Any blockchain system at the heart of a business is pretty useless unless it can be integrated within that business's operational management systems. This is then amplified by the very distributed ledger basis of the blockchain - each participating organisation needs to integrete their very own systems, that are usually completely different from any other organisation using the blockchain. As a result a very simple, common solution is needed that should work for all.
The blockchain project team determined that the easiest solution for potential users of the blockchain would be to develop a very simple, authenticating REST web api to be used for integration. Most business software systems, from accounting to manufacturing, have added the ability to connect to a REST API.
To prove that this REST API would work, Riversimple then build an example application that would integrate both with the blockchain but also with the telemetry systems delivering information about the cars whose components and journey would be used to prove the blockchain system.
Key areas of this demonstration application include:
- Details of each journey understaken by each car including the journey route, distance and energy used
- Supplier details for those suppliers who would supply components that would be attached to these cars and were supplied on a servitisation basis
- The core parameters of contracts underwhich components would be supplied
- The compents supplied under a servitisation basis and the cars on which each were installed
Due to delays in delivering connectivity to the blockchain spine itself, a second REST API was built that would simply store to and retrieve data from a normal local relational database. This local version, identical in performance to the blockchain API, was then the primary tool for testing and developing the demonstration application.
The demonstration application was demonstrated to other members of the Circular Revolution team, to representatives of Riversimple's customers and to representatives from Riversimple's supply chain. All demonstrations were "light-bulb events" - for the first time observers were able to fully understand and appreciate just how servitisation might work in practice. Comments elicited from the demonstrations were used to further enhance the application - particularly with the purchase/deliver/install/use/remove cycle and in the generation of invoices.
Whilst the demonstrator clearly showed the power of blockchain within the servitisation business model, it also showed the limitations of using a complex framework. The demonstrator was considerably delayed waiting for the blockchain-spine to be connectable. Future work should look at significant simplification of the blockchain itself, hopefully producing something that can be installed and run really easily.
Of course a demonstrator is just a demonstrator. The next stage would be to prove the API with genuine business applications. As Riversimple's car construction nears production, geneuine business software will be added and this should be tested against the blockchain API before it is selected. Supply chain partners will also have to work with Riversimple to test the connectivity of their own business systems.