Blockchain Use Cases

Blockchains comprise three main components: data storage, tokens to keep track of payments, and smart contracts.  We have been working with Ripple, a blockchain company, to explore, develop and test models for smart cities infrastructure systems such as water and transportation infrastructure. 

CDIF is part of the Ripple Blockchain Research Initiative, a 20 university research network focused on developing new business use cases – from smart cities applications to ‘blockchain for good’.  Our focus:

  1. Research and technical development to stimulate widespread understanding and innovation in blockchain.
  2. Create new curriculum to meet student demand for blockchain, cryptocurrency and other FinTech topics.
  3. Stimulate ideas and dialogue with business leaders on integration of tokens and blockchains across use cases.
  4. Validator of XRP-based transactions on Ripple ledgers (UM is a Ripple node)


Great Lakes Water Authority.  We’re building a conceptual token infrastructure to keep track of water usage and payments between the authority  – the nations’ largest wastewater treatment plant – and its partner clients.  We leverage data from sensors in the piping network, as well as from the SCADA analytics. The objective is to structure transparency between volume delivered and consumed vs. payment schedule.

Transportation Infrastructure Finance.  We’re exploring the design of a blockchain infrastructure to capture structural health monitoring data and converting the information in a financial risk rating model that would allow for making calls on capital from the state highway fund.  The dataset is based on deployed load and stress sensors, as well as video capture.

Source:  Figure modified from Sharma et al. (2017)

Construction value chain:  Led by Prof. Lee, we aim to understand and manage construction dynamics and human-infrastructure interface through sensing, data analytics and computer simulation. Particularly, his lab is interested in achieving the maximum benefit from technologies like wearables, automation, and robotics for humans in construction and infrastructure.  Blockchain models are explored to track payments in these emerging supply chains.

Students and Collaborators

  • Ripple, Great Lakes Water Authority, Sidewalk Labs
  • Urban Collaboratory: Jerry Lynch, Branko Kerkez, Curt Wolf
  • Sanghyun Lee, Director, Dynamic Project Management Lab
  • Matthew Dixon, Illinois Institute of Technology (Mathematics and Business)
  • Xiaoxue Xin, Student, Mathematical Finance
  • Blockchain at Michigan team: Nisreen Bahrainwala, Dheera Vuppola, Alexandria Pawlik, and Marco Perez