The use of blockchains can fall into four major categories that are related on one side to keeping records and on the other at facilitating transactions.
- Static registry. A distributed database (ledger) that is used for storing reference data, which needs to be immutable and verifiable. For transportation, this can involve the record of asset ownership (vehicles, conveyances) and registration information. Static blockchains tend to be less computationally intensive since records are not frequently changed.
- Smart contracts. A distributed database that contains recorded conditions required to trigger when an action is met, such as a payment or the transfer of an asset. Transportation operations are prone to smart contracts such as fare collection and insurance. For instance, if a container enters a terminal or if a parcel is delivered, then a payment can be automatically made, and the transaction is considered completed.
- Dynamic registry. Similar to a static registry, but in this case the database can be updated frequently as additional information is added and as assets are exchanged. A supply chain is a relevant example of a dynamic registry that is constantly updated because of the intensiveness of related transaction.
- Payment infrastructure. A distributed database that support cryptocurrencies and the related transactions. Linked with smart contracts, cryptocurrencies have the potential to be used to settle contracts once defined conditions (e.g. delivery) have been met.