In an earlier article, we highlighted the remarkable transformation that the car rentals business is undergoing at the hands of technology. Leading rental services are using mobile apps for bookings and payments, facial recognition to improve speed and security around bookings, and data and analytics to improve customer service. However, the ecosystem in which car rental organizations operate is subject to a number of other inefficiencies that technology can address. One example is the time and resources required to account for and settle speeding or parking violations when the car is in use by a customer. Resolution requires interaction between multiple agencies and can take weeks. Blockchain can be used to create a fast and effective intervention. The Blockchain solution is also a positive step in the direction of creating smart cities where connected systems are expected to improve efficiency and citizen experience.
Context of car rentals in a smart city
Dubai is one of the foremost smart cities in the world. In the context of car ownership, all cars are identified through unique government-issue RFID tags. Traffic sensors dot the entire cityscape and these RFID tags can pick up the movement of individual cars on each road or street. Tollbooths and parking meters, likewise, recognize these RFID tags.
Figure 1: Tracking car movement using RFID tags
Blockchain + IoT = New ways of doing things
The data picked up by the sensors is relayed via an IoT gateway and processing system (see Figure 1) managed by a consortium of government and private agencies comprising road traffic authorities, toll road operators, parking providers, insurers, etc., (see Figure 2). The car rental agency, which is a part of the consortium, can relay information related to fines and charges for its fleet of cars to a Blockchain network by filtering the data.
Figure 2: Blockchain consortium of government and private agencies
In the POC for the city of Dubai, a mobile app was created for initiating a car booking while Blockchain was used to simplify and link a variety of rental processes and the associated data. These included car booking, pickup, fines and charges accrued during rental and car return (see Figure 3). Hyperledger Fabric was chosen as the Blockchain platform and Oracle’s Cloud-based “Blockchain as a Service” was leveraged.
Figure 3: Blockchain-based system architecture
The Blockchain designed for the POC comprised three organizations that decided to collaborate in a business proposal, form a consortium and share relevant data among themselves, adhering to a certain set of rules:
This translates to a Blockchain model comprising a 3-node network, each node representing an organization.
The Car Rental business works with a certain set of rules governing data sharing:
End-to-end process flow
Step 1: Booking a car
Using the rental channel, a customer makes a booking for a car, specifying the date, time, rental duration and the car pick-up / drop-off points.
Figure 4: Architecture flow for booking a car
Step 2: Picking up the car
On the day and time of the booking, the customer reaches the pick-up spot, inspects the car, examines the insurance policy and commences their rental. The system is built such that these transactions are captured in real-time; the system associates the customer with the car in the back-end.
Figure 5: Architecture flow for picking up the car
Step 3: Rental in progress
While the rental is in progress, the RFID tag on the car enables the traffic monitoring system to detect over-speeding; parking meters to capture the duration for which the car was parked; tollgates to record entry and exit points and compute applicable toll charges. This information is relayed to the Blockchain network in real-time.
Figure 6: Architecture flow for receiving IoT data during the rental period
Step 4: Returning the car
Once the customer returns the car, the system calculates dues from information available in the Blockchain network and charges the customer accordingly.
Figure 7: Architecture flow for returning the car
Practice Partner, MAS Consulting & Architecture, Wipro Limited
Sanjay has 25+ years of experience that spans architecting, consulting and management roles to pre-sales, leading innovation projects, engineering custom applications, application integration and distributed systems architecture and design.
Satyanarayana SunkaraLead Architect, Blockchain Practice, Wipro Limited
Satya is a lead architect in Blockchain practice. He has over 23 years of IT experience with Distributed systems architecture, Integration architecture, Enterprise architecture consulting. He is now focusing on Distributed Ledger Technologies primarily on identifying suitable use cases for DLT and Architecting solutions on DLT platforms.
General Manager and Practice Head, Oracle Technologies, Wipro Limited
Siva brings 20+ years of experience in building Applications Practices and Solutions and helping clients drive better business outcomes with Enterprise Applications. He holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.