Blockchain briefing

ENERGY BLOCKCHAINS

Blockchain-backed ElectraFlex project unveiled in Spain

Spain’s Electra Caldense Energia, Electra Caldense Distribucio, Bamboo Energy and Energy Web have partnered to launch ElectraFlex, a project using blockchain to bring flexibility to Catalonia’s distributed grid. ElectraFlex, thought to be the first decentralised flexibility platform developed for a distribution system operator, will use EW-DOS blockchain to enable grid operator Electra Caldense to maximise grid-connected assets, including solar plants, battery storage and, in a second phase, EVs. The project is due to be completed by the end of July.

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Energy Web Decentralised Operating System (EW-DOS) is an open-source infrastructure, powered by nodes from the Energy Web ecosystem, consisting of three layers. The first layer, Trust, is a public, proof-of-authority Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) based on the AuRA consensus protocol. It is secured by validator nodes that compile validated transactions into blocks and publish them on the chain. Nodes are hosted by participating organisations such as utilities and grid operators.

Other projects utilising EW-DOS use decentralised identifiers (DIDs) to authenticate and facilitate interactions on the blockchain. ElectraFlex will adopt this method, providing connected assets and market participants with DIDs so they can self-register and offer services.

The ‘Utility’ layer offers an avenue for developers to build tools for decentralised infrastructures with familiar UX, while the ‘Toolkits’ layer provides blueprints for constructing decentralised applications with functionalities common across various markets. EWF’s application registry, for example, affords participants a standardised architecture for establishing bespoke registries that set the rules for a certain market through the application of smart contracts.

Operating validator or utility nodes requires eligibility proof, however, EW-DOS’ tools including DIDs, smart contracts and app building are available for public use following payment via Energy Web Token (EWT).

SUPPLY CHAIN

Carrefour branches to trace food with IBM blockchain

Majid Al Futtaim, the company overseeing Carrefour branches in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, will begin using IBM Food Trust to track food at Carrefour stores using blockchain. The programme will first focus on Carrefour’s fresh chicken products and the company’s microgreens, which are harvested in-store. Customers will be able to obtain product information by scanning a product’s QR code using their smartphone. Changing consumer demands and the Covid-19 outbreak have led to a need for greater trust in food supply chains, claimed Majid Al Futtaim CEO Hani Weiss.

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IBM Food Trust is a cloud-based blockchain enabling permissioned participants such as growers, distributors and retailers to share food data. Trust Anchors, leading network members, are supplied with a full copy of the encrypted ledger providing oversight on blockchain hashes to verify that data has not been manipulated.

Supply chain processes have previously relied on paper or disconnected systems while IBM’s uses smart contracts to execute procedures. This enables companies to automatically monitor different factors such as expiration dates and storage conditions with the use of sensors to construct a data-driven ecosystem for product quality.

Walmart has already installed IBM’s blockchain solution and, more recently, wrote a letter to its suppliers suggesting they also make use of the platform. Using the technology, Walmart was able to reduce the tracing time for its mangoes from seven days to 2.2 seconds.

Majid Al Futtaim’s application of blockchain for chicken products coincides with a significant salmonella outbreak in the UK, connected to chicken, demonstrating a requirement for effective tracing solutions.

FINANCE

  • JPMorgan Chase trials blockchain payments via satellites
  • Central banks of UAE, China join regional payments project
  • SBI signs up to JPMorgan’s blockchain payments network

INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS

Geely, Concordium to develop automotive blockchain applications

Geely and Concordium have created a joint venture to develop blockchain solutions for the automotive sector and other industries. The company will be 80% owned by Geely, while another Geely company, Genius & Guru, will partner with the JV in China. The project aims to build an ecosystem for the development of blockchain applications, said Zhejiang Geely CEO Daniel Donghui. Concordium’s blockchain users will all have an identity that will remain private except when requested by government.

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Concordium’s blockchain is designed to comply with local regulations when integrated with business systems through an identify layer. All blockchain participants are anonymised on the network, however, identities can be revealed if required by a government body via anonymity revokers approved by Concordium and identity providers, who hold an off-chain record of users.

In an automotive use case, vehicles and refueling stations can all be legally tied to a user of the blockchain. By verifying them through the Concordium blockchain, participants are not required to expose personal information, such as credit card details, as contractual obligations or transactions are carried out autonomously. If suspicious activity is detected, the identity layer can be utilised to determine the responsible parties.

Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) has traditionally been used as a foundation for developing the kinds of smart contracts used in this process, but it faces efficiency issues. Concordium employs WebAssembly (Wasm) as an alternative as it compiles multiple smart contract languages and is now considered a standard among certain web browsers including Google and Mozilla.

Concordium employs a sharding mechanism at the finality layer to address scalability limitations. Sharding is a partitioning technique that splits the network into smaller parts, allowing it to process more transactions per second.

The deal grows Geely’s relationship with blockchain, with its carmaker Volvo working with Circulor to improve cobalt traceability for EV batteries

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