US Navy Explores Blockchain to Enhance Tracking of Aviation Parts

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The U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is currently exploring the blockchain technology for tracking aviation parts throughout its lifecycle, according to its press release.

For NAVAIR, changing the way it currently tracks the lineage of parts is a critical step into reducing the high costs it takes to operate a military aircraft. The current process involves writing down details of the parts on a Scheduled Removal Component Card—used for recording aviation parts information— before manually entering it into a database.

The Navy has partnered with Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO) under the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, NAVAIR hopes to get “access to cutting-edge chain code” as well as innovative protocols that can “recall large data sets” swiftly and securely.

ITAMCO developed SIMBA Chain, a blockchain as a service platform which allows for tracking secure messages using blockchain for the United States military.

According to the press release, ITAMCO will help the Navy understand how to leverage the distributed ledger for its operations and in return, the startup will get to understand how the Navy operates so it can create a “conceptual architecture” for what a “connected and visible supply chain” could look like when fully developed.

Developing such a platform for the NAVY will not be easy, and one of the hurdles that have to be scaled through is “information assurance and accreditation” for a distributed information system which will depart from the current centrally controlled database architecture. There is also the issue of cyber-security, as the connection of all the nodes supporting the supply chain increases the vulnerability of the system. NAVAIR is bringing the experts in early to create a conceptual architecture, as it hopes to understand the risks and reward that comes with a connected distributed system.

Navy’s Fleet Support Team believes the blockchain can help the Naval Air mission focus more on safety and at a lower cost than it currently can with the old system.

George Blackwood, Logistics Management Specialist F/A-18A-E & EA-18G ISSC North Island Fleet Support Team, was ecstatic about the partnership. He said:

“The Navy is very excited to work with ITAMCO on this cutting-edge technology to improve visibility, anti-tampering, traceability and data transparency in the NAVAIR supply chain.”

San Francisco-based distributed ledger technology company Chain has been acquired by Lightyear, an entity powered by the Stellar network in an undisclosed agreement.

Announced last week, Lightyear will be re-named to Interstellar concurrent with the merger, a company release states. Chain, that builds enterprise-grade blockchain products backed by financial giants Visa, Nasdaq, and Citigroup, will offer its cloud product, Sequence, to Interstellar’s portfolio, allowing organizations to track assets while moving between private ledgers and the Stellar network, it added.

Jed McCaleb, co-founded of the Stellar Development Foundation and Lightyear, will be CTO of Interstellar. According to him, the merger will “help organizations build on Stellar.” He further said:

“Chain’s team has led the market for enterprise adoption of blockchain technology, which is a critical component of building a future where money and digital assets move over open protocols.”

At present, Stellar (XLM) ranks as the world’s sixth-largest cryptocurrency with a market cap of $3.6 billion. With the acquisition, Interstellar will receive Chain’s enterprise products and customer base, enabling organizations to issue, exchange, and manage assets on a public network.

Chain had previously raised more than $43 million from a variety of financial institutions including Capital One, Citigroup, as well as tech-focused funds such as Khosla Ventures, Blockchain Capital, and Pantera Capital.

Interstellar will ease enterprises to create financial services and products with the help of the Stellar open network. Chain’s CEO Adam Ludwin will serve as the CEO of new Interstellar. He stated,

“Chain has worked from inside the enterprise while Stellar has focused on the network between organizations. As a single team we will have a complete view and set of capabilities to make value-over-IP a reality.”

With the launch, Interstellar will have its headquarters in San Francisco, with office operations from New York City and Singapore. Initially, the startup aims to employ 60 employees, the report concluded.

Since mid-2017, Ethereum hackathons have been held in many major cities across the globe, to encourage the development of decentralized applications (dApps) and blockchain-based systems.

ETHGlobal, the biggest Ethereum hackathon organization to date, has played a key role in facilitating the growth of the Ethereum open-source developer community, providing technical workshops, educational talks, and resources to hackers that participate in events to develop applications.

Most recently, ETHBerlin, described by many hackers as the most successful Ethereum hackathon to date, saw the emergence of a wide range of innovative projects like a game of Battleship using SNARKs and a prototype of Sharding coded by well respected Ethereum researcher Vlad Zamfir.

Hackathons are Changing the Sector

Linda Xie, a prominent investor in the cryptocurrency sector acknowledged for her work as the co-founder of Scalar Capital and advisor to 0x, has been involved in ETHGlobal hackathons since its first hackathon on Oct. 13, 2017, at Waterloo, Canada.

At ETHBerlin, which gained significant media coverage due to its efforts to solely rely on decentralized applications (dApps) and Ethereum-based solutions to facilitate activities at the event such as live streaming, ticketing, and hotel booking, developers from both the local community in Germany and many other countries participated in the hackathon to build products on the blockchain.

Xie stated that she was taken aback by the level of activity in the cryptocurrency community in Berlin, which primarily focuses on building products and collaborating with other developers. She also emphasized that her favorite project from the event was Ethstonia Identity, a product that allows Estonian e-Residency ID card holders to sign Ethereum transactions using their cards.

“Among the 8 winning projects, my favorite was Ethstonia Identity. It allows people to use their Estonian e-Residency ID card to sign Ethereum transactions. You can actually transact on the blockchain using a government issued ID which can be useful for signing legally binding contracts,” Xie explained.

Andreessen Horowitz co-founder and levendary venture capital investor Ben Horowitz said at TechCrunch Disrupt that there is more developer activity in crypto than in anything the firm has seen since the Internet.

Currently, the cryptocurrency market and blockchain technology are still at their infancy. Infrastructure to support institutional investors is just being created and scaling solutions to expand the capacity of base protocols like Ethereum are showing significant process.

Xie said:

“While it is clear we are still in the early stages of building, I have enjoyed watching the developer community grow and progress through each event.”

Building Interconnectedness

It is important, as Gnosis creator Martin Koppelman stated, for developers to continue creating dApps that rely on each other to build interconnectedness amongst decentralized systems, as systems like 0x Protocol and Augur have done with their platforms and partner applications.

“And as a next step, the number to look out for is DAPPs that seamlessly interact with each other and draw a benefit from being on the same platform. As a side effect, ultimately the price of ETH will then be a function of the demand for the use of applications in this reliable, open, and interlinked environment,” Koppelman noted.

Hackathons will play a vital role in helping developers create dApps with interconnectedness and streamlining the process of kickstarting projects which otherwise might not be experimented with due to lack of opportunities and resources.

New research from fintech analysts Juniper House has found that blockchain’s traction with large enterprises has risen by 11 percent this year, according to a press release published September 11.

Juniper’s Blockchain Enterprise Survey: Deployments, Benefits & Attitudes (Second Edition) found that 65 percent of responding large enterprises – defined as those who employ a minimum of 10,000 staff – are “considering or actively engaged” in blockchain deployment, up 11 percent from the corresponding 54 percent figure last year.

Further data analysis shows that nearly a quarter of firms have moved beyond blockchain proofs-of-concept onto trials and commercial rollouts. The potential scope of the technology’s application has also expanded, with only 15 percent of firms’ proposed blockchain applications relating to payments – as compared with 34 percent last year.

The press release notes there has been “significant” interest in fields across logistics, authentication and smart contracts.

Even as Ethereum (ETH) has taken a battering on the spot markets recently, Juniper’s findings also reveal that nearly half of responding firms are planning to harness the platform’s token standardization potential to launch their proprietary dApps (Distributed Applications) on the Ethereum blockchain.

Among firms that had already invested over $100,000 in blockchain indicated they planned to spend “at least” the same sum in the coming year. Juniper noted that this demonstrates “largely positive” initial feedback on investment in the technology, sufficient for firms to bolster their existing commitments to pursuing its development.

Juniper research co-author James Moar is however quoted as pointing towards potential challenges posed by integrating blockchain into legacy systems:

“The findings illustrate the need for companies to engage in a prolonged period of parallel running new systems alongside the old, to iron out any issues that might arise.”

Interestingly, among the incumbent tech giants, IBM was found to be the most popular company for blockchain solutions – 65 percent of respondents named it as their “go-to” choice – outstripping rival firm Microsoft by almost 10 times, which scored 7 percent and was ranked second.

A major recent survey by “Big Four” auditor Deloitte found that among businesses faced with implementing legacy-constrained blockchain solutions, 74 percent of all the respondents to the survey said their executive team believes there is a “compelling business case” for their deployment.

The blockchain investment arm of U.S. internet retailer Overstock announced that its investment choice Bitsy has begun a limited beta launch of its cryptocurrency wallet and exchange, the companies confirmed in a press release Friday, September 14.

Bitsy, which seeks to offer users custody of their holdings via private keys while facilitating password recovery using biometric security, will initially support Bitcoin (BTC) buying, with undisclosed altcoin assets to follow.

As a bonus, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne confirmed, customers would now be able to purchase Bitcoin directly from its website via the integration with Bitsy.

“Bitsy sets a new standard for cryptocurrency wallets. It is a game-changer because it gives users the freedom that bitcoin has always promised,” he commented in the release:

“[I]ntegrating with Bitsy will allow Overstock to take the next step in its cryptocurrency journey by allowing the company to offer bitcoin for sale directly from the retail website.”

The move marks the latest commitment to Bitcoin from the retail giant, which first began accepting the cryptocurrency in January 2014.

Earlier this month, Byrne surprised many by selling 10 percent of his equity in the company in order to reinvest the proceeds in two investment projects and satisfy tax obligations.

Another Overstock subsidiary, tZERO, wrapped up its (Initial Coin Offering) ICO proceedings last month, with plans to build an ICO token trading platform.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before a Congressional committee Wednesday, September 5 that the company is exploring blockchain technology for potential application.

Dorsey answered questions during a hearing on Twitter transparency and accountability held in the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Doris Matsui, a representative from California, asked Twitter’s CEO about what potential applications blockchain technology might have for the company. Dorsey answered that blockchain could be used to fight misinformation and scams, stating:

“Blockchain is one that I think has a lot of untapped potential, specifically around distributed trust and distributed enforcement potentially […] We haven’t gone as deep as we’d like just yet in understanding how we might apply this technology to the problems we’re facing at Twitter, but we do have people within the company thinking about it today.”

Dorsey attended another meeting on Capitol Hill September 5 the same day, providing testimony at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing dedicated to alleged interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential elections. Following the meetings, Dorsey summed up some of his thoughts on the issue in a Twitter thread.

In August, research from cybersecurity firm Duo Security shed light on the infamous phenomenon of Twitter scam accounts advertising fake crypto “giveaways,” revealing a network of at least 15,000 scam bots.

The Google Cloud team has officially made the Ethereum (ETH) dataset available in BigQuery, the company’s big data warehouse for analytics, according to a post published on Google’s official blog August 29.

The Ethereum blockchain data is posted in the dataset and updated on a daily basis. As the team explains, the tool was created to help make business decisions, prioritize improvements to the Ethereum architecture itself (for example, to prepare updates), and balance sheet adjustments, e.g. how quickly a wallet can be rebalanced.

As Google explains, the Ethereum blockchain contains APIs for random functions such as checking transaction status, looking up wallet-transaction associations, and checking wallet balances. Still, the API endpoints cannot be easily reached. For that reason, BigQuery’s OLAP features help aggregate such types of data and and visualize it.

Ethereum transfers and transactions costs in 2018

Screenshot of Ethereum transfers and transactions costs in 2018. Source: BigQuery

Furthermore, the software based on Google Cloud synchronizes the Ethereum blockchain to computers running Parity — a UK-based provider of infrastructure software for interacting with the Ethereum network, which performs a daily extraction of data from the Ethereum blockchain ledger and stores date-partitioned data to BigQuery for exploration.

Google also shows some examples of the uses of the new tool. One of them relates to CryptoKitties— a game based on the Ethereum blockchain that is the most popular ERC-721 smart contract by transaction count. BigQuery collects data on accounts that own at least 10 CryptoKitties (a color on the graphics indicates owner) and their mascots’ reproductive fitness (size).

CryptoKitties infographic of owners and CryptoKitties’ reproductive fitness

Screenshot of CryptoKitties infographic of owners and CryptoKitties’ reproductive fitness. Source: BigQuery

Google has already expanded into blockchain-based tools and services this year. In February, the company created a similar tool for the Bitcoin (BTC) blockchain to visualize transactions, detect anomalies, and extract necessary data from the blockchain ledger.

Google also partnered with two blockchain-focused firms, Digital Asset and BlockApps, to offer new distributed ledger technology (DLT) solutions on Google’s Cloud Platform.

IBM has brought its Blockchain World Wire (BWW) payment network out of beta this week, according to a ?? post on IBM’s website.

BWW, which uses digital currency on Stellar’s blockchain to facilitate international settlements between banks in “near real-time,” is the latest step forward for IBM and Stellar, which have been eyeing blockchain payment options since October last year.

“The solution uses digital assets to settle transactions — serving as an agreed-upon store of value exchanged between parties — as well as integrating payment instruction messages,” a new summary of the platform explains, noting:

“It all means funds can now be transferred at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional correspondent banking.”

As reported in July, IBM had partnered with Stronghold, a Stellar-based asset, to create the Stellar network’s first stablecoin.

“We see this as a way of bringing financial settlement into the transactional business network that we have been building,” the corporation’s vice president of global blockchain Jesse Lund said at the time.

The latest move provides fresh competition for entities such as Ripple, which has had a controversial few months as executives voice doubts over blockchain’s appeal to the banking sector.

While IBM claimed that blockchain could “revolutionize” the global financial system in an analysis published in January, the firm nonetheless considered the idea of banks themselves becoming obsolete as “not likely.”

Retail giant Walmart has a plan to build an army of autonomous robots controlled and authenticated through a blockchain network.

Documents published on Thursday by the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) show that the Walmart has applied to patent a system that oversees the “in-field authenticating of autonomous robots.” The Bentonville, AR-based firm submitted the patent application in Jan. 2018.

The patent title immediately conjures up visions from the Terminator franchise, but the retail empire claims it’s not building Skynet.

Rather, Walmart says that it plans to use its legions of autonomous robots to make deliveries, presumably in a bid to compete more effectively with Amazon in a retail landscape that increasingly favors the Bezos brainchild.

The documents detail a system in which multiple robots handle the delivery of a package throughout different legs of the supply chain, using wireless signals to communicate and authenticate the identity of one another.

Such a system would be a high-value target for hackers, which is why Walmart believes that distributed ledger technology (DLT) could help secure it against potential malfeasance.

The authors explain:

“In some embodiments of described above, blockchain technology may be utilized to record authentication signals and identification information to facilitate or resulting from in-field authentication between autonomous electronic devices. One or more of the autonomous electronic devices described herein may comprise a node in a distributed blockchain system storing a copy of the blockchain record. Updates to the blockchain may comprise authentication signals or identification information, and one or more nodes on the system may be configured to incorporate one or more updates into blocks to add to the distributed database.”

It’s not the first time Walmart has sought patents for systems that use blockchain technology to make deliveries more efficient.

Last year, the firm applied to patent a system that would use DLT to manage package delivery hubs (e.g. lockers). The system would automatically reserve locker space for packages, ensuring that orders are only delivered where there is sufficient available capacity.

About the same time, Walmart filed for a patent application that uses blockchain technology to track delivery drones as they transmit packages from physical stores to customers.

California’s AB 2658, a bill that calls for the establishment of a working group on blockchain technology, has passed both houses of the state legislature and will now head to the governor for approval, according to public documents.

The bill would would define blockchain as “a mathematically secured, chronological, and decentralized ledger or database,” and requires the Secretary of the Government Operations Agency to form a blockchain working group on or before July 1, 2019.

Per the bill, the group should consist of participants from both technology and non-technology industries, as well as appointees with a background in law, and representatives of privacy and consumer organizations.

The group should also include the State Chief Information Officer, the Director of Finance, or their designees, one member of the Senate, and one member of the Assembly.

By no later than July 1, 2020, the group must submit their study to the Legislature “on the potential uses, risks, and benefits of the use of blockchain technology by state government and California-based businesses.”

The report should include recommendations for modifications to the definition of blockchain and for amendments to other code sections that may be impacted by the deployment of blockchain technology, in particular:

“(1) The uses of blockchain in state government and California-based businesses; (2) The risks, including privacy risks, associated with the use of blockchain by state government and California-based businesses; (3) The benefits associated with the use of blockchain by state government and California-based businesses; (4) The legal implications associated with the use of blockchain by state government and California-based businesses […]”

Some other states have already signed bills into law that form blockchain working groups. In June, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy signed SB 443 into law, which establishes a blockchain working group to study the technology and is also tasked with shaping a plan to “[foster] the expansion of the blockchain industry in the state.”

In May, the New York state legislature progressed a similar bill to create a blockchain task force. If created, the New York task force would prepare a report for the governor, the temporary president of the state senate, and the speaker of the assembly by December 2019.

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