The U.S. Navy has revealed plans to trial blockchain technology to bring added security to its manufacturing systems.
The Navy said it will apply the technology to its processes for additive manufacturing – known more popularly as 3-D printing – in a bid to "securely share data throughout the manufacturing process" as it creates critical equipment for deployed forces.
Led by the Naval Innovation Advisory Council, the trial will use blockchain technology to create a data-sharing layer between the Navy's various 3-D printing sites over the summer, with a report on its proof-of-concept effort due this autumn.
In a blog post, Lieutenant Commander Jon McCarter said: “If someone told you that the technology underpinning the cryptocurrency Bitcoin will likely revolutionize much of the way we do business in the next 10 years, you might shrug it off. I would like to tell you: it’s just the beginning and that it might also revolutionize naval additive manufacturing, finance and logistics writ large, and that’s only scratching the surface.”
Blockchain is a distributed database shared through peer to peer connections in such a way that each block is a unique record that gets added to the end of the chain. The records are permanent and are unable to be modified. This bond creates trust between all the members of the chain and removes the need for third party mediators to handle transactions or any other transfer of information.
This “immutable trust” allows for the removal of middle-men and brokers and allows two or more parties to conduct transactions with complete trust.
“When looking for a test bed for this technology, it quickly became clear that naval additive manufacturing was a perfect match,” said McCarter. “The ability to secure and securely share data throughout the manufacturing process (from design, prototyping, testing, production and ultimately disposal) is critical to additive manufacturing and will form the foundation for future advanced manufacturing initiatives.”
Following the initial test, McCarter expects the technology to “dramatically revolutionize other aspects of naval operations.”