How Blockchain Technology Can Help IT Become The New Hero For Aerospace Business

Thomas Pohl

IT professionals can become the new heroes in aerospace and defense (A&D) companies by using transformative new technologies productively and imaginatively. With so many new and pervasive technologies coming to market, it can be difficult to keep up with the pace of technology change. For example,

  • How do you incorporate these tools?
  • Which ones do you need?
  • How do you choose wisely and avoid letting your company fall behind the competition?

Finding value in the technologies you choose will be the essence of your company’s success. In the A&D industry, weapons systems, aircraft features, and the demand for everything-as-a-service are changing faster than ever before.

In today’s A&D market, the ability to adjust to change is everything. And it’s up to IT to provide the technology and skills that will allow A&D companies to transform themselves and to succeed. The rapid introduction of technology innovations can be overwhelming; the trick is to keep new technology from becoming a distraction.

It’s important to focus on choosing technology based on the value it can deliver to your company.

Blockchain – also known as the Internet of value

Let’s take a closer look into blockchain technology and how it can be applied to the aerospace and defense industry.

In the last year, you’ve probably heard about blockchain technology. But you may not know much about what it is, who is using it, and what they’re using it for in aerospace and defense.

Blockchain is a technology that uses cryptography, peer-to-peer networks, and consensus algorithms to form a “digital ledger” of transactions. Every participant in a blockchain can see those transactions that are verified and recorded in a “connected chain of information.” Blockchain allows participants to conduct business transactions directly with each other, eliminating the need for third parties, through built-in information transparency.

Early uses of blockchain included currency such as Bitcoin and payment infrastructures. A Canadian bank used it with their international transaction processing to reduce it from days to seconds – enabling businesses to perform secure international B2C transactions. A&D companies are looking into the opportunities that this new technology could offer.

Airbus – the search for the right blockchain applications

Airbus has been working to identify business challenges that blockchain can address. These include instances where there is a high cost of trust, a slow process but time-sensitive interactions, compliance issues, high overhead cost for data reconciliation, and multiple parties that need to share data.

“Blockchain is, in essence, a trust-building technology that facilitates exchanges and trust between parties, so it’s natural to be collaborative in the way we work on problem-solving and adoption,” says data science strategist Leon Zucchini at Airbus. To this end, Airbus’ chief technical organisation (CTO), digital transformation organisation (DTO), and information and communications technology (ICT) division have formed a blockchain working group within the company to search for the right application.

Airbus and SAP recently joined the Hyperledger project, an open source collaborative effort created to advance the cross-industry use of blockchain technology.

Blockchain applications in aerospace identified by Airbus include:

  • Supply chain tracking: Using blockchain technology as a shared database with suppliers could help track the quality and compliance of products along the entire supply chain
  • Procurement support: By creating joint, trusted records of exchanges between partners, blockchain could help improve procurement processes
  • Revenue sharing: For services that are provided on a digital platform, blockchain can help distribute revenue fairly and transparently

Lufthansa – generating more transparency in aircraft maintenance

Patrick Goetze at Lufthansa sees a huge potential benefit with blockchain as a neutral information documentation system. With the way information is stored in blocks, which are verified and sealed, the information contained cannot be changed and is saved in such a way that it is visible for everybody. This transparency makes it extremely difficult to corrupt and manipulate the information and is of particular benefit if different companies are working together and therefore using the same data – for example in aircraft maintenance.

After they are manufactured, aircraft components could be registered in a blockchain together with all relevant data, including serial codes. If a component is installed in an airplane, this information can be saved in yet another blockchain. If the part malfunctions, maintenance technicians can use the information stored to review the exact number of flight hours and to decide whether to replace or repair the part. If it is repaired, this information can then be saved in a separate blockchain for the component in question.

Other blockchain application scenarios in aviation include the secure management of certification from aviation authorities and technicians’ job cards.

Blockchain may be the answer for better cybersecurity

When it comes to protecting digital assets, the banking and A&D industries have a lot in common. Both need a safe way to communicate and conduct transactions across the global value chain.

In the A&D industry, however, cybersecurity needs to extend from the Defense Department to the manufacturer to its suppliers and throughout the complete ecosystem. The industry is realizing that blockchain may offer an answer.

Last fall, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution calling for a national technology innovation policy. It includes language that supports digital currencies and blockchain technology. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican from Texas, said at the hearing: “There’s no doubt that blockchain innovations are on the cutting-edge today.”

Are you looking to innovate with blockchain technology in aerospace and defense? Do you want to become the new hero to your business? At SAPPHIRE NOW, you can visit with the SAP A&D experts and see the latest technologies and solutions in action. Learn more about SAPPHIRE NOW and secure your spot today!


Thomas Pohl

About Thomas Pohl

Thomas Pohl is a Senior Director Marketing at SAP. He helps global high tech and aerospace companies to simplify their business by taking innovative software solutions to market.