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Blockchains as a Distributed Ledger for Attribution of RCM Data in Rail

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - B4CM (Blockchains as a Distributed Ledger for Attribution of RCM Data in Rail)

Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2020-05-31

Over the past decade there has been a significant level of investment throughout Europe in the digitalisation of the rail network. This includes the installation of sensors on the infrastructure and vehicles, the deployment of next generation traffic management systems that allow real-time management of the system, and the provision of mobile applications for passengers and staff. Despite the wealth of new data provided by these systems, the railways are still struggling in their aspiration to be an information-led industry due to a lack of traceability of information usage, and the commercial barriers between stakeholders.
Blockchains are a disruptive technology that have the potential to accelerate the development of rail as the primary medium-distance carrier within the wider multi-modal transportation system. Directly funded by the rail industry via the EU Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking, the B4CM project will identify key use cases for the technology within the railways, deliver a blockchain-based testbed that enables the benefits of the technology to be formally evaluated, and demonstrate the value of blockchains in the attribution of data costs across organisational boundaries within the European rail sector.
The overall aim of the B4CM project is to develop and deliver a blockchain-based testbed for the attribution of data costs across organisational boundaries, and to demonstrate the operation of the framework and in the context of the European Rail Industry, enabling future developers to extend the tools produced based on a known working configuration.

B4CM has the following research and training objectives:
Objective 1: To identify and develop use cases that support the application of blockchain in the railway sector;
Objective 2: To develop an implementable blockchain framework for the attribution of data costs in systems crossing organisational boundaries;
Objective 3: To evaluate mechanisms for the incorporation of the developed blockchain framework into the financial processes of the European rail sector;
Objective 4: To develop a testbed, demonstrating the operation of the framework in the context of rail sector, enabling future developers to extend the tools produced based on a known working configuration;
Objective 5: To disseminate the findings of the project and the lessons learned to influence best practice in innovation and technology uptake in a key and evolving field within the European rail sector;
Objective 6: To support the development of a researcher in gaining a PhD and thus generating a skilled specialist valuable to the European rail sector.
Due to a delay recruiting appropriate staff, the B4CM project has been subject to an agreed 12 month delay to its original starting date and this has been reflected in the due dates of all activities & deliverables. An effective 5 months into the 3-year programme of work (at time of writing), the B4CM team have begun developing a set of formalised use case for the deployment of a blockchain-based condition monitoring framework in rail, initially building on the findings of the RSSB's T1010 work programme. A toolchain has been selected based around the Hyperledger Fabric framework, which will provide a permissioned platform on which the B4CM tools will be delivered. The projects dissemination activities are underway, with the first iteration of the project's webpages now available at https://www.b4cm.eu
Building on the recent technical advances around data sharing in rail (e.g. the provision of open data platforms such as Network Rail's public data feeds in the UK, The Rail Delivery Group's (RDG's) open APIs, and the advancements underway in response to the GB rail sector deal), and the governance frameworks provided by projects including the Rail Safety and Standards Board's project T1010, the B4CM project will, by the end of its planned programme of work, deliver a blockchain-based framework that enables the flows of data in rail condition monitoring (CM) to be understood by the industry and that by extension allows the value chain around the provision of such data to be formally captured and commoditised.