It is difficult to imagine that in the near future blockchain will not change almost every aspect of our daily lives. From payment transactions, to recording genetic information, to charging an electric car!
In an increasingly competitive environment for German utilities companies, one power company is looking to blockchain technology as a means to cut costs and improve its customer experience.
There has been a long term shift in the way in which power is produced in Germany, partly as a result of the Government’s long-term strategic policy called the ‘Energiewende’–to shift from traditionally generated power to more sustainable power generation–and following the decision to phase out nuclear power production. Both of these have meant that the traditional energy companies have had to adapt and innovate.
One of these firms is RWE, a German power company with more than 20 million customers worldwide, operating both coal and nuclear energy infrastructure in the country. Yet like the other utility firms in Germany, RWE is facing a future wherein its primary modes of energy production face regulatory challenges. This has meant that RWE has had to innovate, and as part of those efforts, the firm has established an internal working team to evaluate how blockchain tech can help it trim costs by lowering expenses related to energy transmission.
The company has partnered with Ethereum-based blockchain startup Slock.it, founded by former Ethereum CCO Stephen Tual, to develop proofs-of-concept (PoC) involving the technology.
One of the possible applications which could come from RWEs blockchain technology is electric car charging stations that use blockchain-based smart contracts to authenticate users and manage the billing process.
The PoC operates on the Ethereum blockchain, with the charging station acting as a point at which both customer authentication and the processing of payments takes place.
Under the prototype, users interact with the charging station by agreeing to a smart contract that is programmed on top of the Ethereum network. Prior to charging, the user makes a deposit on the network, which is later released after the transaction is complete.
The main difference is that instead of users being billed for the amount of time that they are connected to charging station–i.e. the way most stations work today–users pay only for the amount of electricity consumed during the charging process. The hope is that both the cost of the micro-transactions, and the allocation and consumption of electricity, will be made more efficient and ultimately save money.
In addition, the blockchain plus smart contracts has the potential to streamline the process of purchasing power from a charging station. In theory, this can take place directly with the machine (charging station) and not require prior contact with the providing company or a human representative.
Photo credit: RWE. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from www.coindesk.com.