Rotterdam Launches Blockchain Field Lab

Image: Aad Hoogendoorn

By The Maritime Executive 09-21-2017 08:07:09

The Municipality of Rotterdam and the Port of Rotterdam Authority are jointly launching a field lab for the development of blockchain technology. The new applied research lab has been christened BlockLab.

Blockchain is seen as one of the most crucial fields of innovation today. The basic idea behind the technology is that users can conduct transactions without involving a third party. Data technology guarantees the necessary checks and balances and ensures that the transaction is processed automatically. This makes it possible to structure large-scale networks, chains and markets far more efficiently than before – without the need for a dominant, regulating party. The technology can be used by companies, individuals and even machines. For example, blockchain is the underlying technology for the cryptocurrency bitcoin.

The lab is supported by the regional development corporation InnovationQuarter, and Director Rinke Zonneveld, says:“There’s this huge buzz about blockchain, but actually, there aren’t that many fully functional applications. We’ll be changing this with BlockLab. This is important, because we need real innovations to launch the next economy, and blockchain can help us realize them.”

Blockchain allows users to set up a finely meshed decentralized power network, in which companies can trade residual heat and city dwellers can trade electricity. This gives new impetus to the energy transition in the port and the city. “This alone makes it very interesting to us,” says Port Authority President and CEO Allard Castelein. “But I’m also thinking of the numerous applications that can be realized within logistics chains thanks to blockchain, allowing us to organize cargo flows more efficiently. This step is seamlessly in line with our ‘smartest port’ ambitions.”

One of the first projects to be presented by the new lab is a blockchain application for stock financing in the port logistics sector, which was developed in partnership with Exact and ABN AMRO. 

The BlockLab will be starting with a core team of five, who work from the Cambridge Innovation Center in Rotterdam. In the field lab, theoretical blockchain ideas will be developed and tested in a real-world environment, together with consortia of developers and users. In addition, the lab will serve as a knowledge center for the regional private sector. The team will be working together with Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences to develop a curriculum intended to marshal the influx of new blockchain researchers.