If anybody was keeping score during last week’s Revolution.Aero Conference in London, Blockchain was one of the words that kept coming up.
In the strictest sense of the term, a Blockchain is a publicly available digital ledger that exists in multiple places, rather than just one single place.
Each of the stakeholders in the Blockchain hosts the entire Blockchain rather than just the stakeholder’s individual part.
There were two sessions on the agenda dedicated to Blockchain. On the first day, we heard a presentation by Sandra Ro, CEO, The Blockchain Business Council, who went in depth on how Blockchain works. On the second day, a panel discussion looked at how business aviation could adopt Blockchain technology.
During the panel, Aiham Bader of Click Aviation Network, the international trip-support company, said the company is currently using Blockchain technology for its Instant Permit Programme and will look at leveraging it to help with traceability.
Perhaps the most obvious use of Blockchain in aviation is with keeping aircraft records. These already need to be kept secure and up to date, but by using one of Blockchain’s key features – no changes can be made to the chain without the permission of every other person in the chain – it means that nobody can tamper or alter any of the information in the record without anybody knowing.
The Blockchain would not only keep maintenance records and events in an aircraft’s life but also hold a serialised list of all the parts and fittings on it.
If every part is serialised, and entered in the Blockchain, it makes it easier for parts manufacturers to locate parts around the world that could be faulty. As well as the ability to permanently track data, one of the main features of Blockchain is that each host of the Blockchain is able to see the same information at the same time.
This could be used to speed up aircraft transactions. Rather than multiple emails floating around (which could be intercepted and altered) and sending documents for signatures by courier, each party to the transaction has access to the component parts of the Blockchain and is able to digitally sign documents in situ, with the signing of the documents made immediately available to everybody else.
One weak link in a Blockchain, or indeed in any chain, lies with the users themselves. Users often use the same passwords across multiple systems or even send their passwords by email or by other insecure methods that are open to abuse.
But with Blockchain technology, such human errors or failures become increasingly improbable.