history.

In theory, at least, given that many of the organisations onboard are themselves monolithic data landlords, while others have technologies to sell to them, or a portfolio of investment interests attached. Plus, the system is – at present, at least – largely rooted in a network of shared US and European interests, rather than being a true a global movement.

Despite the tech cartel that, some might argue, risks emerging from such a forward-looking, standard-setting consortium, an interesting future opens up – one in which cryptocurrencies and other forms of decentralised payment have a much larger role to play in transactions, and in transaction systems.

Fast forward a decade or two, and its conceivable that smart cities, connected transport networks, and friction-free commerce may increasingly rely on micropayment transactions that are location- , identity, and intent-based.

In that environment, trust will be vital, not technology complexity and slowness; and this is the key challenge, not only for consortia like MOBI, but also for blockchain itself, which some believe needs to evolve beyond its slow, blocky beginnings.

In short, it needs to lose the block and chain, as some have observed.

The presence of Fetch and the IOTA Foundation in this industry-wide initiative suggests some promising directional thinking – which supports the notion of the emergence of a new micropayment-based economy.

Nonetheless, this is a promising and exciting venture, especially given the big names onboard; expect a range of further announcements in the months ahead.