Blockchain Databases

As  the  Smart  Contracts  which is  the  primary  use  case of , block chain platform emerge as a  key  interest  for enterprises, one  of the  major  concern  is  the  performance  of  blockchain  as a data store  from enterprise perspective. There are a  few attempts  to  inject  RDBMS Like  Transaction Processing capabilities  and  Big Data  like  Horizontal Scaling in to the blockchain data store  while  maintaining  the  core  tenants of blockchain like  immutability, peer to peer replication etc…

BigchainDB  is  one  such database  that  merges  traditional  database characteristics  with blockchain.  Though  the  vendors  for  now claim that  the  product  is  nearing  a  production class implementation,  there is already  reference  implementation  using  Azure Kubernetes  Container As A Service that  provides  enterprise  grade  architecture.  This  product  works on  top  of  MongoDB that  gives  all  the scalability of the underlying database.

One  important  aspect  of  BigChainDB  is  fundamentally geared  towards  the  concept  of  Assets and subsequent  manage  the  life cycle  of  Asset  through  its  operations. A CREATE transaction can be use to register any kind of asset , along with arbitrary metadata. A TRANSFER transaction is used to  transfer the asset  from  one owner  to another  owner,  while  the   reference  to the  base asset  is maintained. An ASSET  can also have  metadata which will  be useful in tagging and searching of the asset.

Managing Substance Of Concern In Automobiles

As  you may know a  typical  Automobile  Original Equipment  like a Car  is  made up of 100 or even 1000s of parts and components.  Each of these components  and  sub components  are  manufactured  by  various suppliers.  These sub components  potentially  could  be  manufactured  using  SOC (Substance  of Concerns),  which are typically  dangerous  chemicals and contents  like Lead, Nickel.  Also  a  manufacturing  of a  car  involves multiple  suppliers  and  who may  produce  these  components  in different  countries. Also  the supply chain of a  car  involves  multiple  parties  and some times  it is  global in scale, such that the parts  are  manufactured  in one country but may be used in another country. Also once a car  comes out of OEM manufacturing  facility,  it’s ownership  may  be transferred  between multiple owners before  it reaches  ELV ( End of Life of Vehicles). Chemicals legislation, such as REACH, puts significant responsibility on the communication, notification and phase-out of substances of concern (SOCs) throughout the complete supply chain.

Assume that  the OEM is  typically  responsible  for  keeping  track  of  the SOC usage in a car(automobile)  and  needs to report on  it,  but  if  it is not maintained  through a centralized record, this information  may  get  lost  once the vehicle  is  stored  or  even  if  one of the  part manufacturer has  not  reported  all the information, this may  result  in  break  of  compliance  requirements.

Blockchain To The Rescue

Considering  the  fact  that  SOC  tracking  requires a  single  version of   truth  common to all parties  involved  and  also should  stay through  the  life  cycle  of the Asset, a platform  like  Blockchain which  provides   a  distributed  database  across  all the stake holders while maintaining the integrity  of  data, naturally  fits  a best  solution for handling the  issues.

We  already  see  recent  announcements  of  blockchain usage  in  Retail Supply Chain  in tracking the quality of  food  items  like  farm products.  Recently  major  retailers like Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, Unilever and Walmart  collaborated  using  IBM  blockchain  for tracking  the  food  safety details. In the  same way  the blockchain  network  can be used  to   track  the SOC  usage  in the  base  components  as well  as  assembled  components  and the  Asset  can be  tracked  throughout its life time, including  the transfer between owners.

BigchainDB Creation of Asset

The  following  is  a  sub section of the code  which can be used by BigchainDB  python  driver  to  create  the  initial  asset,  which  will  done  by  the  OEM after the product  is manufactured.  Here  is the OEM  creates  the  Asset  with its ID,  and the  Asset  representation  is  just for  illustrative  purposes  and  contain  just  few fields  to  identity the  vehicle  and  its  SOC components.

oem_public=’***’
oem_private=’***’
bdb_root_url = ‘http://localhost:9984’
bdb = BigchainDB(bdb_root_url)
car_asset = {
‘data’: {
‘car’: {
‘make’:’my make’,
‘model’: ‘my model’,
‘vin’:’VIN0000001′,
‘type’:’petrol’,
‘transmission’:’automatic’,
‘cylinders’:6,
‘socinfo’:[
{ ‘name’:’soc component 1′, ‘manufacturer’:’vendor 1′},
{ ‘name’:’soc component 2′, ‘manufacturer’:’vendor 2′},
{ ‘name’:’soc component 3′, ‘manufacturer’:’vendor 3′}
]
},
},
}
car_asset_metadata = {
‘plant’: ‘USA’
}
prepared_creation_tx = bdb.transactions.prepare(
operation=’CREATE’,
signers=oem_public,
asset=car_asset,
metadata=car_asset_metadata
)
fulfilled_creation_tx = bdb.transactions.fulfill(
prepared_creation_tx,
private_keys=oem_private
)
sent_creation_tx = bdb.transactions.send(fulfilled_creation_tx)

Once  the  transaction is submitted  to  bigchainDB  it  will be tagged  with  the OEM  as the owner. When subsequently  during  the  life cycle  of the Car  it may  move  multiple parties  and  all these transactions  can refer to the  original asset , such that  the  substance  of concern  info. will be known to every one.  Finally  when the  car reaches  the End of  Life,  appropriate  action  could be taken based  on SOC  handling  procedures.

The  above  is a  simplistic  example,  how  Asset  Life Cycle  Management  can  be improved  by  using  Blockchain  technologies  and  how  BigchainDB  facilitates  use  cases  in this direction.  I am analyzing  further   possibilities  in this  direction,  let  me know  of  any other  use  cases that  can fit  this.

One current  issue  is  that  the Asset attributes  which is maintained  as  Json  is static  from the time of creation,  however  during the  maintenance  of  a  car  a new  component  may be added  and the SOC list  could be updated. It  looks like there are attempts  to make  updates  to the Asset  content using a ORM Driver, but  further  details  needs to be  obtained  on this.