Why MOBI’s Blockchain ESG Tests Matter

The organization’s recent partnership with trade group MEF is meant to help with large-scale projects like measuring tailpipe emissions.

AccessTimeIconFeb 28, 2022 at 7:12 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 4:07 p.m. UTC
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At first glance, the partnership of MOBI, a technology provider for internet-connected vehicles, with cloud computing trade group MEF, might look like just another big-ticket blockchain consortium play.

After all, MOBI, which stands for the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative, has been focused on building infrastructure for vehicles and internet-of-things (IoT) commerce for several years now, and it already accounts for a large slice of the global gross domestic product in terms of its automotive industry membership; MEF (originally known as the Metro Ethernet Forum) has been around since 2001 and includes most of the world’s large telecommunications firms.

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  • But scaling up and standardizing MOBI’s so-called Integrated Trust Network (ITN) – a combination of blockchain-based trust anchors, decentralized identity verification and digital twins of vehicles and components – is yielding breakthroughs with the most compelling use case of all: saving the planet.

    An example from MOBI’s stable of environmental, social and governance (ESG)-friendly use cases is the tracking of the tailpipe emissions from more than 280 million registered vehicles, carried out in a joint pilot program with the European Commission. (The Commission is soon to release a report on the trial.)

    Measuring carbon emissions in the atmosphere accurately is notoriously tricky and has even been called the “Paris Conundrum,” in reference to the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015. The important takeaway from MOBI, which started out building on Hyperledger but is now “blockchain agnostic,” is its demonstration that tailpipe emissions can be accurately measured on a suitably grand scale.

    “In most of the developed world, mobility is the largest source of carbon emissions,” MOBI co-director Chris Ballinger said in an interview. “And yet, nobody focuses on it, because it’s so dispersed. There’s no way to measure it accurately. The MEF brings the connectivity and the ability to message, transact, exchange. We’re bringing the ability to locate things in space and time with identifiers for decentralized objects and IoT.”

    Digital twins

    Its first standard, the MOBI VID, or decentralized identifier (DID), is a digital twin of a vehicle. DIDs enable verifiable digital identity in a manner that’s decoupled from centralized registries, identity providers and certificate authorities.

    A plethora of standards now exist for carbon accounting, usually developed in a siloed and non-cohesive way, explained MOBI co-director Tram Vo. Blockchain technology with its essential characteristics of consensus, immutability and track-and-trace, combined with digital identity standards, offers a solid foundation.

    “So essentially, for Web 3 commerce, everything needs a digital twin,” Vo said in an interview. “But for that digital twin to be trusted, it has to be connected to a DID and then the whole ecosystem of verified credentials, and then you can do business.”

    The MOBI system also features two channels where data is shared and broadcast, including a public channel that shows a digital twin anchored to the ITN and a private communication channel, dubbed Citopia, where smart contract-enabled business automation can happen.

    Pay as you go

    The trustless Citopia layer will explore the use of verifiable credentials to incentivize greener behavior, said Vo, including a pay-as-you-go approach to pollution, road congestion and so on.

    This means that in addition to tackling the environmental component of ESG, MOBI is looking at ways to address the “G” or governance part of the equation, Ballinger said. It’s now possible to have the location of a vehicle tied to its identity as well as to a host of other data – like whether it’s an electric vehicle or internal combustion, what its weight is, whether it’s traveling at a congested time, whether it’s a carpool, etc.

    “There’s $27 trillion of road infrastructure and no good way to finance it,” Ballinger said. “Pay-as-you-go opens up a totally new source of public infrastructure finance that I’m convinced will be replacing the gas tax. Everybody’s looking at how to charge for roads and solve the infrastructure deficit. This is such a perfect solution.”


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    Ian Allison

    Ian Allison is an award-winning senior reporter at CoinDesk. He holds ETH.

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