USAF Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon in the flying-display with smoke at the 1998 Farnborough Airshow. (Photo by: via Getty Images) The professional services firm Accenture is demoing a new blockchain prototype specifically tailored to aerospace and defense industry supply chains at this week’s Farnborough Air Show, the second largest such exhibition in the world.

Working in conjunction with Thales, the French multinational aerospace and defense systems provider, Accenture’s prototype provides the ability to verify the authenticity of parts and supplies from beginning to end across the industry’s complex and heavily regulated supply chains. “Blockchain technology offers a new, elegant and secure way for the industry to track and trace myriad components while deterring counterfeiting and improving maintenance capabilities,” said John Schmidt, global managing director for Accenture’s Aerospace and Defense practice.

In addition to the track-and-trace aspect, the prototype will be able to create and maintain the reliability of a so-called “digital twin” replica once the physical product has been delivered to the customer, offering a key value-add vis-a-vis other blockchain for supply chain systems that are currently in development. A digital twin is essentially a digital replica of an existing physical asset that, through the integration of Internet of Things technology, modifies itself as changes to the underlying physical asset are made.

This process is enriched by the use of digital threads, which allow for information to flow through the value chain from original manufacturer to suppliers, partners and operators. Combined with blockchain, these innovations can facilitate enhanced data sharing throughout the product design, manufacturing and maintenance lifecycle – creating additional visibility into an aircraft engine, for instance, as repairs or part replacements are made.

As such, Schmidt argued that blockchain’s facilitation role in this context should not be underestimated: “Used in combination with technologies like digital twins and digital threads, blockchain could ultimately be a game-changing innovation for this sector.” Mark Walton-Hayfield, an executive with Accenture Digital in London, explained that in addition to reducing costs and verifying authenticity, these information flows will produce an even broader suite of benefits, such as the ability to conduct more targeted and precise recalls of potentially defective parts. “When you consider how long it takes to build an aircraft and how long they’re in service for, we don’t want to over-recall things,” he explained.  Built on Hyperledger Fabric, the prototype incorporates tamper-proof cryptoseals produced by Chronicled and Thales’ physically unclonable functions to ensure that data is unalterable throughout the product lifespan. Read more from…

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