The Earth loves transparency! It allows us to fight climate crisis effectively. We need transparency to ensure that the burden of the needed climate action is shared fairly and there are no freeriders.

Then again, there are dozens of layers and business owners who are afraid of transparency. Too much transparency means competitive advantage for competitors. Hence, some secrecy is also needed.

In this blog post we will tell about the GoWood proof of concept, in which we addressed both the need for transparency and the need for secrecy.

Why this is important

The UN Climate summit in Madrid was yet another example of how hard it is to come up with a solution to calculating the climate impact and how to share the responsibility between countries in a fair, fact-based and transparent way. The attendants of the summit have worked on a shared strategy for the challenge of climate change for years. It is not an easy task to agree on the rules.

Let’s imagine that we have this rule set at some point in the near future. Next challenge is to create a global information system that actually implements the rules. Such a system most likely needs to be able to do complex computation across organizational boundaries. In the GoWood project we explored one small part of this massive information flow challenge: The flow of wood materials in the value chain.

Sitra (The Finnish Innovation Fund) asked Aalto University to study possible solutions. Aalto accepted the challenge. They decided to include a technical proof of concept as one of the approaches into the research project. That is where we came in.

In short, the goal of GoWood proof of concept was to:

  1. to explore how might we track a sheet of plywood installed in a building back to the specific tree trunk in the forest, and
  2. to experiment how might we do it in such a way that the data companies need to provide for carbon accounting is very hard to exploit and use in an inappropriate way without need for a massive, centralized data platform.

Right now, the accuracy of estimates for the climate impact of wood building is limited. There are numerous reasons for this. For instance, the data required in the calculation is hard to collect partly because there are a large number of stakeholders who are unwilling to give their data. There are also gaps in the data and you need to do statistical guesses. However, we don’t have a good overview of where the gaps are.

Solution

In the proof of concept, we provide a solution to the aforementioned data sharing problem.

I.e. how to allow stakeholders in the value chain to securely share only the required data and not expose other business critical data. To do this we used a fairly new blockchain-based technology called Holochain. Data about the assets and the links between them are distributed in a network of agents in a Holochain network. For more details, see the technical documentation below.

Demo

If you are interested in to see and hear how exactly check out this video demo and discussion

Source code and technical documentation

The proof of concept is fully open source under MIT licence:

Testimonial

“It was a pleasure to work with Tero and Ari-Pekka. We managed to accomplish a lot in a very short timeframe. I was genuinely pleased that Tero and Ari-Pekka managed to make a blockchain-based solution working, including using Holochain and Rust, which they did not know in advance.”

Pekka Nikander, Professor of practice (Industrial Internet) at Aalto University, and the Scrum Product Owner of the GoWood Proof of Concept

Acknowledgement

GoWood project was Aalto University project funded by EIT Climate-KiC. The project was owned by Mark Hughes (Professor (Wood Technology) at Aalto University) and Pekka Nikander (Professor of Practice (Industrial Internet) at Aalto University). The technical Proof of Concept was just one part of a larger GoWood research project. If full GoWood project report is to be published at some point in the future, we will add a link to this blog post.