As a basis for the discussion, Dr. Martin Holland first gave the participants a brief overview of how the blockchain works. Similar to the Internet, it is a disruptive technology, but it is not about the decentralized provision of information, but about the decentralization and transmission of values. What distinguishes the blockchain is that the information passed on cannot be subsequently changed because each miner creates a copy and each block of information is inseparably linked to the next by a cryptographic procedure.
In order to create new blocks, the miners have to solve cryptographic problems. The process used by PROSTEP requires significantly less energy than, for example, mining with Bitcoin technology. In addition, it is also possible to embed executable software code, so-called smart contracts, in the blocks in order to map more complex processes, e.g. the activation of a vehicle as soon as the leasing rate is paid.
PROSTEP has integrated the block chain technology into the OpenDXM GlobalX data exchange solution as part of the SAMPL (Secure Additive Manufacturing Platform) project. This end-to-end solution for the forgery-proof exchange of 3D print data ensures that the exchanged data cannot be misused and that printed components can be identified beyond any doubt.
A prerequisite for this is the use of certified 3D printers that support this technology and, for example, report back the printing status, as Holland said in response to a question from a participant.
The blockchain not only enables the licensed production of a limited number of spare parts and traceable documentation of where they were built in which Holland demonstrated using the example of a use case at Airbus Spares. It also supports new business ideas such as the "Earn as you ride" program developed by automotive supplier Continental on the base of a blockchain platform. Drivers receive mini payments for information on free parking spaces or weather data, which their vehicles report back in encrypted form.
Holland invited the Online-TechTALK participants to think about possible applications of the block chain in their companies themselves. PROSTEP has developed a number of criteria for identifying potential use cases. The blockchain makes sense whenever many parties are to use or change data, decentralized data storage is desired but an intermediary is not desired, documentation must be unalterable and participants interact in processes where transaction time is critical. If four of these criteria are met, the blockchain promises added value.