A consortium of carmakers and suppliers, under the banner of MOBI, the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative, will work to bring blockchain to the auto industry, an exciting development for something that sounds more like a medieval farming tool than groundbreaking technology.
Blockchain, the latest buzz-y term to infatuate tech geeks, is a way to store information across a network of independent computer servers that makes the information virtually unhackable. But for all of the hype surrounding it, advocates are keenly aware of falling into the prognostication trap that captured backers of famous failed technologies such as Google Glass and Betamax.
"Everybody who's outside thinks it's crazy and absurd," said Chris Ballinger, CEO of MOBI and former CFO and head of mobility services at Toyota Research Institute. "But once you've gone down the rabbit hole, you tend to go deeper and deeper. Hopefully, I still retain some of my hard-edged, CFO skepticism of things."
Ballinger is no armchair investor. In his previous roles in banking, finance and the auto industry, he has built a formidable reputation in technology scouting. Which makes his true believer status all the more intriguing. As journalists, we're constantly hit with press releases touting the game-changing potential of this or that technology. So when something comes along with a name such as Ballinger's attached, it stands out.
Blockchain has its doubters, who criticize basic aspects of the decentralized technology. But lest we forget, Google Glass foreshadowed a world of augmented reality that made Pokemon Go so successful. And even Betamax has its place in history. Massive failures can still lead to change.
Which is why we'll be keeping an eye on blockchain as the auto industry mulls its potential. Because regardless of whether it achieves the kind of widespread adoption experts say is necessary for its success, the debate may still influence future innovations.
— Shiraz Ahmed