Blockchain and Earth Observation: a white paper

Blockchain technology is often referred to as having a revolutionary potential for transforming the future of global markets. The industry leaders and policymakers across different sectors of the economy, and in public policy, have launched many initiatives (including dedicated innovation hubs) to investigate the potential of blockchain for financial and non-financial applications. Areas of interest currently include: cross-border payment, and cryptocurrency functions, land administration, supply chain management, energy, health, education, and carbon market trading, to name but a few. There is thus a growing consensus that recognises the potential for large-scale blockchain use for a wide range of industries and services.

Europe is at the forefront of the blockchain innovation worldwide. Research into distributed ledger technologies is now fully integrated into the EU Digital Single Market Agenda. The European Commission (EC) has already initiated several EU projects addressing blockchain applications under Horizon 2020 while providing the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum to accelerate knowledge sharing and stimulate transformative ideas across the continent. In line with this strategy, the EU member states, including Norway, endorsed in a 2018 Declaration creating the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) which is intended to provide sustainable and EU-law compliant tools for potential development and deployment of the first set of cross-border digital public services based on this innovative technology.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) role is to catalyse European innovation within the Earth Observation sector by enabling bold EO innovative solutions. While the adoption of blockchain intensifies in other sectors of the digital economy, ESA has issued a White Paper to define the key potential focus areas for the EO community. The opportunities and challenges as well as research agenda and use cases presented in this report were identified at a community-led Blockchain Workshop, held at ESA/ESRIN during Φ-week on 15 November 2018. The upcoming 2019 Φ-week to be held on September 9-13 will feature a session dedicated to the implementation of the workshop recommendations and to the progress towards the roadmap milestones.