New patent: IOTA could play a decisive role for Volkswagen

  • In October 2019, the German car manufacturer Volkswagen applied for a patent, which became public a few days ago, referencing the DLT and IOTA technology.
  • Although the patent only explicitly mentions IOTA in one place, it can be assumed that IOTA is one of the driving forces behind the patent on the basis of the formulations and proof of concepts already presented jointly.

A few days ago, a new patent from the German car manufacturer Volkswagen (VW) appeared in the European patent database. It refers to the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and in one paragraph specifically to IOTA. As usual for a patent, the formulations are as broad as possible and usually do not mention any special software of a manufacturer (like IOTA). Nevertheless, it can be assumed from the wording that the patent was at least strongly influenced by the IOTA Tangle technology.

As can be seen in the description of the patent, Volkswagen is interested in a software solution that can store data in a manipulation-proof, decentralized manner on the basis of the Distributed Ledger technology:

The present invention relates to a vehicle […] for generating an identifier for an equipment state of a vehicle, in particular, but not exclusively, to a concept for the use of a “Distributed Ledger Technology” based on a one- or multi-dimensional acyclic graph (e.g. block chain, Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG)) for the reliable and unambiguous traceability of software contents, hardware states and external parameters of vehicles.

In the description of the patent, Volkswagen states that there will be a change in the automotive industry, whereby the software of vehicles will play an increasingly dominant role. According to Volkswagen, this will make it necessary to create a trustworthy environment in order to ensure the traceability of the vehicle software history and vehicle condition.

In the event of an accident or a possible software change, vehicle manufacturers have to be able to provide state authorities with trustworthy information about the condition of the vehicle at the exact time of the accident or change to the software, especially when semi- and fully automatic driving will be introduced in the coming years. In addition, other software services issued to the customer must also be documented:

Even when extending vehicle-related services, such as functions on demand […], reloading of functions/software via the air interface (Over The Air (OTA)) and activation of software modules, it has to be documented when the software was provided, how long it was used and by whom it was supplied, if necessary also for user fees.

At present, the data is only saved centrally by the manufacturer on a database and can therefore be easily manipulated or changed. In order to create a trustworthy basis for third party checks by authorities and insurance companies, Volkswagen considers Distributed Ledger technology, and explicitly not Blockchain, to be the solution of the future:

The DLT is a suitable method for non-changeable storage. Within a DLT a data structure is used which ensures unchangeability by means of chaining data using hash algorithms. […]

Today’s implementations, such as public blockchains, have low transaction speeds and are often associated with high transaction costs and high energy costs. Therefore they are only conditionally suitable for the number of relevant transactions for software updates via OTA.

Furthermore, VW names another use case for the DLT, the machine-to-machine payment. At this point of the patent, the car manufacturer also explicitly mentions IOTA:

Another application of the technology is the integration of machine-to-machine (M2M) payments. This allows the secure documentation of when the vehicle has performed a vehicle application, cf. security systems such as multidimensional directed graphs, crypto-payment systems or IOTA.

Is Volkswagen integrating the IOTA Tangle into the car of the future?

Even though IOTA is not explicitly mentioned in most of the document, it can be assumed that the technology described in the patent could be implemented beyond the payments by means of the IOTA Tangle. As is well known, Volkswagen and the IOTA Foundation have a close relationship and have in the past already jointly implemented one or the other proof of concept.

Especially the “Over-the-Air” (OTA) technology for software updates mentioned in the patent should be familiar to IOTA followers. VW and the IOTA Foundation had already presented a proof of concept for the use of Tangle technology for the decentralized distribution of OTA updates between networked vehicles at the CEBIT IT exhibition in 2008.

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Jake Simmons

Jake Simmons has been a crypto enthusiast since 2016, and since hearing about Bitcoin and blockchain technology, he's been involved with the subject every day. Beyond cryptocurrencies, Jake studied computer science and worked for 2 years for a startup in the blockchain sector. At CNF he is responsible for technical issues. His goal is to make the world aware of cryptocurrencies in a simple and understandable way.

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