Blockchain, IoT, and AI will all have important roles

  • March 25, 2020
  • Federico Kattan

“In the face of the restrictions caused by COVID-19 pandemic (even when the priority now is to find a way to minimize human loss), we need to start thinking about the new models of human collaboration in cloud based conception need to put in place to be more resilient and effective. The globalized economy as it stands today, has a lot to learn from this pandemic. Blockchain, IoT, and AI will all have important roles to play in shaping our improved enterprises” 

Decentralization and resilience to shocks will be an important trait of supply-chains across many industries. Reaching self-organization, autonomous regulation, and robust collaboration is where smart contracts and blockchains can have an important impact. Beyond pull or push models of supply-chain we need to think in terms of intersecting supply and demand chains, trustable traceability, globally distributed suppliers, round-the-clock coordination, and ad-hoc formation of mechanisms to attend specific demand, just to name a few things.

Traceability has been a requirement for many industries, for aviation it’s a mandated requirement by multiple regulatory agencies. In turn, producing transparent, comprehensive, and accurate information to meet these requirements is a problem that grows exponentially with the number of participants in a supply chain as the solution needs to account for supplier interactions, events, methods, materials, certifications, differences in geography, time-zone, and a globally distributed demand. Information is at the heart of traceability, and blockchains have inherent properties that make it an ideal technological candidate for collecting it, manage its security, and guarantee accessibility, more specifically:

  • A blockchain can keep records forever available, decentralized in a global network, replicated on every node, yet it’s still private and secured.
  • It could provide strong guarantees of privacy and access control by leveraging cryptographic tools like hashing, signatures, and encryption.
  • It could enforce adherence to a protocol that requires documents and actions to be executed in a specific sequence, authorized, and reviewed by specific participants; all this enacted in smart contracts that guard access to information and execute autonomously.
  • It provides strong warranties on data immutability; allowing only updates in accordance with an access protocol.
  • It allows interoperability with human-based processes, but also with IoT / Sensor based ones.

Aviation Engine Parts

There are few sectors where traceability is of utmost importance such as aviation (on par with pharmaceuticals, or medical equipment). In order to provide meaningful guarantees and compliance (especially in a distributed and complex supply-chain) we can resort to a “digital twin”: the ultimate goal is to produce a digital representation of a physical item capable of accurately representing its structure, production methods, materials, events, location, and other characteristics so we can enact seamless and frictionless interactions among the participants of the supply and demand chains.

A digital twin begins with an asset’s digital birth certificate which is recorded on-chain and contains the asset’s primary attributes like: Serial Number, Part Number, Parents, or status.

Through the life of the asset, different events are recorded on-chain, they in turn trigger the creation of smart contracts to guard the data and processes that must be followed to handle the event’s occurrence; this includes the required documents, or the selection of partners who are granted access to the information who are expected to handle the event by producing results that are also recorded in the blockchain which in turn could trigger new interactions.

The aggregate history of an asset, in terms of the events that happened to it and the handling of those events by following cryptographically secure protocols can be seen as a highly credible digital twin of the part or as a traceability system that’s able to externalize trust to third parties. It can be used to generate credible machine learning models that enable a supply-chain that combines the best traits of pull and push models.

For example: documentation to process and verify airplane engine parts can be securely submitted, signed, and verified by human actors or IoT devices, while smart contracts impose business rules on the validity, visibility, and processing of these documents.

With this information, a smart contract could enforce automatic expiration of engine parts or request mechanical inspections. Coupled with IoT devices, the data needed to asses maintenance needs due to usage or regulation could be automated in contract rules that upon triggering will notify adequate actors in the supply chain to fulfil the requirements; the predictability of this process which alerts partners before the expiration of the part or need for maintenance enables them to reliably react to future demand.  Providers that can offer predictive maintenance services stand to gain a competitive advantage over those without access to real-time, blockchain-enabled data.

A blockchain used in this manner provides fertile ground for machine learning models that can predict costs and availability, reducing uncertainty and having a direct economic impact in the industry, in addition data could flow seamlessly between the companies’ information management systems in the context of a transparent and encrypted multi-party transaction ecosystem.

Metacube is working across many sectors to implement Blockchain technology so to find out how you can use Blockchain technology to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your supply chain contact us.