BERLIN (Reuters) – Aerospace suppliers are starting to explore blockchain technology to keep tabs on their supply chain, potentially tracking parts such as those identified as the cause of a Southwest Airlines accident last month.
FILE PHOTO: An Airbus A321 in the final assembly line hangar at the Airbus U.S. manufacturing facility in Mobile, Alabama, September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger/File Photo
While blockchain is best known as the digital transactions technology that underpins cryptocurrency bitcoin, it can also be harnessed to track, record and transfer assets across all manner of industries, potentially smoothing operations, cutting costs and improving cash management.
The challenge faced by the aerospace industry in keeping track of tens of thousands of different parts came to light when it emerged after last month’s fatal explosion that some airlines do not keep track of the history of each individual fan blade within an engine.
In addition to the operational and cost benefits, improved parts management could speed up safety checks after an accident, industry experts said, and an increasing number of aerospace suppliers are looking at blockchain as a potential solution.
Blockchain offers a secure encrypted audit trail because there is only one version of the data, meaning it can be used to ensure traceability without reams of paperwork. It is already being used to track cobalt on its journey from Congo mines to smartphones, for example.
Moog, a U.S. manufacturer of flight control systems, is working with partners to create a blockchain-based solution called VeriPart, which will initially be used to track 3D printed components.
Moog’s technology chief George Small said the aerospace industry, like other highly regulated sectors such as the medical and nuclear power industries, was expending considerable effort on tracking parts across the supply chain to keep up with quality and regulatory demands.
Small said the use of blockchain could increase efficiency and transparency in the sharing of data and that customer feedback has been positive so far. Though VeriPart is still in development, Moog has already had talks with customers on other potential uses for the technology.
“The solution is broadly applicable to manufactured goods and associated data that need to be tracked across supply chains from origin to delivery and on into service,” Small said in an emailed response to questions.
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Advocates for the technology say transparency is ensured by the encrypted audit trail and because blockchains are open and decentralized, allowing different parties to share information.
Engine maker Rolls-Royce (RR.L) is among those working with blockchain developers to establish how it could be used in the supply chain and says it is rapidly developing solutions.
“The company sees opportunities to automate records for complex products that currently require significant manual effort to ensure they are well managed,” a Rolls-Royce spokesman said.
Technology company Sabre (SABR.O), which has been looking at various uses for blockchain in the travel and aviation industries, said it could see the case for using it as a system to track components.
“It’s a situation where you don’t need ultra fast technology, but you need to be able to trust what’s in the blockchain record,” said Philip Likens, director of Sabre Labs.
Likens said the technology could be used to show who created what part on what date, when it was put on a plane and then how many hours the plane was in operation.
“You want to know that all those things are right and correct, that’s the immutability part,” he said, referring to how blockchain entries cannot be changed.
Planemaker Airbus (AIR.PA), meanwhile, is looking for a blockchain solution architect to be based at one of its sites in either Toulouse, Filton, Broughton or Hamburg, according to an online job posting.
It has formed a working group within the company to identify business challenges worth addressing with blockchain and a spokeswoman said the supply chain seems a natural fit.
“Blockchain could improve the tracking of goods and become a complement to, not a wholesale replacement of, suppliers’ procurement software,” she said
But blockchain isn’t the only technology that can be used to keep a closer eye on parts in the supply chain.
Enders Analysis, in a wide-ranging note on blockchain and its use across various industries, says that a lot of the capabilities of blockchain are exaggerated or misunderstood and that existing technology can often perform the same roles.
It says that while blockchain-inspired technology could be used to bring transparency to supply chain management, it could be hard to guarantee that goods really were delivered as specified on the blockchain.
“Upgrading systems to take advantage of technological progress is important and can increase efficiency,” the analysts wrote in general advice to any company looking at blockchain.
“But those ends are much more important than the means: there is no point deploying blockchain – or a product marketed as blockchain – just for the sake of it.”
In an example of other technology that can be used to improve supply chain efficiency, Airbus last week signed up aircraft structures maker Premium Aerotec to its cloud-based aviation data platform, Skywise.
The platform will take order, production and quality data from Airbus and Premium Aerotec and analyze the data with a view to keeping the manufacturing process stable and providing transparency in the supply chain.
“To build the aircraft, Airbus needs to know where the parts are and when they are coming,” Premium Aerotec CEO Thomas Ehm told Reuters, adding that the Skywise platform aims to provide much better visibility of the manufacturing process.
Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Additional reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by David Goodman
LONDON (Reuters) – Dozens of stallholders, pitching anything from a happy retirement to commercial property to the future of electronics, set up shop in central London last weekend to pitch their wares.
Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
The companies and their salesmen were not there to part ways with the actual product, however. They just wanted to encourage buying into the digital coin craze that is raising billions of dollars.
At what organizers claimed to be Britain’s first large-scale “Crypto Investor Show”, attendees were looking to get in on the next initial coin offering (ICO).
The talk of Silicon Valley, ICOs are a mostly unregulated funding mechanism for start-ups to raise capital by creating and then issuing their own virtual coins or tokens. Last year, they raised a record sum as interest in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin surged.
“I came here to learn about ICOs. You have to do your research, but I would invest, it’s the upcoming thing,” said 30-year-old Shahzad Anwar, who installs electric charging points and had traveled down from the central England town of Solihull with his brother to attend.
“To me, stocks and shares and bonds are over, they are done,” he said, as attendees listened to a pitch at a nearby stall for an ICO wanting to raise tens of millions of dollars to build and race a supercar. Another promised to build a network of rest homes for the elderly.
Regulators say ICOs are highly speculative and investors should be prepared to lose everything. Unlike stocks, most ICOs do not confer ownership rights in the underlying business, just the possibility that the tokens will be worth more in future.
Supporters say ICOs are revolutionizing the capital-raising industry, a crowdfunding alternative that gives ordinary people the chance to invest in start-ups, normally the preserve of the venture capitalist elite.
From circulating on tiny online chatrooms a few years ago, cryptocurrencies and ICOs have moved to the mainstream, with public advertising common.
Some companies have pushed back, however. Facebook said it would ban all crypto adverts because of the risks to investors. Twitter said it was taking measures to prevent cryptocurrency-related accounts from running scams on its platform.
London regularly hosts conferences on blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies, where tech wizards exchange ideas, but the London show was geared towards the general public as well as experts.
The crowds arrived, some families for a day out, touring the stalls and listening to panelists. As well as marketing, there were sessions that discussed the risks.
Several attendees who worked in the industry said they were disappointed with the ICOs on offer, with staff hired for the day to hand out flyers and with little understanding of blockchain technology, or if it was even relevant to their idea.
“Don’t fall for some of the marketing out there … [You have to ask] is it actually solving a problem or is it just making one up?” said Linda Leaney at Globcoin, which claims to be a stable cryptocurrency backed by global currencies and gold.
One Leeds-based company, offering a token backed by commercial property, crypto trading and the founder’s online discount shopping platform, said it had raised $ 4 million in seed investment, and was targeting $ 10 million, with bonus tokens and referral awards for attendees that emailed their details.
Nearby, one programmer and salesman after another took to a small stage to explain their business. No company promised anyone a specific financial return, and aside from the price of each token and early-bird discounts, they stuck to talking up their product.
Sam Smit, a 34-year-old electronics engineer from Horsham in southern England, is a self-styled “dirty flipper” – someone who buys a token at the pre-ICO stage before token sales are opened to the general public, then sells them when they begin trading on an exchange.
“Have you seen `Wolf of Wall Street’? This is the same, pump and dump!” he said, referring to the 2013 film about the stock broker and convicted fraudster Jordan Belfort.
“People here are illiterate idiots. Often after the pre-ICO stage, it’s already too late to buy,” he said – while admitting that he had lost around $ 400,000 in January when cryptocurrency prices slumped.
Jaguar has worked hard over the last decade to build cars that buyers lust over, reinvent itself as a modern auto maker, and finally shake off its “old man sedan” image. Yes, the British car builder built the E-Type, the sexiest car ever, in the 60s. But then it bumbled along for decades until the mid 2000s, when it finally started pumping out hits to compete with the likes of Mercedes and BMW, like the XF sedan and the F-Type two seater, which is wildly good looking. The company has carried that design DNA over into more mainstream models, like the XE sedan, and what’s become its fastest selling car ever, the F-Pace SUV.
And now Jaguar is going after Tesla and the electric car market. I’m strapped into the passenger seat of its new vehicle, while the engineer at the wheel casually rockets away from all the other posh cars at the intersections in Beverly Hills, California. Jag is performing some final tests on its I-Pace, an all-electric SUV, and this one is still wrapped in loudly patterned plastic camouflage, drawing even more attention. The concept vehicle was unveiled at the LA Auto Show one year ago, where it won praise for its bold, sleek, design. Today, before the production vehicle goes on sale in 2018, the company is calibrating one of the first vehicles off the line. Jag isn’t ready to let an outsider drive, so Simon Patel, its senior powertrain program manager, is showing me what the car can do, which you can watch in the video above.
Jaguar has brought the car to the LA Auto Show partially for the publicity, partly because the city is a good place for testing: the heavy traffic, hot weather, and rough pavements in Los Angeles give engineers the chance to tweak software settings for suspension, to adjust what they call NVH, for noise, vibration, and harshness. Thermal management systems need testing too, to keep both the battery and the occupants of the car cool, while still giving maximum possible range.
“We’ve got cars running in hot markets like Dubai, to sign off the hot side of things, as well as Russia and Sweden for the low temperature stuff, and snow and ice,” says Patel. Lithium-ion batteries are happiest operating at 75 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but max power comes at a higher heat—115 degrees. Long term that can degrade battery life, and engineers are working to balance all these factors.
Unfortunately, today’s tests call for the AC to be turned off, and the inside of the car quickly gets sweltering in the LA sunshine. There’s plenty of room though, in the front and the back, despite the fairly compact exterior dimensions. Since the car has no engine, exhaust, or fuel tank, Jaguar’s designers could push the usable space right out to the edges of the vehicle.
The dash is still cloaked in heavy black felt to hide the final interior design as effectively as the camo hides the exterior lines, but expect sleek touchscreens in the center console to eventually control the heat, cool, and tunes. Today, we roll down the windows for air, but also to enjoy the near silence of an electric car.
To compete with the likes of Tesla’s Model X, and Audi’s upcoming E-Tron Quattro electric SUVs, Jag hasn’t held back on the numbers. The I-Pace can access around 400 horsepower from two electric motors, for a 0-60 sprint in around four seconds. That’s plenty fast enough to mash my head back against the headrest (and elicit a giggle) each time Patel plants his foot. Range from the 90KWh battery pack will be over 250 miles, (if Jag sticks to what it showed in the concept, which is likely). That’s similar to Tesla’s top end car. Prices are likely to be top end too, but Jaguar isn’t ready to reveal that yet.
Jaguar is building the car in Graz, Austria, and already reportedly has 25,000 people interested. The company sold 150,000 vehicles globally in 2016, which was up 77 percent on the year before. If it gets the I-Pace right the company could capitalize on the growing demand for both SUVs and electric cars, and have another hit on its hands.
In terms of tech parties, it doesn’t really get much bigger than Microsoft Ignite. Sure, there’s Oracle’s OpenWorld, which just drew some 60,000 attendees to San Francisco. And Salesforce’s Dreamforce, which attracted more than 150,000 to San Francisco last year, is on the way.
By the year 2030, artificial intelligence (A.I.) will have changed the way we travel to work and to parties, how we take care of our health and how our kids are educated.
That’s the consensus from a panel of academic and technology experts taking part in Stanford University’s One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence.
Focused on trying to foresee the advances coming to A.I., as well as the ethical challenges they’ll bring, the panel yesterday released its first study.
The 28,000-word report, “Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030,” looks at eight categories — from employment to healthcare, security, entertainment, education, service robots, transportation and poor communities — and tries to predict how smart technologies will affect urban life.
Once upon a time if you wanted employees to collaborate you’d probably encourage them to use Internet Relay Chat (IRC). But about three years ago Slack appeared on the scene, and since then it’s been eating IRC’s lunch. That’s because it’s much easier to install, get up and running, and use than IRC, making it massively popular with nontechies. And thanks to a well-documented API it’s easy to integrate with other programs and services. That means it’s customizable and infinitely extensible, which makes it popular with developers.