Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is aiming to improve on paper-based processes by testing a blockchain based management system for rail workers.

SBB has completed its Proof of Concept (POC) of the system which aims to eventually create digital IDs for Swiss rail workers employed at the company’s construction sites across the country. The trial, which ran over a period of six months this year, was aimed at improving current processes which are still largely paper-based. SBB’s Daniele Pallecchi commented on the program’s raison d’etre, pointing out, “Construction sites on the SBB network often involve third parties. For safety reasons, there are strict requirements regarding the qualification of personnel… explaining the need for a robust identity system.”

The blockchain solution to the problem of workers’ paper identity was the brainchild of Linum Labs, using the open-source technology of uPort. The POC allowed workers to create their own digital identities using the uPort app on their mobile devices. Once completed, SBB issued certification to verify that workers had completed training. Workers were then able to scan a QR from the app to gain entry to worksites across the rail network. Linum labs explained the process:

“Using uPort, railway workers, certification authorities and supervisors are able to have their own unique digital identities linked to their respective uPort IDs, which is then anchored to an identity on the blockchain. A hash of the worker’s check-in / check-out activities is published to the blockchain so that the internal database can be audited.”

The app isn’t limited to SBB and can hook up to other networks such as Zug ID which was also used earlier this year to enable digitalized voting. The trialed blockchain-powered vote in June of this year utilized Zug’s eID system voting on minor issues and the future of the ID system itself. Some of the municipal services that the public asked to vote on included annual fireworks displays, digital ID library lending, digital entry ID parking fees, and electronic tax returns.

Although uPort itself wasn’t directly involved in the railway project, head of product Thierry Bonfante confirmed that the company’s partners were representing them in the market. Bonfante also commented that he felt the scalability of Ethereum had been a problem. Consequently, the company is in the process of upgrading its technology.

Other than for small-scale operations, UPort’s director of business operations Alice Nawfalm argued than a more sophisticated solution would be needed for identity applications; the kind which would probably not work on a device such as a phone. To combat this the company is looking at creating a storage hub solution in the future.


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