As you might imagine, tracking vehicle components and corresponding data from multiple n-tier suppliers and manufacturers is often a complex matter. Certain expensive parts, transported by road, are sensitive to shock and other environmental factors and therefore require careful handling.
That is why the BMW Group was using standard tracking devices to track container conditions. However, the data from these devices are still controlled by a single party. They require manual reconciliation and alignment between all involved parties. As a result, there were fewer automation possibilities for tracking the components.
The carmaker needed increased transparency and security as well as a single version of truth in combination with distributed ledger technology (DLT). This, along with general discussions about the adoption of blockchain technology, led the carmaker to collaborate with RIDDLE&CODE, the leading European provider of blockchain interface solutions.
To fully embrace supply chain transparency and beyond RIDDLE&CODE developed blockchain-enabled hardware devices that assign a unique identity to vehicle containers to track and collect individual sensor data.
Their primary purpose was to measure and contain a range of sensor data and execute the transaction if the agreed parameters were met or exceeded. In contrast to standard devices, RIDDLE&CODE's tracking devices use crypto-chips to assign a blockchain attested identity to the devices. The use of cryptographic keys (private keys, public keys) to sign transactions and send them to the blockchain renders the information from the device immutable and, therefore, creates a level of trust in a trustless environment. In other words, the data registered and attested data from the device was a neutral blockchain-based entry indisputable by all involved parties.
The devices, mounted underneath transport containers, feature LoRaWAN connectivity to register and exchange data with the underlying blockchain network.
The following data were secured and tracked:
- Shock (accelerometer) - Any shock over 4g is recorded and triggers an event on the blockchain. High acceleration from 16 to 100g is detected and measured accordingly.
- Time (timestamp)
- Location - Records if a vehicle component has come from location A (for example, a factory) or location B (BMW).
- Light - Records tampering with the device.
- Temperature - Anything below -10 and above 40 degrees Celsius should be recorded and trigger an event.
- Humidity - Added to the temperature message.
- Battery charging level (percentage)
Verified data streams were handed over to a LoRaWAN gateway to create an indisputable data basis.
Track&trace devices were used for the trial. Reading of sensor data, connectivity and offloading to LoRaWAN gateways, transaction execution during the shock events, as well as environmental robustness performed as intended.
During the fall of 2021, in a 52-day period, devices registered 130 shock events exceeding the defined threshold.
Securing sensor data via RIDDLE&CODE's devices allowed the BMW Group to have full transparency about the quality and location of the components once they arrived at the company's facilities.
Blockchain-notarised data sets delivered data from a trusted device source, which neither partner could fake or alter. This introduced a high level of trust in the network.
The BMW Group decided to expand the initial use case and perform additional analysis of the overall logistics processes, such as turnaround time, warehouse efficiency, and containers' position. Besides quality control and enhanced, transparent processes, the tech stack would also let the company introduce automated, smart contract-based settlements with other supply chain partners based on the signed/attested data, thereby opening the door to new business models.
However, despite the project's initial success, the carmaker and RIDDLE&CODE decided to pause driving such a set-up due to the unclear regulatory environment. For now, there are little to no standards in the industry regarding the use of blockchain and smart contracts, with uncertainty over which blockchain framework will be used and how. It is essential to have stable legal frameworks to move the industry forward and enable traceable and transparent supply chains.
Therefore, both companies agreed to work together on establishing such standards and monitoring the evolution of the regulatory ecosystem, along with partners from industry associations such as Catena-X, INATBA and others.