Blockchain & The Smart City

Chinese Auto Giant announces that it will use blockchain technology as part of its $30 billion smart cities initiative.

I had the pleasure to be invited to give a presentation during the first Amsterdam Tech City event in July 2016. This kick off meeting focused on Blockchain & the City. City officials gathered with external experts  in the City Hall of Amsterdam. For me, as a former member of the City Council, this was a familiar spot. In my presentation How the blockchain became mainstream I gave examples of the fast growth of serious interest for the blockchain among established financial institutions in the past 2 years.

This week IBM reported that banking and financial markets are adopting the blockchain technology “dramatically faster than initially expected”. In a study titled “Leading the Pack in Blockchain Banking: Trailblazers Set the Pace” IBM concludes that the blockchain will be used by 15% of big banks by 2017 and nearly two thirds of banks are expecting to be in production with full-scale, commercial blockchain projects by 2019.

wanxiang-battery-plant-onlyBut it is not only financial institutions that are interested in the blockchain. Chinese autogiant Wanxiang recently announced that it will use blockchain technology as part of its $30 billion smart cities initiative. According to Coindesk Wanxiang is emerging as one of the most aggressive enterprise firms in embracing blockchain technology.

Though no government is involved in the Wanxiang smart cities project, the concept is similar to other efforts globally. Earlier this year, Dubai’s government innovation arm revealed it is seeking to incorporate blockchain as part of its smart cities effort.

The announcement was done at the Wanxiang-sponsored Global Blockchain Summit. The announcement also included details about how Wanxiang might incorporate the technology into its main product lines. For example, Wanxiang is seeking to use blockchain as a way to cut the cost of its electric cars by using it to help confirm and enforce property rights.

Another example is using blockchain for battery tracking. Wanxiang intends to lend out the batteries to car buyers, while retaining ownership of the devices, as a way to reduce the upfront cost for purchasers. Wanxiang would register its batteries on a blockchain, and use a blockchain system to monitor their use. Today, Wanxiang monitors and collects data from its batteries, but the company believes blockchain might prove more effective. By ensuring data integrity better analysis might later be conducted.

During the first meeting of Tech & the City we didn’t speak about cars or batteries. What we did talk about, among others, was the disproportionate administrative burden for citizens when spending their personal patient budget. A group of city officials, all with  have a caregiving task for a close relative, raise this issue during the meeting. The city now decided to start a pilot with blockchain technology to see if the administrative burden can be lowered. I am honoured to be part of the initial team trying to see how we can start this pilot.