With the invention of bitcoin came a new, secure method of value transfer, via its underlying technology blockchain. Since bitcoin's inception ten years ago, a plethora of mainstream entities have investigated various ways to channel blockchain's potential. Automation giant Siemens is evaluating the technology for various enterprise use cases, including improving the carsharing market.
Siemens is following the trend of mainstream giants looking to incorporate blockchain. "We are in the space where we want to come up with industrial extensions of blockchain systems, [...] blockchain systems for enterprises," Siemens Corporate Technology head of cybersecurity and blockchain Andreas Kind said to me in an interview. Kind mentioned use cases pertaining to areas such as supply chain, mobility, manufacturing, etc.
When entities are interested in making the move toward blockchain, they generally undergo periods of testing and discovery before choosing the most effective and applicable use cases, Kind explained. "Siemens is exactly in this kind of phase," he added. The company just completed a period of exploration, Kind said, adding, "Now we're at the point where we're really zoomed into a set of use cases that are related to Siemens' business." Siemens is looking toward permissioned blockchain usage in particular, Kind noted.
Blockchain In The Mobility Arena
The cybersecurity and blockchain head mentioned the area of mobility as one of Siemens' particular blockchain application focuses. Siemens has a separate branch devoted to the mobility sector. Siemens Mobility, a daughter company of the German-based Siemens AG, works to provide "transport solutions," relating to the movement of "people and goods" to various locations globally, according to its website.
Carsharing As An Option
Rather than dealing with some of the responsibilities associated with owning a car, such as parking, car payments and insurance, folks who live or work in larger urban areas may often rely on carsharing, Kind explained. Carsharing allows members of the service to use or rent a car for any period of time, even for as short as one hour, according to details on the Enterprise CarShare website. Zipcar is another example of a carsharing operation.
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There's a big transformation happening. So in the future, there will be many more opportunities around mobility services, rather than simply selling a car, and you see it already in the context of carsharing for instance. People want to go from A to B rather than having a car and moving because it's just much more conveneient sometimes than having your own car.
Carsharing does have its difficulties though, as Kind mentioned "the fueling card" in particular. Under a carsharing subscription, "you don't have to worry about paying for the parking, you don't have to worry about fueling the car, so everything is included," Kind said.
At times, however, customers might need to refill the vehicle with gas, Kind said. Locating a suitable gas station can be difficult as customers need to fill up their vehicles at specific gas stations that are in collaboration with the company the customer is carsharing through. When the customer finds a place to fill up, they then must use their fueling card with its associated personal identification number (PIN), Kind detailed.
"It's not only inconvenient for the drivers, it's inconvenient for the companies because fueling cards get stolen [and] they get sold on the internet," Kind noted as one example of fraudulent play. "That's an example where, in an industrial context, you need something, a technology, that brings together different participants that [don't] fully trust each other," he explained. "That's exactly where blockchain can add value."
Carsharing And Blockchain
Carsharing is one area that Siemens is looking into for blockchain incorporation, "where blockchain enables a much more frictionless way of transacting," Kind explained. "The transaction could be in car delivery, it could be [in] simple carsharing, like unlocking a car," he added. Kind also noted many interacting parties, such as managers, the "organization owning the cars," "garage providers," etc. "All this should be completely seamless in the way the transaction is happening, and blockchain is really the right technology here," Kind said.
At Bosch's 2019 Connected World conference, Siemens' Corporate Technology team detailed the concept of "blockchain-based smart parking" as one possibility of blockchain usage, a Siemens representative explained to me in an email.