Accelerating Technology Disruption in the Automotive Market

The increasing digitization around Covid-19 has demonstrated the importance of technology disruption in the automotive industry around two megatrends: integrated supply chain ecosystems and more open infrastructures for software-defined vehicle platforms.

“Accelerating Technology Disruption in the Automotive Market”. Panel discussion held by EBCvirtual 2021.

Robin Pilling, Munich
May 28, 2021

  • Integrated supply chain ecosystems
  • More open infrastructures for software-defined vehicle platforms
  • On-demand and personalised services that will include autonomous, shared and connected cars
  • Blockchain-for-enterprise solutions need to get out of the ‘geek bubble’ and focus on use cases prominent public blockchains

While most automotive companies are still finding their way back to a Post-Covid-19 ‘New Normal’, the ongoing crisis has unveiled that the automotive industry of the future will be starkly different from the one we see today; it will need to be more integrated while offering on-demand and personalised services that will include autonomous, shared and connected cars.

On April 15, the European Blockchain Convention (EBC) brought together an expert panel on ‘Accelerating technology disruption in the automotive industry’ including Odile Panciatici (Vice President of Blockchain, Group Renault), Pramita Mitra (Research Supervisor Blockchain & IoT, Ford Motor Company) and Alba Vergara (IT Blockchain Specialist, SEAT). The panel was moderated by Robin Pilling, Technical Lead at the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) and former Head of Product at the Daimler Mobility Blockchain Factory.

As blockchain and related technologies have the potential to play a major role in underpinning the industry transformation that is coming, the panel invited the experts to discuss how blockchain can help revolutionise products, services and processes across the entire automotive value chain.

What is Renault Blockchain team currently working on?

Before leading the Blockchain Division at Group Renault, Odile Panciatici led several vehicle projects and was responsible for customer satisfaction strategies. Odile mentioned that Renault started to explore blockchain projects already in 2015, but wasn’t able to define a business-proven blockchain use case until 2018 mainly due to the fact that early projects were limited to single, siloed business functions.

Odile called this the dilemma of blockchain projects trying to find value in optimizing existing processes, a field where blockchain hardly beats existing technologies. Odile concluded that blockchain projects should rather focus on digital transformations of global processes and provide value to business problems of an entire ecosystem of industry players.

It took Renault until this year to team-up with a consortium of automotive companies, and bring the first automotive cross-industry blockchain use case, called XCEED, to production. XCEED is a blockchain solution for the European automotive industry to certify the compliance of vehicle’s components from design to production responding to new market surveillance regulations which came into force in September 2020.

From the top left:  Alba Vergara,  Pramita Mitra, Odile Panciatici and Robin Pilling

How is it to adopt blockchain technology at SEAT?

Alba Vergara, IT Blockchain Specialist at SEAT, shares similar experience when adopting blockchain technology in the automotive industry. As part of the Blockchain team, Alba helps business units to better understand the technology and advise them on blockchain for business use cases. 

Alba mentioned that so far there are many fields of applications for blockchain in the industry, however, proven use cases that support business bottom line are missing. To prove the value of the technology, SEAT mainly focuses on topics of integrated supply chains and GDPR related issues within the wider Volkswagen group.

What is the challenge of implementing blockchain technology at Ford Motor?

In her function as Research Supervisor at the Ford Motor Company Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan, Pramita Mitra knows the challenge of coming up with blockchain technology to support business bottom-line. Her research focuses on applications of IoT and Blockchain technologies in the automotive manufacturing and supply chain space.

Pramita mentions, Ford considers itself still in the research phase, and is working on a number of blockchain pilots in the space of sustainability and mobility. As sustainability is important to Ford’s corporate strategy, the blockchain team is committed to jointly develop the ‘Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network’ (RSBN), a blockchain network committed to strengthening human rights and environmental protection in mineral supply chains, together with a consortium of other automotive stakeholders. In a first step, the RSBN focuses on a digital supply chain for cobalt tracking from mines to EV batteries.

To overcome the current obstacles in blockchain technology for the automotive industry, the panelists mutually agree that to prove immediate business value, blockchain-for-enterprise solutions need to get out of the ‘geek bubble’ and focus on use cases that help moving towards industry-wide solutions for digital ecosystems. It won’t be about the discussion of the technology itself, but more the development of meaningful business cases for pilot implementations that will help accurately quantify the impact of the technology to support business bottom line.

Without this business value development exercise, it is likely that blockchain-for-enterprise solutions will continue to struggle to move pilots to production. One potential way forward would be to figure out how to utilize decentralized identity standards to successfully marry IoT with blockchain in fields of both vehicle defined software and smart factory environments.

EBC’s 5th edition panel discussion articulated by Robin Pilling, Technical Lead, Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI); Odile Panciatici, Blockchain Program VP, Groupe Renault; Pramita Mitra, IoT & Blockchain Research Supervisor at Ford Motors and Alba Vergara, IT Blockchain Specialist at SEAT.

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