Doing the seemingly impossible, thanks to blockchain

5 min reading time

How do you successfully run a blockchain with multiple businesses or government bodies? Which applications have potential? What could blockchain mean for the sharing economy, device autonomy and the ‘autonomy of things’, for example? In the Techruption programme, KPN and TNO are jointly developing a series of practical cases, together with interested consortium partners.

“Techruption is a Brightlands Smart Services Campus programme,” explains Douwe van de Ruit of KPN. “We are using it to investigate the opportunities for blockchain application. One exciting possibility would be to give a boost to fast, innovative and creative start-ups in the short term. In the longer term, it will be about contributing to the sharing economy, among other things, and it will open up new opportunities in multi-stakeholder scenarios for organizations.” Oskar van Deventer of TNO adds, “We are starting a consortium blockchain in this programme in order to learn what added value it has, what is needed to keep a blockchain of that kind going and to run Techruption real-life cases on that basis.”

Blockchain and the sharing economy

“The sharing economy is an evolutionary development in which parties do business with each other more directly, without intermediaries,” explains Van de Ruit. “If I give someone 10 bitcoins, the transaction is reliable because there are several digital witnesses. Blockchain has everything that is needed to support the process effectively. You could also incorporate that principle in the app, for borrowing things from people around you. If I lend my drill to a neighbour who lives ten doors away, I have to be able to rely on getting it back and that a certain rating for that neighbour is available. If you base the app on blockchain, then everyone is a witness to every transaction.”

“We are starting a consortium blockchain in this programme in order to learn what added value it has, and what is needed to keep a blockchain of that kind going”

Blockchain and the internet of things

Another example where the new way of thinking could be of value is in the provision of a service. “It won’t be long before we have millions of sensors all over the country - the internet of things. Most sensors contain a battery. Would it not be useful if a device itself gave an indication that the battery is almost empty? And if it then published a micro task on a platform that people could subscribe to. Someone replaces the battery, the sensor confirms that it has been done, and a wallet linked to blockchain - entirely transparently - issues payment on the spot. That is how you connect peer to peer to the internet of things, and you can dispense with high call-out changes.”

Blockchain and the device economy

“If you enrich the technology of a device, with an NFC SIM and a blockchain wallet for example, then it will immediately be able to participate in the economy,” continues Van de Ruit. “What you are then talking about is increasing device autonomy. So a sensor in a washing machine, for example, detects that there is no more detergent or that a component is about to stop working, and the machine itself orders more detergent or a new component. Talking things, smart things - everything seems to be smart nowadays. More and more, we are regarding devices almost as people. I refer to the tendency to bring non-living things to life using technology as the autonomy of things.”

“In the context of the internet of things, blockchain can be used for guaranteeing the integrity of data for example, so that it is indisputably laid down and can be verified by multiple parties”

Sensor data

Van de Ruit says, “In the context of the internet of things, blockchain can be used for guaranteeing the integrity of data for example, so that it is indisputably laid down and can be verified by multiple parties. Also, a sensor with a blockchain wallet could be able to carry out peer-to-peer transactions itself, which can be witnessed by multiple parties without the need to involve a trusted third party. The device autonomy will then increase as soon as technologies like blockchain, machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence are deployed. With blockchain, you can then let sensors take part in economic activity - an exceptional feature of this is that transactions can be programmed subject to certain conditions under which they have to be carried out. This is set down in so-called smart contracts that form part of the blockchain, which makes them indisputable and unalterable.”

Connecting parties

“By developing ideas we jointly arrive at practical cases, we learn from blockchain and we help Dutch industry to innovate,” says Van Deventer. “Techruption covers everything, from debt counselling and personal identification to the transfer of pensions. We all sit down together and explore the possibilities. Sometimes a particular subject may be dropped altogether, and sometimes it leads to a proof of concept and a pilot project. TNO’s role consists of bringing parties together, creating a shared knowledge base, and providing its expertise on specific topics relevant to that use case. We are working together with Techruption companies on a variety of technical issues, but also on issues related to governance, business models or legal challenges. KPN has some valuable assets - a nationwide mobile network, the sim card, the LoRa network (technology that is able to exchange small quantities of information between objects and systems consuming using ultra-low levels of power, ed.), hosting, cloud, blockchain, and so on. Creatively combining these and other ingredients produces practical cases for existing enterprises and for those just starting out.”

“What I really like about all the excitement around blockchain is that there are suddenly large numbers of people again who are daring to think the seemingly impossible”

Daring to dream again

“What I really like about all the excitement around blockchain is that there are suddenly large numbers of people again who are daring to think the seemingly impossible. Often it is not even about blockchain, but it’s the excitement that is primarily a catalyst for people to dare to dream again,” concludes Van Deventer, who enjoys dreaming about opportunities but as an expert also has both feet firmly on the ground. “I would be happy to explain more about blockchain to businesses or government bodies that are keen to learn more about it, or who would like to join Techruption.”

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TNO & BLOCKCHAINS

Want to know more about how TNO works on the development of Blockchain Technology?

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