The way to fly high
Blockchain is fast emerging as a priority technology for future collaboration among airports and airlines and has instigated a growing amount of research into FinTech this year.
Today, 59 per cent of airlines have pilot or research programmes planned around blockchain for implementation by 2021. Similarly, airports also continue to experiment with it.
The most commonly expected use for both is to streamline the passenger identification process with 40 per cent of airlines and 36 per cent of airports saying this would be a major benefit.
While the focus in the industry is predominately on passenger identity management, both airlines and airports also see that blockchain could have major benefits across several other areas of operation.
In a new report, airlines stated they expected the technology to provide benefits in the roll out of passenger tokens for frequent flyer programmes and e-tickets. Airport bosses have baggage tracking and operational efficiency as areas that have potential benefits too.
The feedback is revealed in new research released by communications and IT solution provider SITA, owned by more than 400 air transport industry members, which covers everything from global communications and infrastructure services, to baggage, self-service, airport, passenger and border management.
Its 2018 SITA IT Air Transport IT Insights shows that blockchain could offer multiple uses, all of which would help the various stakeholders in the industry work better together, replacing systems, processes and departments that are currently isolated from others.
“The biggest obstacles standing in the way of a seamless passenger journey and truly efficient air travel, are the siloed processes across the many stakeholders, including airlines, airports, ground handlers and control authorities,” said Gustavo Pina, director of SITA Lab, the organisation’s technology research team.
“They act as significant speed bumps at every step of the way. By collaborating as a single industry, we can smooth that journey and blockchain is one of the technologies that has the potential to make that possible. This explains the industry’s significant interest in it.”
One of the key benefits of blockchain technology is the ability to have multi-enterprise applications. These work across multiple organisations locking data immutably into the blockchain rather than having individual applications running separately and exchanging data on a case-by-case basis. This is how this technology can provide a ‘single source of truth’ to all stakeholders, supporters suggest.
In a bid to help drive the exploration of blockchain, SITA announced in June the launch of The Aviation Blockchain Sandbox, a major industry research project to explore the potential of blockchain.
SITA is investing in the infrastructure to accelerate industry-specific research into the viability of running multi-enterprise apps using distributed ledger technology, more commonly known as blockchain.
Gustavo Pina, said: “Through this collaborative innovation we will accelerate the learning for all and have already significant interest in pursuing cross-industry initiatives through the Aviation Blockchain Sandbox initiative.”
The Aviation Blockchain Sandbox will be led and managed by SITA Lab and will develop in three stages. To start, SITA will open the access to the FlightChain smart contract on the Sandbox.
FlightChain, which initially started with British Airways, Heathrow, Geneva Airport and Miami International Airport, will allow airlines and airports to solve the issue of flight status data quality. It stores flight information on the blockchain to provide a single source of information. Other airlines and airports can join in this research and test FlightChain for their own use thanks to simple APIs that will be available on Developer.aero.
For the second stage of this collaborative innovation, SITA will work with organisations that wish to test smart contracts across a number of airline and airport operational use cases. During the third stage of the research, SITA will enable participants to run their own node of the blockchain sandbox.
Blockchain was one of the subjects under the spotlight during Bahrain Tech Week which concluded with the Bahrain International eGovernment Forum 2018, held at the Ritz Carlton, Bahrain.
The series of events hosted across Manama brought together professionals from government, major private-sector entities and startups to explore how digital innovations will revolutionise industries across the GCC.
Organised by the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) in strategic partnership with Tamkeen, Tech Week featured more than 10 summits, forums and workshops, hosted by some of the world’s foremost technology experts.
The MIT Innovation Forum, for example, where experts from organisations such as Ethereum, Cloudflare and Kaspersky Lab covered some of the key topics in 2018 such as cyber-security and, of course, Blockchain.
Incidentally, Bahrain Airport Company is developing a new passenger terminal at Bahrain International Airport as part of an on-going modernisation programme, a comprehensive plan designed to improve the infrastructure and services at the airport to cater to future aviation needs.
It will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology to improve passenger convenience, safety and security, as well as expedite the check-in processes. The $1.1 billion project is scheduled to be completed during the third quarter of 2019.
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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