Last year Vodafone unveiled its Digital Asset Broker (DAB) blockchain network that enables IoT devices embedded in cars or machines to make financial transactions. Last week Vodafone said it is rolling DAB into a new Economy of Things joint venture with Sumitomo Corporation, retaining an 80% stake, but is looking for other investors and collaborators.
“Sumitomo is the ideal partner to help drive the Economy of Things and associated new business opportunities for us, our customers, and partners,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business. “For example, a rental car could charge motorists on either a pay-as-you-drive or subscription basis; motorists of electric vehicles can receive real-time information on the availability of the nearest charging point and recharge effortlessly; and fleet management firms can automatically pay tolls.”
The mention of vehicle applications is because the automotive and transport sectors are the primary ones targeted for the rollout, initially in the UK and Germany. The rest of Europe and North America will follow. Unsurprisingly, there will be discussions with Sumitomo subsidiary SCSK about creating a footprint in Asia, including Japan. Sumitomo and Vodafone have a broader strategic alliance, first announced in 2020.
DAB’s first application trialed electric vehicles autonomously communicating with charging points via the platform, removing the hassle of the driver needing to install multiple apps.
A simple SIM card forms the core of the Vodafone solution when it’s embedded in a device. A small piece of software transforms it into a DAB SIM with the addition of a DAB passport. This ability to have a digital identity enables the SIM to interact with others, with the blockchain providing the transaction layer.
Vodafone and Sumitomo are not alone in eyeing the potential for the Economy of Things in the automotive sector. Bosch has been working with Fetch.ai for several years and, in February, backed a new foundation focused on industrial blockchain applications, with mobility as one of three target sectors. The emphasis is on using Fetch.ai to enable data to be used for machine learning / AI in a privacy preserving manner.
The MOBI consortium is dedicated to using blockchain for automotive and mobility applications, with several major car companies as members. Its working groups cover a range of applications, from vehicle identity to a mobility data marketplace. It has also developed its own Integrated Trust Network (ITN), a digital identity registry.