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Exploring Blockchain – Technology behind Bitcoinand Implications for Transforming TransportationFinal reportPRC 17-13 F

Exploring Blockchain – Technology behindBitcoin and Implications for TransformingTransportationTexas A&M Transportation InstitutePRC 17-13 FJanuary 2018AuthorRajat Rajbhandari, PhDCopies of this publication have been deposited with the Texas State Library in compliance with theState Depository Law, Texas Government Code §441.101-106.2

AcknowledgmentsAdi Ben Ari, CEO, Applied Blockchain, London, UKChris Ballinger, Toyota Research Institute, Los Altos, California, USPeter Bidewell, CMO, Applied Blockchain, London, UKGinger Goodin, Research Engineer, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Austin, Texas, USGregg Hansen, General Motors, Austin, Texas, USHudson Jameson, Cofounder, Oaken Innovations, Dallas, Texas, USSudha Jamthe, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, USJane Lappin, Toyota Research Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USAhmed Mahmoud, CIO, General Motors, Austin, Texas, USMatt Milligan, CEO, Milligan and Partners, New York, New York, USBryant Nielson, Executive Director, Blockchain Academy, New York, New York, USSteve Polunsky, Research Scientist, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Austin, Texas, USSweeni Ponoth, General Manager, Bristlecone Labs, San Jose, California, USJulian Smith, Founder, BlockFreight Inc., Melbourne, Australia,Daniel Spuller, Chamber of Digital Commerce, Washington DC, USLouis Stone, Co-founder, Symbiont.io, New York, New York, USMichael Yeung, CEO, Saftonhouse Consulting Group, Vancouver, Canada3

Transforming Transportation through Blockchain TechnologyBlockchain is a distributed ledger of transactions, developed originally as the accountingplatform for the virtual currency, Bitcoin. The technology is used to verify transactions, creatingrecords that cannot be changed or deleted. Verification is accomplished in a decentralizedmanner through a network of participants, or distributed nodes, rather than through a third party,such as a bank or credit card company. One of the promises of blockchain is that it can reducethe administrative costs of that third-party validation, or potentially eliminate them altogether.This report examines various blockchain applications in transportation. Potential benefits ofthose applications include the following. Increasing transparency and efficiency in supply chain routes, particularly withdocuments that change hands numerous times between shippers, carriers, customs agents,banks, and ports. Preventing cyberattacks on connected vehicles, since their presence in the Internet ofThings exposes them to such attacks on multiple surfaces, including Wi-Fi, cellularnetworks, and toll transactions. Gaining unauthorized access to a single vehicle may be oflittle value, but access to the uploading of information from vehicles to broader networkslikely would be of value. Reducing tolling costs by eliminating the fees that tolling agencies pay on credit cardtransactions, estimated at more than 300 million annually nationwide. Blockchain couldalso facilitate the adoption of a nationwide interoperable system in which customerscould use a single account to pay tolls on any toll road in the nation. Facilitating automated payments from vehicles for things other than toll transactions,including fuel purchases, vehicle registration renewals, routine maintenance, etc. Introducing the possibility of true peer-to-peer ride sharing and fractional ownership ofvehicles, which could reduce the role of, or eliminate the need for, third-party providerscurrently operating as companies such as Uber and Lyft. Improving the architecture of the Internet of Things devices deployed at transportationfacilities, by providing a decentralized alternative to the server-client model; thedecentralized blockchain alternative could eliminate bottlenecks which are unsecured andsubject to single points of failure which could result in entire system failures.Researchers have also identified three barriers to widespread application of blockchaintechnology in transportation: Scalability issues – One strength of blockchain lies in the robustness of its validationcapability, which depends upon the continued accumulation of blocks in a ledger. Thisaccumulation then requires ever growing computing resources.4

Business challenges – The novel nature of blockchain will likely limit its implementationto innovative idea projects and demonstration projects, delaying its use in governmentfunded transportation applications. Perception issues – The assumption that validation of transactions will fall to a networkof computers rather than a traditional third party is a foreign one, and may prompt manypeople to simply disregard it.5

Table of ContentsList of Figures . 7Executive Summary . 8Transportation Applications . 9Barriers and Policy Considerations . 9Bitcoin: Peer-to-peer Electronic Cash System . 11Technology behind Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies . 15Blockchain vs. Traditional Databases . 18Permissioned vs. Permissionless Blockchain . 19Smart Contracts for Machine to Machine Payments . 21Misconceptions about Blockchain . 23Use Cases in Transportation . 24Increasing Transparency and Efficiency in Supply Chain . 24Securing Automated and Connected Vehicles . 28Reduce Tolling Cost and Increase Interoperability . 31Electronic Wallets for Vehicles and Machines . 33Peer-to-Peer Shared Mobility in the Age of Automated Vehicles . 35Scaling Internet of Things and Digital Transportation Assets . 36Barriers to Entry and Deployment Challenges . 38Scalability Issues . 38Business Challenges . 38Perception Barriers . 39Path to Deploy Transportation Applications on Blockchain . 40Hype around Blockchain . 42Government’s Role and Opportunities . 43Conclusions . 45Policy Considerations . 46References . 476

List of FiguresFigure 1. Overview of Bitcoin Value Transfer. . 12Figure 2. Image showing Locations of Bitcoin Nodes. . 13Figure 3. Growth of Number of Daily Confirmed Bitcoin Transactions Since 2009. . 14Figure 4. Abstraction of Blockchain Components. . 15Figure 5. Construction of a Bitcoin Block in a Blockchain. . 16Figure 6. Arrangement of Blocks in a Blockchain. . 16Figure 7. Abstract Representation of Globally Distributed Bitcoin Nodes. . 17Figure 8. Comparison of Permissioned and Permissionless Blockchain. . 20Figure 9. Abstract Representation of How Smart Contracts Work. . 21Figure 10. Flow of Documents in Supply Chain Network [24]. 25Figure 11. Blockchain Enabled Supply Chain Network. . 26Figure 12. Attack Surfaces in Today’s Automobiles. . 28Figure 13. Using Blockchain to Verify Firmware Update over the Air. . 30Figure 14. Using Firmware Hash in Blockchain to Verify Updates. . 30Figure 15. Comparison of Traditional Tolling vs. Digital Currency Based Tolling. 32Figure 16. Using Smart Contracts and Onboard Computer to Pay Tolls. 33Figure 17. Vehicle to Machine Payments Using Smart Contracts. 34Figure 18. Fractional Vehicle Ownership Built over Public or Consortium Blockchain. . 367

Executive SummaryWith the release of the Bitcoin concept into the public domain in late 2008, the world ofcryptocurrency (electronic currency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and hundreds of others) anddistributed computing gained a new kind of trust protocol called “blockchain.” Blockchain is adistributed immutable (cannot be deleted) ledger of electronic transactions. It uses a point topoint protocol with financial incentives for computer nodes to validate and secure transactions.In addition to featuring an immutable ledger of transactions, Blockchain also provides securityby having no single point of failure, pseudo anonymity, and traceability. Public blockchainimplementations such as Bitcoin operate in an open source environment. That means anybodycan join the network as a mining node (user), see the code base, and contribute. On the otherhand, private and permissioned blockchain operates in a controlled environment in which anoperator controls who can join as nodes and users, and as such, do not need crypto currency aseconomic incentives to secure the underlying blockchain. Public blockchain needs economicincentives in the form of crypto currency to validate and secure transaction blocks.Because of the open source environment where crypto currencies and public blockchain operate,companies involved in this technology have proliferated. Hundreds of startups have created theirown versions of blockchain built for specific applications such as internet of things,identification, land transfer, etc., along with crypto currencies or tokens to provide economicincentives to secure blockchain. These startups are financially supported by big banks, venturecapitalists, technology companies, and even crowd sale of tokens. In 2016, over 1 billion (US)has been invested in blockchain-related startups all over the globe.Numerous startups are working to develop proofs of concept and deployments using blockchainin transportation because of the following perceived benefits: Create frictionless systems - in supply chain to increase efficiency. Create a trusted audit trail and transparency – in provenance of products, vendors, publicservices. Use machine-to-machine payments – automated vehicles and assets to pay for services. Outsource trust – use blockchain network as a trust instead of individuals or companies,especially in shared mobility and asset sharing applications. Secure internet of things – use blockchain’s immutable design to ensure securedhardware updates.In addition to startups and big enterprises, many domestic and foreign government agencies arebeginning to experiment with blockchain in a variety of services. General Service Administrationrecently invited all federal agencies for a summit in identifying use cases in public service.Department of Homeland Security has funded several startups providing blockchain technology.8

Blockchain’s key value proposition is in its decentralized verification of transactions or transferof value and assets. It is a “decentralized” platform. Hence, a trusted third party is not needed toverify transactions, which instead is accomplished by distributed nodes. Because of its appendonly design, transactions are for all practical purposes immutable and tamper proof. As ablockchain becomes longer over time, transactions become more computationally difficult tocorrupt. This ensures that transactions persist into the future with the assurance that they have notbeen tampered with. Immutability also engraves trust in the sense that transactions and assetsencoded in them are difficult to tamper with or be corrupted.Blockchain’s value propositions are attractive in use cases where high confidence inimmutability is required and when economic risk is high in the event of information corruption.Blockchain will certainly reduce administrative cost for third party verifiers and intermediators. .Transportation ApplicationsResearchers envision that implementation of blockchain in transportation will mostly focus onapplying technology to reduce or remove third party costs (i.e., supply chain, shared mobility,tolling, asset transfer), reduce single point of failure (i.e., internet of things including connectedand automated vehicles), and increase transparency (i.e., supply chain, asset transfer).Researchers believe based on interviews conducted during this research that it is conceivable,over time, that blockchain will touch many transportation applications and become a ubiquitoustechnology.Blockchain, as a new technology has introduced a paradigm shift. That is, a trusted network ofcomputers is acceptable as opposed to an organization or individual as a source of trust.Blockchain is also a foundational technology, meaning applications have to be built on it, and byitself has no real-world use.Barriers and Policy ConsiderationsResearchers believe there are three key barriers to entry and deployment challenges in short andmedium term – scalability issues, business challenges, and perception barriers.To understand and quantify these barriers, companies are using proof of concept and proof ofvalue projects where specific use cases are tested with blockchain. Proof of concept tries toanswer “will it work?” Proof of value tries to answer “will it work and will it benefit mybusiness?” This is a safe way for companies and even government to be familiarized with newtechnology without expending a significant amount of funds for full implementation.Government agencies in United States and around the world are performing proofs of conceptand proofs of value to understand the benefits of blockchain technology to improve publicservices.Governments may also regulate legal acceptance of information in blockchain, such as smartcontracts. One thing is clear—that the government and regulatory bodies are accustomed to9

regulating legal entities that provide third party trust services (e.g., trading platforms, notaries,ride-hailing services), but certainly not a network of computers owned by no one and spreadacross multiple countries and jurisdictions. In order for the government not to stifle blockchaindevelopment, it is also important that government does not hastily pursue legislation andregulations without a full understanding of blockchain.Instead, researchers and blockchain experts suggest that government agencies pursue proof ofvalue projects to analyze benefits and provide platform for standardization and interoperability ofblockchain as they begin to be used in transportation infrastructure, security of cyber physicalsystems, and public services.10

Bitcoin: Peer-to-peer Electronic Cash SystemAn exploration of blockchain cannot begin without understanding Bitcoin because for allpractical purposes Bitcoin is the first application built on blockchain. It is somewhat odd thatBitcoin became mainstream before the underlying technology did.In October 2008, a paper circulated in crypto currency mailing lists describing a peer-to-peerelectronic cash system termed “Bitcoin” was followed by open source code in 2009. The paperand source code was authored under the name Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity is stillunknown. The individual or group created Bitcoin’s original reference implementation calledBitcoin Core. As a part of this implementation, he (or she or they) also devised the firstblockchain database [1].Until 2009, cryptographic currencies were not able to solve a problem called “double spend” or“double spend attack.” Double-spending is a result of spending the same money more than once.In traditional money transfer, a trusted third party such as a bank or clearing house prevents sucha double spending problem. Bitcoin elegantly solved the double spending problem without aneed for a trusted third party by storing each verified transaction in a decentralized distributedledger. These transactions are verified by nodes operating in a peer-to-peer network [2].Blockchain will be discussed further in the next chapter.Transactions are verified by using consensus of nodes. The transaction—and thus the transfer ofownership of the Bitcoins—is recorded, time-stamped, and displayed in one “block” of theblockchain. Public-key cryptography ensures that all computer nodes in the peer-to-peer networkhave a constantly updated and verified record of all transactions within the Bitcoin network,which prevents double-spending and fraud [3]. Figure 1 shows how users transfer Bitcoin usingthe peer-to-peer network without a need for a third party.Bitcoins are created by a process called “mining.” The Bitcoin network depends on globallydistributed computer nodes, which provide computing power to verify transactions and includethem in a distributed ledger. These nodes are called “mining nodes,” and they are awarded withmathematically created Bitcoin and transaction fees for their efforts. This is an important conceptbecause the Bitcoin system has incentivized “mining nodes” to validate transactions and therebymaintain the Bitcoin blockchain [4] .11

Bob goes to an onlineBitcoin exchange to buyBitcoins or receives it in hisBitcoin client.Using Bitcoin client, orexchange he creates arequest to transfer Bitcoin toAlice’s electronic wallet.Bitcoin client sends the requestto nearby nodes of Bitcoinnetwork, where it is added to ablock of unverified transactions.Bob gets a notification that histransaction has been verifiedand Alice receives the bitcoin.Nodes verify the results andpropagate the blocks to othernodes.Mining nodes compete to verifythe transaction and winnerreceives Bitcoin and add blockto a blockchain.Figure 1. Overview of Bitcoin Value Transfer.The Bitcoin network of nodes is not operated or maintained by a single entity in a single country.There are close to 7,000 reachable nodes spread across 90 different countries [5]. Anybody canjoin the network to become a node given they have sufficient computing resource. Figure 2shows locations of Bitcoin nodes spread across the globe with heavy concentration in the UnitedStates, Germany, and France. Bitcoin’s biggest innovations are the absence of central entity orauthority, which minimizes single point of failure, and distributed ledger, which providesimmutability to reduce fraud and hacking.The system is essentially “trustless.” The blockchain network as it pertains to Bitcoin uses anelectronic wallet created by using the user’s private and public key, and as such, does not requirepersonally identifiable information to be encoded in transactions. Hence, the Bitcoin blockchainprovides pseudo anonymity [6]. Party A simply uses the destination electronic walletidentification of Party B to transmit Bitcoin. There is no reference to Party A or B’s physicaladdress, email, or phone number.Unlike databases maintained by banking and credit card institutions, Bitcoin blockchain does notcontain a significant amount of personal data [6]. All the above innovations (by design)contributed to Bitcoin blockchain’s record of never having been hacked in its eight years ofexistence. Bitcoin exchanges and electronic wallets have been hacked many times, but not theunderlying blockchain. This does not mean it will never happen. In fact, blockchain can behacked and compromised, but it would require tremendous computing resource, something noindividual or a government entity possesses.12

Source: [5]Figure 2. Image showing Locations of Bitcoin Nodes.Owners of Bitcoins can transfer them over the peer-to-peer network to do the same things thatconventional currencies can do including buying and selling goods and sending money toindividuals and organizations. Bitcoins can be purchased, sold, and exchanged for othercurrencies at Bitcoin exchanges such as Coinbase and Kraken.Bitcoin’s reputation was tarnished by its involvement with Silk Road, an online black marketthat operated in the dark net (areas usually inaccessible to most Internet users). Silk Road was aplatform for anonymously buying and selling illegal drugs, guns, and similar contraband. Bitcoinwas the currency of choice to trade in Silk Road. Silk Road was shut down in 2013 by theFederal Bureau of Investigation [7]. The news made headlines around the world, and so in theeyes of the public Bitcoin became associated with the black market.Nonetheless, Bitcoin has gained traction among the unbanked population, international moneytransfer, and small businesses due to lower transaction costs because of the absence of third partyinstitutions [3]. It has also given rise to Bitcoin investors, who hold Bitcoin in hopes ofincreasing value as well as investments in startups, which utilize Bitcoin as a paymentmechanism. Bitcoin’s market capitalization as of December 2017 stands at over US 100 billionwith 20 million Bitcoin wallets creating over 400,000 transactions per day [8]. Figure 3 showsexplosive growth of per day Bitcoin transactions since January 2009.13

Source: [9]Figure 3. Growth of Number of Daily Confirmed Bitcoin Transactions Since 2009.Experts believe that among many external factors causing increased interest in Bitcoin may bethat blockchain’s use in applications other than Bitcoin has surged, generating positivity aroundBitcoin's public blockchain [10].The blockchain is seen as the main technological innovation of Bitcoin because it stands as a“trustless” proof mechanism of all the transactions on the Bitcoin network. Users can trust thesystem of the public ledger stored worldwide on many different decentralized nodes as opposedto having to establish and maintain trust with a third party intermediary.14

Technology behind Bitcoin and Other CryptocurrenciesBitcoin uses a number of underlying technologies: cryptographic hash functions, distributedledger of transactions, peer-to-peer network, and many more. They all work together to powerBitcoin. These technologies also rely on each other for Bitcoin to work. While it is common torefer to blockchain as a distributed ledger, the process also requires cryptography, a peer-to-peernetwork, rules to synchronize the ledger, and economic incentives for synchronizing the ledger.In an abstract sense, blockchain is a combination of a peer-to-peer network of distributedcomputers working together to synchronize a state (in case of Bitcoin, ledger of transactions)based on mathematical and cryptographic rules supplemented with incentives to maintain thestate.Figure 4. Abstraction of Blockchain Components.Blockchain data structure includes an ordered and back-linked list of blocks that contain verifiedtransactions. Individual blocks contain verified transactions. Transactions include transfer ofcrypto currency (in case of Bitcoin) between users, timestamp, public key of senders andreceivers, etc., as shown in Figure 5. Transactions are then broadcast on the Bitcoin networkwhere each node validates and propagates the transaction until it reaches every node in thenetwork. Transactions are verified by mining nodes and included in a block of transactions that isrecorded on the blockchain [2]. Each transaction in the public ledger is verified by mathematicalconsensus of a majority of participants (nodes) in the blockchain network. Each block is linkedto the previous or “parent block.” Figure 6 shows how individual blocks are linked with previousblocks forming a chain. The sequence of each block linked to its parent blocks creates a chaingoing all the way to the first block created, also known as the “genesis block” [2].15

Information about a block#466998transactions within the blockSource: 0Figure 5. Construction of a Bitcoin Block in a Blockchain.block n 2block n 1block nblock 0 (genesis)block header (hash)block header (hash)block header (hash)block header (hash)previous block header(hash)previous block header(hash)previous block erkle root (oftransactions in the block)merkle root (oftransactions in the block)merkle root (oftransactions in the block)merkle root (oftransactions in the block)nonce (proof of work)nonce (proof of work)nonce (proof of work)nonce (proof of work)Figure 6. Arrangement of Blocks in a Blockchain.Depending on the blockchain, nodes may be globally distributed in a connected peer-to-peernetwork as shown in Figure 7 or, in the case of permissioned blockchain nodes, may residewithin few nodes.16

Note: Map does not represent actual location of Bitcoin nodes.Figure 7. Abstract Representation of Globally Distributed Bitcoin Nodes.Once confirmed and added to blockchain, it is practically infeasible for anyone to modify ordelete transactions, since it would require modification of all previous blocks that are connectedin a chain and maintained in hundreds of nodes. This cascading effect ensures that once a blockhas many generations following it, it cannot be changed without forcing a recalculation of allsubsequent blocks [2].More on this later, but the immutable property of blockchain allows the disintermediation anddecentralization of transactions between parties [11]. Blockchain can also be framed as aprotocol with an established set of rules in the form of distributed computations to ensure theintegrity of data without a trusted third party. Blockchain has been called a “trust protocol [6].”17

Blockchain vs. Traditional DatabasesIf blockchain is just a ledger of transactions, how is it different from databases that are widely inuse? Or can’t existing database systems be modified to do the same thing as blockchain? Theseare questions most people ask when they are first introduced to the concept of blockchain – howare the two different?The core difference lies not in how data are stored, but how they are managed and controlled.Blockchain enables transactions to be shared across boundaries of trust, without requiring acentral administrator [12]. Transactions are verified and processed independently by multiple“nodes” in a peer-to-peer network with the blockchain protocol as a consensus mechanism toensure those nodes sync the data.Enterprise businesses design their database systems in such a way that data, permissions, andaccess are consolidated among a few individuals and firewalled from the public. A databaseadministrator’s main responsibility is to keep the database “obscure” and hidden from thosewithout permission to use it. Bitcoin blockchain on the other hand is open for anybody todownload and explore transactions related to wallet addresses all the way back to the firsttransaction in 2009 [2].In a traditional database, a central authority manages transactions even though the database mayuse redundant nodes to create a “shared” database. Hence, in a traditional database the centralauthority is potentially a single point of failure and is required to always act in good faith tomaintain the database.If decentralization, immutability, single point of failure, and cryptography are not desired or notan issue, then a traditional database with centralized management is adequate. Traditionaldatabase technology has evolved through at least thirty years of development and refinement.Both technologies have upsides and downsides that makes them appropriate or inappropriate forspecific implementations.18

Permissioned vs. Permissionless BlockchainBlockchain that runs underneath Bitcoin is public and permissionless. Public in the sense thatthere are no restrictions on reading blockchain data and submitting transactions to the blockchain[13]. Anybody can read transaction information pertaining to Bitcoin wallet addresses andexchange Bitcoin. Permissionless in the sense that anybody with a computing resource canprocess transactions (Bitcoin nodes.) Bitcoin’s popul

cryptocurrency (electronic currency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and hundreds of others) and distributed computing gained a new kind of trust protocol called "blockchain." Blockchain is a distributed immutable (cannot be deleted) ledger of electronic transactions. It uses a point to

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