Are Smart Contracts and Blockchains Suitable for Decentralized Railway Control?
Conventional railway operations employ specialized software and hardware to ensure safe and secure train operations. Track occupation and signaling are governed by central control offices, while trains (and their drivers) receive instructions. To make this setup more dynamic, the train operations can be decentralized by enabling the trains to find routes and make decisions which are safeguarded and protocolled in an auditable manner. In this paper, we present the case study findings of a first-of-its-kind blockchain-based prototype implementation for railway control, based on decentralization but also ensuring that the overall system state remains conflict-free and safe. We also show how a blockchain-based approach simplifies usage billing and enables a train-to-train/machine-to-machine economy. Finally, first ideas addressing the use of blockchain technology as a life-cycle approach for condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance in train operations are outlined.
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