Blockchain living lab in the Rhineland region

Blockchain living lab in the Rhineland region

The project »Blockchain Reallabor im Rheinischen Revier [Blockchain living lab in the Rhineland region]«, which ran from September 2019 to December 2020, worked on developing functional and practical applications to exploit the potential of blockchain technology, focusing particularly on sectors that are prevalent in the Rhineland region (energy, production, logistics, finance and insurance) as well as public service uses. These use cases will provide the basis for the creation of a blockchain living lab in the Rhineland region, with the aim of implementing network-based cooperation in the area and beyond. The project involved players with experience in science, economics and startups, from the Rhineland region and beyond, and utilized their expertise to ascertain the research questions and framework conditions required for this and to identify the most promising use cases and courses of action for the living lab.

Blockchains are the modern equivalent of ledgers. These are now predominantly digitalized and form the backbone of our economy along with the fundamentals of accounting. Distributed ledgers (distributed ledger technology — DLT), a well-known variant of which is blockchain, perform the same tasks as traditional ledgers in principle. In their simplest form, these are decentralized databases that can be managed and updated by any participant in a large network. Blockchain’s distributed architecture facilitates a new way of storing, processing and using data, which goes beyond using simple databases. This provides new opportunities to expand cooperation networks and organizational structures, for example those of companies, authorities and administrators. In addition, new types of relationships can be formalized and secured in the digital world so that, for example, the costs incurred for ensuring confidence (previously borne by notaries, lawyers, banks, supervisory authorities, governments, etc.) can be avoided through the relatively fraud-proof architecture of distributed ledgers. To be able to use DLT securely and reliably in the long term, key aspects of cybersecurity must be considered in its implementation.

As part of this project, Fraunhofer INT analyzed key framework conditions for establishing the living lab and produced recommendations for action. A detailed technology analysis was undertaken and an inventory and needs assessment for DLT in North Rhine-Westphalia was carried out, whereby players and use cases, among other things, were identified based on the current and future potential of blockchain technology. The involvement of stakeholders in the development of the living lab was also supported using participatory methods.

These methods included interviews, online surveys, various workshop formats such as world cafés, as well as the implementation of an interaction format for the final event in December 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event had to take place as a hybrid event. Nevertheless, participants interacted well via digital means and were asked their views and assessments.

Over the course of the project, Fraunhofer INT laid the essential foundation for the project and the further development of the blockchain living lab. Preparation for actually establishing the blockchain living lab is currently underway.