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Airlines and airports experiment with blockchain

Blockchain is emerging as a priority technology for research in the aviation industry in 2018, new research claims.

Blockchain is fast emerging as a priority technology for future exploration among airport and airline chief information officers globally, attracting the most research attention in 2018, according to new research.

Blockchain offers multiple uses ranging from passenger identification to ticketing, asset tracking and managing frequent flyers programmes, all of which can help the industry work better together, the 2018 SITA Air Transport IT Insights shows.

Today, 59% of airlines have pilot or research programmes planned around blockchain for implementation by 2021, which is up from 42% last year.

Similarly, airports are also experimenting with blockchain, with 34% planning R&D projects by 2021.

The most commonly expected use of blockchain for both airlines and airports is to streamline the passenger identification process, with 40% of airlines and 36% of airports saying this would be a major benefit, SITA claims.

“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,” explains Gustavo Pina, director of SITA Lab.

“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, Pina says. These work across multiple organisations locking data into the blockchain rather than having individual applications running separately and exchanging data on a case-by-case basis.

In this way, the technology can provide a ‘single source of truth’ to all stakeholders, he adds.

Potential benefits
While the focus in the industry is mainly on passenger identity management, airlines and airports also see potential for blockchain to have other benefits, the research says.

Airline CIOs say they expect blockchain technology to provide benefits in the roll out of passenger tokens for frequent flyer programs (34%) and e-tickets (31%).

Airport CIOs have item custody change tracking, such as baggage (28%) and operational efficiency (24%) as areas that have potential benefits.

In a bid to help drive the exploration of blockchain, SITA announced in June the launch of the Aviation Blockchain Sandbox, a research project to explore the new technology’s potential. It is also looking into the viability of running multi-enterprise apps using blockchain.

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