A growing number of industries are discovering the value of blockchain ledgers
as a way to improve the supply chain as blockchain technology offers a
compelling combination of protection and openness. The use of cryptography
protects data from manipulation and helps ensure data can be traced back to
its source. At the same time, because the blockchain ledger itself is not
stored in a single location or controlled by a single entity, data remains
accessible to all the relevant ecosystem players.
Within the supply chain, blockchain ledgers are widely used to keep track of
mechanical components. In the aviation industry, where a single aircraft is
made of thousands of subcomponents, from many different suppliers often
operating on different continents, blockchain ledgers can be used to track
every item, down to the last bolt. The origin, ownership and movement of each
subcomponent can be recorded over its entire life cycle, and this information
can be viewed at any time.
A given plane can be in
service for many years, changing ownership and operators several times, and
the history of each subcomponent can still be accessed and viewed, especially
since airplane parts move from one airplane to another throughout their
lifetime. Thus, blockchain technology offers an exceptional level of detail
and security that makes it easier to verify compliance with airworthiness
directive, and it can make inspections faster and more efficient. Perhaps even
more important, the risk of accidents, due to mechanical failure, might go
A Strong Solution Made Even Stronger: Adding RAIN RFID to the Blockchain
Like any other database, the blockchain is only as trustworthy as the data
that is entered into it. Most blockchain implementations have safeguards in
place, to ensure that the people entering data are thoroughly checked before
they gain access. But the sources of blockchain data are often based on data
carriers, such as QR-Codes or barcodes, which can be easy to fake or
duplicate. What’s more, data capture is often based on a manual process
or a process with low levels of automation, and this is both inefficient and
prone to errors.
There is a way to strengthen blockchain implementations by helping to ensure
that only quality data from authorized sources is captured and entered. By
attaching a highly-secure RAIN RFID tag to each mechanical component (so
called item-level tagging), each item gets its own authentic digital identity.
RAIN RFID tags are generally small and inexpensive, and can be read over long
distances of up to 15 meters. With each read of the RFID tag, as the
subcomponent moves through the supply chain or undergoes an inspection or
repair, the blockchain gets an update – and a history of the item is
being created and stored in the blockchain. Item-level data can be configured
to flow into the blockchain ledger automatically, with many transactions per
second and many units contributing information at once, making manual entry
both outmoded and unnecessary.
mechanisms, embedded in tags such as those based on our
DNA family of RAIN RFID ICs, protect data with cryptographic authentication, to ensure that only trusted
information is stored in the blockchain. The tags themselves are powered by
the field and require only minimal network bandwidth for transactions, yet
provide ample memory to store relevant data and are easy to configure for
cloud and blockchain connectivity.
In aviation, RAIN RFID tags with crypto authentication offer a secure, digital
and wireless way to ensure that airplane subcomponents are identified and
processed accurately. These RFID tags provide a root of trust for blockchain
data, so everyone involved – from manufacturers to inspectors and
operators – can be confident that the information they are getting is
both trustworthy and protected.
Tailored for avionics
At NXP, we are working closely with suppliers to support blockchain solutions
that helps ensure the quality of supply chain data. To support the aviation
industry, we have collaborated with RIDDLE&CODE, a European blockchain
interface company. They specialize in machine identity, product provenance and
supply chain management. To learn more about their work in avionics, we
their blog about contactless asset management in the avionics industry with blockchain.