Speaking at the Energy Conferences Network/Energistics co-hosted online Summer Digitalization Summit, self-confessed ‘digital rebel’ Harald Wesenberg from Equinor’s Research Center in Trondheim presented on the role of blockchain in the Industrial Internet of Things and how to ‘bridge blockchain to the physical world’. Wesenberg’s presentation was billed as an exposition of Equinor’s trials of the use of ‘sensors and IIoT to bridge between the virtual world of blockchains and the physical world of the oil and gas industry.
Blockchains can be public (à la bitcoin), permissioned or private. Transaction visibility differs as does performance. Public chains are slower than permissioned and private. On the issue of tying blockchain to objects in the real world, Wesenberg offered that a bicycle’s ownership can be determined by a blockchain record, but this does not identify the rider.
Since the difficulty of relating a blockchain token to a real world object was core to our 2018 ‘blockchain is bullshit’ editorial, we pinged Wesenberg on LinkedIn to ask for more details on relating tokens to things. It turns out that Wesenberg’s reading of the situation is quite close to ours. He explained, ‘I’m not sure what you mean. One of my key points in the presentation was intended to be the opposite, i.e. that for some trust problems (and especially trust problems related to real world events captured with IoT) is that you don’t need a token model, just an immutable distributed ledger. There are other trust mechanisms at play also’.
Wesenberg’s presentation included a link to the Blockchain for Energy home page. Here a ‘successful’ pilot on water haulage is reported using ‘Data Gumbo’s GumboNet’ blockchain. The question now arises as to what is the functional difference between a ‘private’ commercial ‘blockchain’ network and a conventional B2B portal of which there are many.
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