What Blockchain Can Do for PaxEx

APEX Insight: Understanding blockchain may be the greatest barrier to its adoption, but increased transparency, security and simplicity are in store once you do.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are rapidly gaining popularity, and blockchain, the technology behind them, promises several exciting applications in the air travel industry. In fact, Russian carrier S7 is already using it to sell tickets. Partnering with Alfa-Bank, S7 is processing e-tickets through the Ethereum cryptocurrency platform, vastly improving upon the existing two-week settlement process between the airline and the ticketing agent.

In a nutshell, blockchain is a public ledger that allows everyone involved to verify the authenticity of each transaction, strengthening security and preventing anyone from altering previous records. Data control is decentralized and distributed, so no one person or company owns the system – making it a good option for transactions between entities that don’t know (or even trust) each other.

Making Sure You’re You

Identity management requires verification and security, as well as speed, in an air travel scenario, and blockchain boasts advantages in all three areas. According to Armin Ebrahimi, CEO of blockchain startup ShoCard, the technology can be used to streamline the identification vetting process into a one-time event upon entering the airport, with a blockchain-secured token then following travelers throughout their journey. ShoCard has partnered with SITA to create a demo for a digital ID that aims to reduce wait times at airports and border crossings, ensure passenger data is tamper-proof and eliminate the need for a single authority to own, process or store data.

Data control is decentralized, so no one person or company owns the system – making it a good option for transactions between entities that don’t know (or even trust) each other.

“You take your selfie, scan your passport and you basically create a digital travel ID,” explains Jim Peters, CTO of SITA. However, the blockchain in this case isn’t storing a traveler’s identification, but proof that the ID has been verified through an initial scan. It stores and encrypts that information, ensuring that any changes are flagged throughout the travel journey. “This can work from airline to airline,” Ebrahimi says, “as well as from country to country in international travel.”

Knowing What’s What and What’s Where

By June 2018, International Air Transport Association (IATA) member airlines will be required to track each piece of checked luggage as per the association’s Resolution 753, and blockchain technology can make luggage custody management between flights more transparent. Airlines currently store data in several siloed systems, making the exchange of information – such as the location of a specific piece of luggage – possible, albeit difficult. A single, decentralized database would erect fewer walls between the information and those who need it.

Aircraft maintenance can also be streamlined with blockchain integration, which would enable an airline to verify the authenticity and provenance of every one of its airplanes’ parts, as well as log every instance of repair or reconfiguration. In its analysis on the potential of blockchain for airlines, consulting company Accenture writes on its website, “This visibility is profound, and can take the practice of maintenance, safety and aircraft security to new levels.” This transparency would also make for a refreshingly simple travel experience, Ebrahimi says. And after all, “For the layperson, it’s the experience that matters the most.”

How Blockchain Could Verify Your ID

  1. The user downloads an app and creates an ID by taking a photo of their passport.
  2. Personal information is extracted, certified and encrypted in a way that cannot be read by any third party.
  3. Hashed and signed data is written into the blockchain.
  4. Whenever the user decides to share information, a “handshake” is initiated with the third party via the blockchain.
  5. The data is further encrypted so only the intended recipient will be able to decrypt it.
  6. Once the identities of both parties are confirmed, the data transaction is made.

“Building Blocks,”was originally published in the 7.5 December/January issue of APEX Experience magazine.

Jordan juggles deadlines across various time zones as he writes about travel, culture, entertainment, and technology.