Blockchain disruption in transport
The Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) is currently undertaking a project with Sheffield University, working with partners such as IBM and DOVU, to explore the value of blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLT) to the transport industry. Based on interviews, workshops and literature reviews, they have set out to discover the ways that blockchain could be used in transport and whether the industry should be taking note. In this article, TSC Senior Technologist Charles Carter gives Intelligent Transport a primer on the technology in the transport industry.
The first question anyone will ask when they see an article about blockchain is “what is it?” – quickly followed by an observation about bitcoin. It’s a valid question and one we need to start answering if we are to ascertain how this promising technology could shake up the transport industry to the same extent as the financial sector.
Blockchain does indeed have its history in cryptocurrencies, starting with Bitcoin in 2009, but the underlying technology can be applied to numerous different scenarios – including many in transport.
Blockchain is a database technology built on collaboration and sharing control over data amongst stakeholders. Fundamentally, it is a digital ledger, where data is added in sequential blocks, with each block marked with the identifier of the previous entry (creating a chain). The database in any blockchain system is then replicated and stored across multiple locations throughout either an open or stakeholder network. This is where the term ‘distributed ledger’ comes from.
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