FARNBOROUGH – Tipped in recent years as one of the key emerging future technologies in the aerospace and defence sector, blockchain adoption is happening at a faster pace than anticipated, says John Schmidt, managing director of Accenture’s aerospace and defense business.

The technology, characterized as a shared ledger offering users a complete, time-stamped record of transactions and processes within it, has been tipped by the professional services company as one of its emerging technologies to watch for two years running. “It’s very rare that we talk about something two years in a row but this technology is taking off much faster than we thought it would,” Schmidt says of the industry adoption.

Accenture data points to further industry adoption over the next four years. A research report published by the company earlier this year, looking at 18 different industry sub segments, shows 86% of aerospace and defence companies expect to integrate blockchain technology into their corporate systems by 2021.

The aerospace and defense industry was third overall, slightly behind the semiconductor segment and the health payor industries which both tied at 88% each. However, despite an apparent openness for future use of the technology, Schmidt says it is already prevalent in 2018.

“Another interesting industry statistic is the number of companies already working with blockchain – not necessarily having a system installed but working with the concept. More than half of them are working with the technology today,” says Schmidt.

He cites using blockchain in conjunction with other emerging technologies such as digital twins and digital thread concepts through the life of an asset, for example an engine, as an area of potential. This holds many advantages, he says, including helping interested parties such as the OEM or an operator better manage their asset.

“It also helps us be in a better position to create the feedback loop from what we’re seeing in the asset, its life and its usage to put back into engineering,” he says. “This can then be used to enable changes to better improve the asset’s life.”

Furthering its activities with the technology, Accenture confirmed a blockchain project collaboration at Farnborough this week with Thales to develop a blockchain solution for supply chain assuredness. Through the development of the digital solution, Thales is able to streamline and secure the technical supply chain to track, trace and authenticate critical aircraft parts and materials, with the aim of deterring problematic occurrences such as counterfeiting parts while improving maintenance capabilities.