In this article

  • Data is the new oil, and enterprise-level blockchain solutions living at the Intelligent Edge have the power to unlock its secrets
  • In an effort to expand blockchain beyond cryptocurrency, HPE has developed a prototype of a blockchain solution that is used to monetize data collected in a car when driving
Transformation Consultant Christian Reichenbach explores how blockchain can turn vehicle data into new opportunities for car makers, retailers, insurance companies, and road authorities

About 150 miles northeast of HPE’s Palo Alto offices, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, lies tiny Coloma, California -- the epicenter of the 19th century gold rush.

Hundreds of thousands of prospectors converged on Sutter’s Mill and other locales in northern California, desperately seeking the Mother Lode that would make them rich.

Some found it, most didn’t. Yet California – and the US – were unalterably changed in the process.

Today, the best place to mine for gold isn’t beneath the ground. It’s within what is becoming the modern world’s most treasured form of currency … data.

In HPE’s realm, today’s gold mine exists within the Intelligent Edge, that magical place – outside the conventional data center – where data is generated and can be instantly analyzed. Using intelligent edge technology can help maximize a business’s efficiency and fill its coffers with data-derived gold that third parties can use for customer targeting, driver assistance messages and other forms of mobility services.

You can also see data’s dollars-and-cents potential in blockchain technology, which can provide a secure method for sharing and paying for a vehicle’s sensor data. For example: vehicle data from rain sensors, shock absorbers, brakes or fuel tanks, in combination with navigation and GPS data, can be of great value for a range of commercial and public entities – including retailers, insurance companies, road authorities and of course the car makers. However, there is currently a lack of clear data-authority, platforms for offering and selling data and interoperable reward-systems which inhibit mass adoption.

And an important facet of this approach is that drivers themselves can grab a link on the data value chain. As blockchain and similar technologies, and their acceptance, continue to grow, drivers or car owners should be able to exert control over who gets access to their data – and at what price.

This is why we’ve partnered with blockchain-backed Streamr. Their high-performance analytics engine aggregates, filters, and combines raw data with additional data to extract value. This data can then be sent to their Marketplace which provides a single interface for real-time data delivery and payment, bringing together buyers and sellers. Using smart contracts and cryptocurrencies like Streamr’s DATA coin, a consumer can earn money or other rewards simply by driving. 

We have currently implemented a prototype of the blockchain solution that proves this technical feasibility, by re-equipping a standard Audi Q2 model. The choice of the car was random, but the experiment was beyond successful: The prototype is based on an Ethereum private blockchain, hosted on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud and HPE’s Edgeline Gateways. It captures car data – in this case, from rain sensors – directly from the vehicle. It can then be shared with (or sold to) entities hungry for that information.

How this works is that we are collecting information in real-time from the communications “bus” in the car, where hundreds of data points arrive from sensors within the car. Then this data, from fuel consumption and location, to acceleration and gearing, is sent straight to Streamr’s Marketplace where it can be bought by individuals, organisations or machines.

While cyber threats are always a concern when data is involved, blockchain is decentralized and offers greater levels of control, ecosystem-openness, and security. Thus, blockchain would eliminate the need for a centralized neutral platform to capture and host vehicle sensor data for commercial and public entities.

Just imagine the endless possibilities that will emerge from new blockchain-as-a-service use cases. A platform could notify an oil company when a car’s fuel tank is getting low, perhaps prompting a discount gasoline coupon to be sent to the driver’s mobile device. Or, by coupling shock absorber data with GPS positioning, it could inform a state road department of critical pothole problems that need to be rectified before an accident occurs.

Other industries ripe for blockchain-enabled data monetization are financial services, manufacturing and healthcare. And dozens more.

Advanced technologies offer an opportunity to maximize the value of data. Organizations are sitting on a veritable goldmine of information. It’s time to start digging.