Blockchain tech shaping spatial information

November 18, 2016

The CRC for Spatial Information has compiled the best blockchain ideas from PhD students taking part in their 2016 “Solvathon”.

blockchain technology

Blockchain technology is the innovation behind Bitcoin. It has the potential to disrupt many industries by making processes more democratic, secure, transparent and efficient, and is currently approaching the peak of its hype cycle.

In late October, the CRC for Spatial Information (CRCSI) hosted a Student Day Solvathon, which focused on blockchains in spatial technology. Paul X. McCarthy from Online Gravity and Mark Staples from Data61 facilitated discussion and inspired 20 PhD students to think creatively about how blockchain technology could be applied.

The students divided into four teams with each team given the challenge to design an innovative use of blockchain tech in an application area relevant to current CRCSI research programs and initiatives. They created four initiatives:

Blockchain Technology in the Red Meat Supply Chain

This idea taps into the $15.8 billion red meat industry in Australia. With only 35% of cattle currently meeting the Meat Standard Australia (MSA) standard, the traceable open ledger capabilities of a block chain implementation could provide consumers, farmers and suppliers with greater confidence on the certification process. Increased uptake on MSA certification positively impacts the Australian economy as every 1% increase of certified meat equates to $40 million of additional returns.

Differing from traditional centralised database systems, the open ledger system requires the complete life history of a piece of meat to be well documented and made available across all players in the supply chain. Automated transaction verification techniques using location and timestamp from GNSS, RFID or DNA barcode information is added to the blockchain database when the cattle or meat is transported from one location to another. This not only optimises the supply chain, but also adds value to the quality of meat sold to the consumer. All this information will be able to be accessed from a smartphone, where a series of displays showing quality metrics of great interest to the consumer: an environmental score; a wellness score; a taste score; and other extra data that supports the purchase such as recommended or optimised recipe selections for that particular cut. 

Blockchain Technology in Health

Attacks on hospitals and civilian targets are clear violations of international law and an urgent problem in war zones that can be addressed by a new arrangement of existing technologies and organisations. A systematic solution to this could be one which provides transparent, decentralised, immutable, publicly available records of humanitarian activity used to visualise the location of verified humanitarian facilities.

The decentralised nature of a blockchain could allow untrusting involved parties to agree or trust the validity of information. Records can be immutable and transparent, so there would be traceability and increased accountability. If this platform was augmented with crowdsourced data, there could be continuous verification from multiple sources agreeing or converging on the location of a hospital. In essence, this would be decentralising and democratising humanitarian map data in conflict zones to support policy makers, governments, negotiators, experts in international relations and law (UN, WHO) and humanitarian organisations (MSF, Red Cross/Red Crescent).

Blockchain Technology in Land Administration and Cadastre

A new distributed database maintaining transactions is disruptive to many industries. It is producing a time stamped auditing information record. Land administration title offices maintain registries, ownerships, boundaries of private and public properties and keep records of changes to the properties as they happen.

These changes affect mortgages, restrictions, leases and right of ways. Blockchain technology has a huge potential in land administration contexts as governments privatise land registries, or want to publish trusted copy for all stakeholders without delays. Blockchain protocols in land administration offer complete historical transaction of all land title transactions, reducing dependency on central cadastral databases and can minimise the risk of fraud in data manipulation by a single user. In many parts of the world traditional registry and cadastral systems have not been sustainable in this advanced technological world. Urbanisation is at peak and land parcels are increasing day by day and discrepancies still exist whether it is in the developed or developing world.

Blockchain protocol in land registries could have many benefits like cost reduction, smart contracts, efficiency, transparency and long term investment. 

Blockchain Technology for Road Tolling

Alternate fuel sources will require changes in how road user charges are calculated and collected. Deriving charges that are consistent across carbon based fuels, electric vehicles, and other alternatives (such as hydrogen fuel cells) may prove difficult.

Alongside the issue of equitable pricing is the well-known problem that continued increases in the number of road users will lead to increased traffic congestion. However, the emergence of driverless vehicles presents a possible solution to both these problems that can be implemented using the executable contracts that blockchains offer.

Currencies based on blockchain technology allow value to be held in escrow until certain conditions are met. Once these requirements are satisfied the value is distributed to the opposing party (or parties). This occurs based on how the contract is programmed into the blockchain and as such there is no need for a “middleman” (like a bank) or the fee they charge for providing this service.

Our solution is a market based system where travel on a particular road at a particular time is booked in advance (based on the origin and destination of the user). Before departing on the journey the user has certainty as to how much the journey will cost as well as its duration (they will not be inconvenienced by excessive traffic congestion).

This means all space on the road, tracked through time, is allocated. A non-urgent journey may take a less direct route in order to avoid popular roads and reduce the amount paid in road user charges. Alternatively, an urgent journey can be made via the most direct route at a higher price. Because journeys may utilise roads owned by various parties, the planning system will program the appropriate distribution of value into the executable contract. When the conditions are met (i.e. the journey is completed) the contract is executed within the blockchain and the transfer of value from the user to the road owners represents an alternative to traditional road user charges.

Next Steps

The CRCSI is now developing a one to two-year strategy for blockchain research in spatial technology. Seizing the early initiative with blockchain technology will be important for the spatial sector to lead activities in this rapidly growing research and development area.

To find out more, visit the CRCSI website or contact Nathan Quadros at nquadros@crcsi.com.au

– Dr Nathan Quadros, CRCSI Education Manager

This article was first published by the CRCSI on 18 November 2016. Read the original article here.

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One thought on “Open your mind”

  1. Fabulous program – might be a completely socialist structural one that annoys the market fundamentalism of capitalists but nonetheless a vital assistance to stave off Australia’s decline into third world status as we shut down our industries because they are noncompetitive operating as first world businesses! Keep the good work!

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