Blockchain technology is highly secure, because data cannot be lost during interactions, and transparent, as anyone can read what is stored on the ledger. These traits make it well-suited to vehicle fleet management applications and a perfect partner for low power wireless access networks, says Aaron Wagener, COO, MXC Foundation.

A recent report by Stratistics MRC estimated the global IoT fleet management market to be worth $3.17 billion (€2 billion) in 2016, rising to $13.17 billion (€11 billion) by 2023. This is clearly one of the fastest-growing and most innovative technology market sectors globally. One of the latest and most innovative solutions to become available combines blockchain technology and low power wide area network (LPWAN) to facilitate a range of transport sector solutions, including cost effective vehicle fleet management.

The role of blockchain in vehicle fleet management

Few industries are experiencing as rapid a rate of change as the transport industry. Within a few years, we’re likely to see the first autonomous vehicle fleets and the widespread transition to electric vehicles. Both developments will introduce new complexities and possibilities for fleet operators.

Being able to examine, in fine detail, all data related to fleet management in ways that haven’t been possible until now, holds great promise. Blockchain technologies can be applied to existing fleet management scenarios and as well as future ones such as autonomous fleet management.

Driver Vehicle Condition Report (DVCR) is an example of how blockchain can be applied to managing a current fleet. The DVCR is completed by drivers before and after a trip. Supply chain expert Tom Kroswek has proposed this manual, paper-based process, which tracks the condition of transportation equipment for operations, safety and maintenance, is suited to a blockchain solution.

Automating these processes and incorporating them into a blockchain, would mean that all of the inspection and maintenance information could travel with the equipment throughout its lifecycle. Such a solution would allow for instant verification of inspections, maintenance performance records and other critical vehicle-related information.

Aaron Wagener

Blockchain technologies have the potential to shape fleet management as the Internet did in the 1990s. They could act as a backbone for a new fleet management ecosystem, supporting a new range of applications, many of which we can’t even envisage now. Like the internet, blockchain is a decentralised system, so the parallels are clear so it could have a big impact on the entire transport industry, beyond fleet management.

One possibility would be for blockchain to ensure that fleets of autonomous, electric vehicles could locate charging points that they have permission to use, and are billed for usage, with all data logged and recorded for analysis.

Powering the transport solutions of tomorrow

Although blockchain initiatives could facilitate a range of transport sector solutions – and more broadly, smart city solutions – projects tend not to be cost-effective, unless a network is in place that efficiently reduces the cost of IoT communications.

Wi-Fi isn’t always a good fit for IoT applications. For example, it is not suitable for hosting thousands of smart electric utility meters that monitor the usage of households, businesses, and other electricity-using entities in a city.

Transferring data over 4G is also highly restrictive as they are built to transmit large amounts of data, and so require a considerable amount of power. Also, during peak hours, 4G slows down when many people are trying to use it.

In contrast, a single LPWAN gateway uses very little power and LPWAN sensors use even less. It is possible for a single sensor to transmit for up to ten years without changing or charging the battery. LPWAN technologies also have long-distance capabilities. In Berlin, for instance, eight to ten LPWAN gateways – each with a range of 20 to 40 km – would be sufficient to pick up data from across the entire city.

Until now, LPWAN has had one technical shortcoming – it can be subject to data collision between networks, in some circumstances. To address that issue, the MXC Foundation developed the Machine eXchange Protocol (MXP) allowing data, authorisation, increased data transactions and idiosyncratic data flow within congested markets. The Foundation is a not for profit, based in Berlin. Using its cryptocurrency, Machine Exchange Coin (MXC), those using LPWAN technologies can trade LPWAN Gateway access or sensor data for MXC. This exchange is automated using smart contracts running on the MXP.

LPWAN in practice

LPWAN is well-suited as a critical infrastructure solution as it is extremely reliable, requires low maintenance and is exceptionally cost-effective. As a decentralised peer to peer network, it allows anyone to deploy market solutions in any type of environment.

The future is going to be a world of devices. It’s going to be a world of IoT. Get ready for LPWAN to lead the forefront and future of device data transactions.

The author of this blog is Aaron Wagener, COO, MXC Foundation

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