SITA Working with Airlines and Airports to Streamline Operations Using Blockchain Tech

SITA Lab is working with major airlines and airports to bring about data consolidation strategies that might help reduce technical difficulties that lead to flight delays.

Airports and airlines rely heavily on data to ensure that the flights that they’re in charge of take off smoothly.

Problems arise when there are delays, whether Aircraft arrive late, the national aviation system experiences issues or technical difficulties affect schedules.

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics puts all of these problems as the top reasons why passengers experience frustrating delays at airports.

Many of the technical issues that arise could be chalked up to inconsistencies in the data shared between the carrier that operates the plane and the airport that harbors it.

This is one of the reasons why SITA Lab has been working with Miami International Airport, British Airways, London Heathrow Airport, and Geneva Airport to implement a blockchain solution that mitigates all of these inconsistencies, reducing the number of delays they experience on a daily basis.

The solution, known as FlightChain, is based on Ethereum’s blockchain and the Hyperledger Fabric that IBM’s own blockchain uses.

“The project has demonstrated that blockchain is a viable technology to provide a single source of truth for data for airlines and airports, specifically for real-time flight information. While there are other technologies available for sharing data, the use of blockchain, and smart contracts in particular, provides ‘shared control’ and improves the trustworthiness of the data,” said Jim Peters, CTO of SITA.

SITA’s blockchain uses smart contracts to mitigate conflicts within the data structure so that each operator has a measure of control over the conflict resolution process.

Despite pushing ahead with FlightChain, the company still sees some potential pitfalls of using blockchain technology in this environment in general.

From a historical perspective, we already have examples of groups of people that have splintered off of a blockchain to create their own versions, like the (somewhat chaotic) emergence of Bitcoin Gold in October this year.

In a whitepaper, SITA also shows concerns about public blockchains evolving too slowly because of their distributed nature.

“In a public network there is no central leadership or control over the direction of the network — it is truly distributed and decentralized. This can result in slow decision making about the future direction of the blockchain, heated debate and splintering of a group,” it read.

For blockchains to be used in industries like aviation, they might have to be shackled so that at least one entity can exercise the will of a consortium that makes decisions.

In the end, blockchain technology is still in the nascent stages of its development. But as it progresses further, we might see data-heavy, trust-based processes consolidate around blockchains in order to achieve greater efficiency.