by guest journalist Adam Matthews
Interview with Dr Harry Behrens, co-founder and CTO, bloXmove
Power and Mobility. There is a truly elegant vision behind the name of the company. Urban transport and mobility has been steadily moving towards a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) model. Shared bicycles. Shared cars. Shared scooters. But, in Harry’s view, this has already become “an ecosystem which is highly fragmented”. All of these services result in many different touch points and payment interfaces.
Huge growth in transport has also led to mounting global concern about emissions. “There is the green deal in Europe, China wants to go carbon neutral. Apart from the coronavirus, this is probably the biggest topic that will stay with us over the next 10 years.”
In the energy sector, an oversupply, due to lack of demand, can lead to volatility in market prices and premiums being paid by power companies. Harry explains, “in Germany, on a windy summer’s day..not much consumption..far too much energy is being produced than there is demand for, so you end up giving energy away to neighbouring countries like Belgium and France but you pay them to take the energy”.
To alleviate this, you need to balance the network. Harry points out that “there are two sectors in Europe that can really contribute to carbon neutrality – these are the power and mobility sectors”. It is at the intersection of these sectors that the vision and purpose of the company lies.
Harry Behrens, CTO, cofounded Power and Mobility Ltd. with Sophia Rodiger, the startup’s CEO. The goal of the company is to help create the future of MaaS. Prior to this, he was the Head of Daimler Mobility Blockchain Factory. He worked closely with Sophia, Daimler’s Digital Transformation Lead at the time, until the pair cofounded the new venture. Incorporated in Ireland, the company has a strong network of seed investors, partners and advisors.
At Daimler, Behrens became immersed in the automotive industry but from around 2013 he also became increasingly enthralled with blockchain. Both from an intellectual perspective and from a business standpoint. “It tickled something in me. I see the power of it but also the wild spirit. Think about it – money, value, benefit, purpose. With no organization. No government. Nobody owns it. Everybody owns it.”
Seeing the two worlds ultimately converging, Harry managed to convince the Board of Daimler Mobility to embrace the idea. This is how the Daimler Mobility Blockchain Factory came into existence. Then, in May 2021, the journey came to fruition in an official announcement by Daimler Mobility that the new startup had acquired the license for the Daimler Mobility Blockchain Platform.
Stop Aggregating, Start Collaborating
At the core of the company lies bloXmove, a Mobility Blockchain Platform. It’s a decentralised infrastructure that enables the frictionless mobility of people in and around urban areas. Although, as Harry points out, “it could also be used for logistics or for any fragmented markets, where the end-to-end transaction management of the services involved is required”.
“In cities and urban areas, you have 10, 15, 20 transport companies delivering to the customer, what should just be one pass or one ticket. One set of credentials”. bloXmove doesn’t handle the customer relationships of the different transport service providers in the ecosystem. The platform services still keep their public touch points.
With bloXmove, end users verify their credentials once and use those credentials with all mobility partners in the ecosystem. One payment is made and money is distributed within the network. “The main customer benefit is frictionless travel and urban transport.”
The benefit for the mobility partners in the ecosystem is that bloXmove is not a centralised host or aggregator that charges a high commission to participate in the network. The bloXmove ecosystem encourages innovation and opens up new lines of communication between partnering entities.
“Service providers keep their customer relationships. The advantage of decentralisation is that they’re not being swallowed by a ‘hyper-aggregator’ and they have a very high degree of flexibility in the offering of services and the ability to structure themselves in an asset lite manner.”
Harry mentions, “a key phrase that a friend of mine told me and really changed my way of thinking, is protocol economy. What we’re doing is protocol commerce. It’s a completely new way of thinking. It’s a new business model”.
Harrys explains, “the network is behind your router. Verified identity records. Billing records. All in a shared ledger. It’s part of the protocol. It’s not in your system anymore. It’s in the network between your router and the other service’s router. And, it becomes the internet of value. The internet of commerce”.
“Overheads can be reduced. Everything which used to be in your IT system, which made life very expensive and very slow is not part of your IT system anymore. You do product design and sales. The rest is done by the network.”
The vehicle to grid connection
Part of the wider vision of Power and Mobility is the vehicle-to-grid aspect, to balance energy networks. Harry points out that within the next 10 years, the number of electric vehicles on our roads will have grown exponentially.
A huge volume of electric vehicles will be connected to charging stations, at any point in time. This is where the physical connection of electric vehicles to the power grid happens. “You will always have a large number of electric vehicles connected to the power grid through the charging stations. That’s where the link is. 20 percent of vehicles during the day, maybe 80 percent at night. Vehicle to grid becomes a reality.”
Electric vehicles can be used to balance out the supply of energy. Energy can be pushed to the car batteries in times of oversupply and drawn from the batteries during times of undersupply. “In this way the vehicles become part of the power network. Like a water tide, flowing in, flowing out. This is truly a long term vision.”
Minimum Viable Ecosystem
Pilots will be rolled out over the next 1 or 2 years. The team is aware that it’s not going to be a linear journey. “It’s going to be one of those typical S-curves and nobody I’ve ever met can predict where that flip in the S-curve occurs. Some places like Dubai, some areas are basically primed for it. Singapore. Some of the Dutch or Scandinavian cities. They are almost ready.”
Harry likens the network effect of adoption, which will be necessary for success, to that of the telephone. How selling a telephone to the first few customers might not be easy due to them not fully appreciating the benefit of it.
“It’s the early adopter scenario. But, at some point a flipping will happen in the S-curve. People will start calling you saying, I also want one of those! This is where smart incentives, smart business development and strategic alignment make the difference. There is no way around it. It’s the process you have to go through, fully understanding that the first few telephones make no sense. You have to bear in mind that one phone after the other eventually results in network effects and the exponential scaling of the network. The very same dynamic can be applied to onboarding customers to a decentralized value platform. It’s a mindset shift.”
watch the BloxMove video here