Excerpt from “Introducing the Trivergence: Transformation Driven by Blockchain, AI and the IoT.” Read on Cointelegraph Magazine

By Don Tapscott

“Over time, the Trivergence will usher in a next-generation internet where a distributed ledger records and secures this data and artificial intelligence analyzes it.”

“The Trivergence and the physical worldThanks to the Internet of Things, we have unprecedented access to new data streams that can help business leaders manage the world of physical assets, from auto parts in manufacturing supply chains to infrastructure assets like roadways, pipelines, bridges and buildings. The plethora of new sensing capabilities will unleash countless new real-time reporting opportunities. Scientists, for example, can use distributed sensor networks and the data these tools generate to revolutionize our ability to model the world and all its systems, giving us new insights into social and natural phenomena and the ability to forecast trends like climate change with greater accuracy. Increasingly timely and granular feedback loops will also revolutionize transportation, infrastructure management and international trade. For example, distributed sensors can monitor everything from hospital equipment and international cargo shipments to faults in bridges and buildings, sniff out pesticides and pathogens in food, or even “recognize” the person using them and adapt accordingly.

Pervasive computing is already powering quantum leaps in the amount of data available to public and private sector decision-makers. However, the copious amount of new data also raises new questions. For example, how will these distributed devices and assets interoperate? Where should the data reside? And, how can organizations securely access, analyze and share massive datasets? Many see the convergence of blockchain, AI and IoT as providing practical solutions for these challenges.

Autonomous vehicles are a case in point of Trivergence. The car is a thing, it’s smart and can learn and, when combined with blockchain, enables a new kind of transportation economy. The nature of blockchain makes it both easy and cost-efficient to create networks that do not require a central point of control, such as a vehicle-to-vehicle information grid.

For example, the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) is a nonprofit alliance of public and private organizations working to make transportation more efficient, affordable, greener, safer and less congested using blockchain, IoT, AI and other related technologies. Backed by many of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers, infrastructure providers and tech companies, the consortium’s focus is simple blockchain-based standards to streamline mobility transactions by promoting secure protocols for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and payments. According to MOBI, these standards will permit any smart device — vehicles, road sensors, toll bridges or other pieces of mobility infrastructure — to have an identity, to communicate, and to participate autonomously in economic transactions as an independent agent.

Some of the earliest blockchain-based vehicle value transfer systems emerged to tackle issues associated with parking fees, toll road billing and other road-side services. In 2019, MOBI convened five major auto manufacturers including Renault, BMW, General Motors, Honda and Ford Motor Company to begin field tests for a blockchain-based vehicle identification system that will enable drivers to pay highway tolls and parking fees automatically.

The proposed system will assign digital IDs to individual vehicles and record details such as ownership information and service history on a blockchain. Data covering the lifetime of the vehicle will help to identify cars on the road, enabling their owners to purchase goods and services automatically without the specialized tags or transponders required in today’s electronic tollbooth systems.

MOBI and its partners are optimizing the blockchain-based system for connected electric vehicles. This way, transactions for tolls, car maintenance and even rest stop snacks can be recorded on the fly and then paid all at once when the vehicle is plugged into a charging station. In a recent analysis, Juergen Reers, Stephen Zoegall, and Pierre-Olivier Desmurs of Accenture predict that transactions like these will become a multi-trillion-dollar global ecosystem that enables new pay-as-you-go mobility services, with blockchain providing the infrastructure for data sharing and security across manufacturers, suppliers and other relevant parties.

Of course, autonomous vehicles and mobile transactions are just the beginning. With the Internet of Things, today’s dumb infrastructure is becoming increasingly intelligent, enabling managers to measure everything from water and natural gas flows to urban infrastructure, transportation networks and agricultural supply chains. Food retailers like Walmart, for example, are using sensors and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags attached to foodstuffs to track meat or other agricultural products from the farmer’s field to the supermarket’s shelf. Chronologically recording each step of a food item’s journey on a blockchain makes the complete history and current location of the food item along with its information (i.e., food processing methods, certifications, test data, storage temperatures, shipping details, expiration dates and, for some food products, soil quality and fertilizers) readily available in seconds.

Armed with this data, retailers can ensure the quality of supply, food inspectors can gather better data about potential health risks and consumers can make smarter purchasing decisions. Layering in artificial intelligence will yield ever more powerful possibilities to enhance food safety, productivity and innovation. Data gleaned from traceability systems, for example, could help supply chain participants streamline distribution, better manage inventory, reduce food waste and identify other efficiencies. In other words, everyone from retailers to producers to farmers could use the Trivergence as a platform for accelerating innovation in the global food system.

The Trivergence is making cities smarter, too. Skyscrapers laden with sensors and AI-enabled building automation solutions can regulate lighting and the indoor temperature according to external conditions. Additional sensors can curtail water flow as individual areas of the building approach predetermined limits. Smart traffic lights can reduce road congestion by adjusting the light cadence to real-time traffic conditions. Connected parking meters and EV charging docks can broadcast their availability to nearby drivers, while smart garbage receptacles notify waste management companies that they need emptying.

As the Trivergence intersects with the physical world, expect big economic opportunities. The deluge of data generated by transactions, medical and legal records, videos and social technologies — not to mention the sensors, cameras, bar codes and transmitters embedded in the world around us — has enormous economic potential, especially as advances in blockchain, computational power and AI help organizations transform this sea of data into new services, new innovations and new opportunities for significant operational efficiencies.”