Rabih Arzouni, chief technology officer for Transport, Fujitsu EMEIA writes that transport has historically been at the cutting edge of innovation, but is now lagging. What can we do?
The very symbol of the industrial revolution is the steam train – an innovation that paved the way for the modern world. The sector is unlike most others in the way it enables other businesses and industries to succeed. But while transport was a driver for the first two industrial revolutions, in the form of the steam train then the motor car, today’s exponential growth has left the sector lagging as we enter the fourth.
Our report found that only half the consumers we surveyed believe technology is significantly impacting the transport industry. Yet, change is what consumers are seeking, with more than a quarter (28%) pointing to transport as the sector they would most like to see transform.
Achieving transformation in such a foundational sector has the potential to yield benefits far and wide across our economy and society. Blockchain is just one example of how the transport sector can do this.
How blockchain can help
Often referred to as a ‘distributed ledger’ technology, many within the transport industry have been turning to blockchain to solve some of the sector’s biggest challenges.
The benefits of blockchain can be summed up in six key themes:
- Identity – a blockchain can be made public, or it can be restricted to a certain number of trusted individuals.
- Data and contents – as the ledger is sequential, it mitigates the risk of data being lost, altered or damaged. This means transport operators and their partners can always be sure of the accuracy of their data.
- Tracking – blockchain keeps a record of what has been added to the ledger, when, and by whom, meaning you can track changes to the record, giving you a full picture of events.
- Immutable – once something has been recorded on the blockchain, it can’t be altered. This is because each block in the chain contains all of the other blocks that have gone before it. If you changed one block, the whole chain would break. This means you can trust that your information will stay in its original state.
- Repeatable – blockchain can deal with a vast number of transactions, so it is suited to high-volume, repetitive tasks.
- Automated – blockchain can be integrated with an automated system, using smart contracts to authorise actions – such as confirming a payment – when the right requirements are met.
Building a smart city
The best example of blockchain can be found in smart cities.
Within this context, the transport sector has a pressing need for complete, secure, authentic and trustworthy information exchange. Fortunately, blockchain has the potential to make it easier for both private and public transport organisations to share accurate and up-to-date data – ensuring powerful co-creation across the industry.
For example, when used around data sharing and connected services in transport, a local authority can leverage information extracted from the transport sector to analyse peak travelling hours and routes in order to optimise their operations around logistics, supply chain and maintenance. This could include looking at additional emergency services staff on stand-by during busier hours.
What’s more, for end-users, updates on delays to travel and cancellations can be shared immediately and automatically by other customers on the ground. Also, Internet of Things’ processes for functions like identity recognition and automated payments will be quicker and more seamless than previously possible when supported by blockchain technology.
Transport’s biggest opportunity
Although the opportunities and benefits of blockchain are clear, there are still a number of drawbacks that organisations should bear in mind. For instance, stability is still a challenge. The feasibility of using blockchain on a large scale is probably still a few years away due to transport’s lower technical capacity.
However, even in the face of these hurdles, blockchain presents a massive opportunity for transport operators. By providing a single source of the truth, it can aid the generation and commercialisation of passenger data and, as importantly, help transport companies and others streamline operations and prepare for the future.
Where should transport operators start?
Supply chain partners, industry stakeholders and governing bodies need to see successful, small use cases before embarking on larger overhauls that directly affect passengers. Like all technology, blockchain is not infallible and the public transport sector must treat it with careful optimism before wide-scale investments are made.
Understanding how to scale the technology across the whole business, alongside technology partners, represents the greatest task for the sector and should be the top priority in 2019.
The author of this blog is Rabih Arzouni, chief technology officer for Transport, Fujitsu EMEIA