DLTs, IoT and AI are converging to reshape transport
By Vangelis Andrikopolous
The transport industry has a burning platform
The transportation and logistics industries are having an existential crisis. Electric vehicles and lithium battery costs are falling quickly; autonomy software is improving at a rapid pace and ride-sharing platforms are leading customers to question the need to own cars. These three trends: electrification, autonomy, and access-over-ownership are reshaping every part of the industry and moving the sector into a new era of integrated mobility. This is the concept of a seamless transit experience incorporating multimodal, public and private transport. As the transport value chain expands to become the mobility value ecosystem, the old way of doing business just doesn’t cut the mustard.
Previously airlines only competed with airlines; car makers with car makers; and Apple just made mobile phones and laptops. Electric vehicles, automation technologies, and alternative mobility solutions like ride-hailing are forcing automotive manufacturers (OEMs) and transportation providers to rethink their business models. After being in stasis for decades, the market is now in flux as players jockey for position as a new and integrated mobility value ecosystem emerges, bringing all modes of public, private and commercial transport together. This flux is forcing collaboration and partnerships that would have been unimaginable five years ago.
The era of open integrated mobility
A new era of what we are calling ‘Open Integrated Mobility’ is upon us: movement is decentralized, multimodal, automated, it aspires to be increasingly sustainable. It goes beyond the traditional automotive industry and brings together bikes, trains, planes, ships and newer transport types like drones and innovations like Hyperloop. As the personal transportation market moves toward access rather than ownership, the same assets can be used for commercial and consumer purposes, blurring the lines between logistics, public transit, and private transport. Uber has already experimented with grocery deliveries; Mobike and Ofo dominate bike-sharing in China; Citymapper, a UK mapping startup, is running a bus service in London. Traditional market boundaries have blurred. There are no separate consumer, public or logistics markets. There is a single integrated mobility market; yet no single company can deliver transport services without widespread collaboration and interoperability between and across all players.
Data is the core asset and web 3.0 sets it free
Data created and captured by software (operating system on autonomous vehicles, in-transit applications for entertainment, multimodal mobility consumer applications) and the internet of things (sensors such as gyroscopes, LIDARs, cameras, radars, accelerometers, proximity sensors) becomes the most important resource as it enables automation and connectivity. An example is the FOAM Proof of Location protocol that can offer secure location services independent of external centralized sources such as GPS through time synchronization. Once data is captured it then gets authenticated, validated and secured using decentralized infrastructure like distributed ledgers and self-sovereign identity (e.g. Sovrin). The data transport layer defines how data moves across databases, networks, and systems and is important for the facilitation of data and value interoperability between participants. Other examples are startups like Haja networks, which is building a trustless peer-to-peer database to support a global data layer.
Marketplaces for artificial intelligence, personal, IoT data and digital assets allow participants to trade, exchange and monetize their data in order to be processed, analyzed and provide automation via smart contracts and machine learning. Ocean protocol enables such an ecosystem for sharing data and associated services and Fetch.AI facilitates autonomous economic agents that can exchange data and insights for value of one kind or another. More data equals a more asymmetric advantage for the beholder. Are incumbents with vast amounts of data expected to hold on to them or open up and share? Indeed large incumbents such as Waymo, Apple, Amazon are unlikely to be willing to open up and share their data. New participants though, will benefit and gain a competitive advantage from data exchange and value interoperability to an extent where big players might be forced to follow suit.
The Convergence Mobility ecosystem is increasingly being characterized by the removal of data silos as well as the advent of data marketplaces, self-sovereign ID and new economic value being unlocked.
- Removal of silos. DLTs by their very nature facilitate value interoperability which points to a shared and integrated mobility ecosystem characterized by widespread collaboration where resources, value, and data can be exchanged seamlessly & invisibly.
- Data marketplaces. Through a combination of IoT, AI, and tokenization we will see: end-users, OEMs, auto manufacturers and fleet operators incentivized to open up, share and exchange data as digitized assets through data marketplaces.
- Self-sovereign sign-in. Users and vehicles individually and in concert, own and manage self-sovereign identity to unlock a global user account (“single sign in”) that is not centrally controlled by any one corporation allowing them to access a distributed ecosystem of mobility assets and services.
- New economic value unlocked. Smart contracts, distributed computation facilitate: automation, security and unlocks new business models. Vehicles increasingly become computers on wheels, powered by software, with their own autonomous economic agency and new in-transit user interfaces and experiences.
Without fundamentally rethinking our approach to infrastructure for this emergent integrated mobility landscape, we will face a tragedy of the commons. Without shared infrastructure and a collaborative approach, siloed operating systems and data will limit the transformational impact of multimodal mobility. The consumer will have to navigate a range of different systems as they move from a car to a bike to a plane to a train. Businesses will not be able to fully utilise their assets. Smart cities will remain only a dream. However for all parties to rely upon any one entity to control this system would be to submit to a monopoly that would gain from increasing data and intelligence advantages, becoming almost impossible to remove. That isn’t likely to happen.
We need a mobility ecosystem based on shared infrastructure in which resources, data, and value can be exchanged seamlessly. The Convergence ecosystem is a valuable framework for understanding how this decentralised, multimodal, automated, and sustainable infrastructure can and is be designed and built.
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