Building Trust through Blockchain

Blockchain is quickly becoming a technology that is gathering momentum in multiple industries. Many of us have read about Blockchain applications used to manage and monitor the diamond supply chain or to secure and track records in the financial services sector. But within aerospace, the use cases are far fewer. In fact, I would say that when it comes to aerospace, we’re merely at Ground Zero and barely scratching the surface on what Blockchain can really do to change this industry for the better. That means this is an exciting time for aerospace.

At Honeywell, we focus on leveraging Blockchain for the technology that it’s known for: It’s a highly secure, decentralized database that can be “crowd-sourced” by your ecosystem of participants. Ultimately, it's a technology that can be used to manufacture trust. What's interesting is that the historical “walled garden” approach to data, which is so prevalent across large enterprises, is the anti-opposite of how Blockchain technology is used. This is about bringing more transparency and trust into the aerospace industry through Blockchain technology. So, how are we really using Blockchain?  

Trust Trace: Part pedigree data to bring as much transparency to the consumer as possible.

True or false? I have to trust you in order to transact with you.

Fundamentally, the answer is “true”. In its most basic sense, trust is the fundamental currency of commerce and is required for the transaction to occur. Everyone and their mom shops on Amazon. Amazon has built trust into the transaction by providing transparency through the user experience (think price, product images, reviews) and becoming the “Big Brother” institution that makes sure that sellers do what they say they’re going to do. Ever use CarFax? Basically, this is a service to provide everything there is to know about a used automobile before you purchase it. Maybe you don’t want to buy a car that’s consistently been in the snow because of the wear and tear on the undercarriage. Or, maybe the car has been in multiple accidents and that’s just not for you.

At GoDirect™ Trade, we use Blockchain technology in a similar way and we call it Trust Trace. We try to provide as much information about a serialized part as possible so that our consumers can make quicker and more informed decisions. Because of Blockchain’s inherent ability to “crowd-source” its data in a secure way, our marketplace is able to collect various “part events” from lots of different places. For example, every time a part is listed, that event is stored on the Blockchain ledger. When parts are repaired or dismantled from an aircraft, we are able to store that event onto the ledger when we’re connected to the right ecosystem players. Finally, every part sold on our marketplace has its bill of sale transaction recorder on the ledger. Forever.

A recent case study written by (password hlteam in case you need it) outlines why Blockchain is a reality in our marketplace and not just something people are talking about. But manufacturing trust into the customer experience is multi-faceted and it simply won't happen overnight. Imagine a big boulder that sits between the Customer and the Seller. The only way to remove the boulder is to chip away at it until enough of the barrier is removed. Ultimately, we need to create an experience that enables the buyer and seller to interact with ease and Blockchain technology is one way to help us get there.

Blockchain technology to battle counterfeit activities and expand parts traceability.

Not only do we use Blockchain technology to build up a part pedigree but we also use it to battle counterfeit activities and physically trace a part during its lifetime. Honeywell has introduced a process that uses patented technology from iTRACE, SecureMarking and Honeywell Performance Materials & Technology to “mark” a part and then activate the authenticity and birth records on its digital Blockchain ledger. I know that was a mouthful and incredibly boring to read but in aerospace, this is a first-of-its-kind technology that will simplify and transform supply chain operations.

How does it work?

The concept is simple: The moment a part comes off the Honeywell assembly line, the identification plate receives a two-factor authentication marking. Fun fact: Every two seconds a part comes off a Honeywell manufacturing line and EVERY SINGLE part gets written onto the Blockchain ledger. For Blockchain geeks across the world, this is monumental.

First, iTRACE's “un-hackable” 2D data matrix is laser etched onto the identification plate and then a high security ink provided by Honeywell Performance Materials and Technology (PMT) and SecureMarking is applied to the etching but is invisible to the naked eye. Next, a mobile app scans the 2D matrix and activates the digital authenticity record for the part and records this data, along with the part’s birth information onto Honeywell’s secure, digital Blockchain ledger. Like the Fed’s use of anti-counterfeit technology on the hundred-dollar bill, once the part continues its journey (from birth, to aircraft install, to aftermarket repair, to death), the two-factor authentication always follows the part. The 2D matrix can be scanned via a mobile app to confirm authenticity and a special light with the right frequency can activate the upconverting particles which make the “magic ink” visible to the naked eye, or to a special camera. Interested in learning more? Read about the trial on our Let's Talk Trade blog post: Anti-counterfeit technology isn’t just for hundred dollar bills.

Paperwork transformed into bits and bytes and stored on the Blockchain ledger.

This is one area that most people immediately jump to when they think about aerospace and Blockchain: Can't we use Blockchain to go "paperless" in aerospace? Not to be a Debby Downer but there are tons of services already out there that scan documents and then store those documents in a cloud for easy accessibility and re-use. Where Blockchain really comes into play is enabling individuals, companies, and enterprises to start sharing those documents and searching for those documents in a robust platform.

At Honeywell, we're aggressively connecting the dots and using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in conjunction with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain to come up with an optimal way for everyone to start scanning, sharing, and searching for all information related to all of the quality documents that exist on Planet Earth. Because remember, this isn't just about wall gardens anymore, this is about building out an open ecosystem that depends on its participants to crowd source the data. Imagine a world where all the bits and bytes of all those quality documents can be accessible and searchable by all. Imagine a world where you can receive a part from a supplier and the data plates are digitally checked against all incoming paperwork to ensure 100% accuracy. That is the world we're trying to get to ... and we're not very far away.

Final Thoughts.

Inside our GoDirect™ Trade marketplace, Blockchain is simply an enabler that will help us chip away at that boulder of mistrust. Our team has been working tirelessly to deploy Blockchain technologies that will help bring more part transparency to our customers and bring significant efficiencies to the aerospace industry. Not only are we using the technology but we are partnering with others in the industry who are just as dedicated and obsessed with the customer experience as we are. Interested in future Blockchain collaboration opportunities? Contact Lisa Butters, General Manager, GoDirect™ Trade and Blockchain Product Line Leader.