Some automakers and suppliers require body shops to share a broad range of information, Yeung says. They harvest data from collision repair estimates and orders, he adds.
The automaker Tesla collects "everything from how much margin you made on the parts to how long it took to place the order," he says. "We don't know what they do with it, but whatever information they get from us is being utilized somewhere."
Mitchell's blockchain initiative, he says, "gives shops a reason why they shouldn't worry about sharing information."
Unlike bitcoin's blockchain, which is public, Mitchell's network is based on a "permission" blockchain. It will technically be "owned" by everyone connected to it, with no central gatekeeper.
"You can think of it as trusting a council of members," Baudoux says. "The members are known entities and they can decide who has access. Mitchell does not take full control."
This permission-based approach helps foster a secure, distributed network that can be integrated with existing files and work flows, Baudoux says.
Rydell Cars repairs an average of 650 vehicles a month, Sattler says. He worries that if the system proves popular, it may run slowly when thousands of users encrypt and transfer memory-intense files such as estimates with dozens of photos. Adding several minutes to the time needed to process each estimate would quickly add up, he says.
Such delays have afflicted networks for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, but Mitchell says its permission blockchain doesn't require the kind of computing power, or time, needed for transaction verifications on a public chain such as bitcoin's.
Mitchell will make the blockchain application part of the company's existing systems, beginning with its estimating software. Current Mitchell clients will get first crack at the service this fall, with an application for nonclient users to follow. For now, Mitchell says it does not plan to charge a premium for the blockchain technology.