Head of Marketing & Business Development for Moonwhale Ventures — https://moonwhale.io/STO-ICO
Disclaimer: I am not part of the Blocbox team nor do I hold shares of the company. This article is purely meant as an educational piece on how blockchain can help the current aviation and maritime industries.
Globalization and the internet have made the world smaller. Gone were the days when it is a novelty to have pen pals. It is easy to see the benefits of having an interconnected world from a social standpoint. But in the global trade industry, the internet has no impact on the physical transportation of goods worldwide.
The internet has made ordering goods, supplies, materials from various countries much easier. As a result, there is a strong demand for both global seaborne and airborne trade. Given the increasing growth in the number of ships and flights, aviation and maritime safety became a fundamental concern. Could Blockchain technology find a place in both maritime and aviation industry?
Let’s first take a look at both the aviation and maritime industry.
Shipping is essential to the supply chain of numerous industries as it accounts for approximately 90% of all global trade. To all involved businesses and parties, any incident at sea results in large financial losses. Should there be any severe accidents, the risk of lives lost exists if the disaster is not attended to in a timely manner.
According to UNCTAD, the number of ships registered has been rising rapidly since the turn of the millennia. The maritime industry showing no signs of slowing down. Therefore, we can expect an increase in the number of ships. In the region of South China Sea, Indonesia, and the Philippines, Allianz Global Corporate Report reported that from 2007 to 2017, more than 252 shipping incidents occurred — the largest number of incidents by region in the world. In 2017 alone, there were 30 shipping losses in this region, the top rank in terms of shipping casualties and incidents globally. Losses included actual total losses of ships as well as constructive total losses recorded for vessels of 100 gross tons or over.
There are currently at least 2,000 airlines operating more than 23,000 aircraft which provides services to over 3,700 airports. The growth of world air travel has increased at least 5% per year over the past 30 years and the annual growth in air travel is assumed to be twice the annual growth in the US GDP. The annual growth in global air traffic passenger demand has been positive from 2006 to 2018. Only in 2009 did the industry saw the worst demand decline in history. In 2017, the world’s airlines carried at least 4.1 billion passengers and created 65 million jobs to support aviation and related tourism. Around 10.2 million people within the 65 million jobs working directly in the aviation industry. Globally, the total number of planes, including freighter and passenger planes, is estimated to be 21,453 and is projected to grow to 47,987 by 2037.
We have touched on the high growth rate in both aviation and maritime industries. With an increasing amount of sea and air traffic daily, it is impossible to avoid accidents and near misses. This also includes unforeseeable events such as the two flights from Malaysia airline (MH17 and MH370). Should these unforeseeable events happen in remote locations, be it in the ocean or unpopulated regions, locating the wreckage can be a major hurdle.
The aviation industry cannot downplay the importance of preventing and investigating given the meteoric growth in the number of flights. Most aircraft carry one or both of the following flight recorder devices. These devices are the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR). The flight data recorder is more commonly known as the “black box”.
The Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) regulates the use of FDR and CVR. The parameters the FDR must record include the flight path, speed, altitude, engine power and configuration of lift and drag devices. However, it also depends on the takeoff mass and type of aircraft. Further, the FDR must be able to resist fire, shock impact, crushing force, fluid and water immersion, penetration resistance and hydrostatic pressure.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) enacted Resolution MSC.333(90) (IMO Resolution) which requires the majority of vessels to install a Voyage Data Recorder (VDR). The resolution was enacted to aid in the investigation of marine accidents. These devices monitor and record vital sensory information from sensors aboard the vessel in a continuous loop.
Whenever a maritime incident occurs, the VDR will be extracted and analyzed to discover the underlying causes and prevent recurrence. However, the VDR faces certain drawbacks — the main one being the requirement of physical access to the device before data can be retrieved. This proves to be a crucial challenge as there exist instances when the VDR is irrecoverable.
Studies consistently estimate that around 80% of causes in marine accidents are attributable to the human factor. A report by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty highlighted crew negligence and inadequate vessel maintenance as two increasing areas of risk.
As a physical object, the data recording instruments require physical contact in order to retrieve it should an accident happen. Installing location transmitters makes the retrieval process much easier. However, the signal has an effective range of only a few miles. Although, it still requires search teams to be almost directly on top of the wreckage to be able to identify it.
The recovery process can be arduous and expensive. In some instances, finding and retrieving the remains of planes and ships were impossible. These challenges can include natural factors such as the sheer vastness of the ocean and depth of the seabed. Also, technical issues where ping signals are only available for a month and within a small effective radius. This requires extensive manual search and rescue efforts that are costly and time-consuming.
Insurance claim processes can face several issues as well especially in a non-fatal example such as a near-collision between two ships. The data recorded by the VDR is one of the data sources used to determine liability. However, malicious actors could find ways and means to tamper with the data or device in a bid to reduce their liability. The tampering of the VDR is a serious problem.
Here are several high-profile case examples where tampering has resulted in serious consequences:
Blockchain’s traceability and tamper-proof nature provide a direct solution to the problems discussed above.
In a recent article, I discussed the possibilities of blockchain being hacked by Quantum Computing. It is the power of millions of users of blockchain that makes it immune to hacking. In any case, centralized legacy systems and databases are more likely to be cracked, altered and data misused than a (decentralized) Distributed Ledger Technology. Having a system that provides real-time location data can be immensely helpful as it reduces (or completely eradicates) the tampering possibilities to the black boxes. Should the global transport infrastructure adopts this system, it could harness the potential of blockchain technology.
Installing a satellite that records real-time location data can prove to be a game-changer. The data can be remotely access which makes physical contact obsolete.
The primary problem with current black box recovery is locating it. With a satellite, its last location data can be transmitted and be recorded on a blockchain almost immediately. Thus, making the process of locating the black boxes far easier. However, it is important to also note that, if the data has already been recorded on the blockchain, then there should be no need to retrieve the black boxes.
No, there isn’t. However, there is a company that caught my attention in the last few weeks.
Enter Blocbox, a Singapore-based company that is attempting to solve the challenges of retrieving black box data. Combining the benefits of key technologies like artificial intelligence and big data analytics, Blocbox is creating the world’s first blockchain protocol for aviation and maritime safety.
The company is building a physical and lightweight device called the BlocBox Transmitter. This device shall be connected to existing recording instruments on planes and ships. It will continuously copy and transmit recorded data. One good thing about the device is that it does not replace existing instruments.
According to their whitepaper, they are also developing a satellite that will solely be used to ensure the constant transmission of data between relevant parties.
Blocbox is relatively new so it will be interesting to see how they progress in the next few years. In theory, their proposed solutions address the key issues currently faced in the industries.
Implementing blockchain technology certainly looks promising in both the aviation and shipping industry. However, it is important to remember that we are still at an early-stage of blockchain solutions. The majority of companies offering blockchain solutions are still developing. It is definitely an exciting period to be alive, watching the mass majority adopting emerging technologies.
Be sure to read my article on Hackernoon on why I think Blockchain Adoption is not as far as we all think it is.
Iliya Zaki is the Head of Business Development and Marketing Officer for an STO Advisory Firm based in the U.S: Moonwhale Ventures.
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