Blockchain is increasingly mentioned as a tool that might make the aviation aftermarket more efficient and reliable. Indeed, the use of blockchain is spreading fast beyond its original purpose of supporting cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Though the aircraft aftermarket may be a tougher nut to crack, due to safety and regulatory concerns, increasing experience with blockchain and all its possible versions may help to devise a solution suitable for MRO. And some very smart people are beginning to say that blockchain, properly customized, can be made more secure and safe than paper or other digital records.
Carsten Stoener is IBM’s competence leader in travel and transportation. He says IBM has not yet begun working on using blockchain for aerospace, but it is working on more than 400 blockchain projects in industries such as banking, financial services, supply chains, retail and beyond. He is bullish on further applications.
“Blockchain is an entirely new business model that will eliminate all kinds of middlemen,” Stoener notes. It would use machine networks in which devices themselves could engage in transactions. “Property such as aircraft parts could be bought and sold according to programmable or artificial intelligence-based rules, rather than the control of a centralized entity.”
Stoener says the platform would thus enable participants to share data much more efficiently, all while creating transparency and eliminating fraud. “By design, no one party can modify, delete or even append any record in the blockchain without the consensus of others on the network.” That makes blockchain useful for ensuring immutability of contracts and other legal documents. Immutability is one important key to security and safety.
Efficiency is another potential gain. “Blockchain allows businesses to form networks and work together in a new way, resulting in lower cost, faster transactions and less risk,” Stoener says. As the blockchain grows, it becomes increasingly more difficult for stakeholders to reach a consensus on changing network rules. That is a feature, not a bug. “This is by design and reinforces the original principles of the blockchain’s creators. To change the rules is to split the network, creating a new blockchain and a new community. Blockchain networks resist political governance because they are governed by everyone who participants in them, and by no one in particular.”
A consensus among participants, rather than a single firm or authority, could just be the best security for aftermarket records.