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Blockchain protects IP, tracks tires, supports coronavirus response

Customs and Border Protection tested the feasibility of using blockchain to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) information transmitted between multiple commercial companies.

In a late February statement, CBP said the proof of concept demonstrated blockchain can encrypt sensitive data and track it via an electronic ledger to protect IPR on imports, as well as the sensitive data shared among manufacturers, retailers, rights holders and importing companies.

CBP has long fought against imported counterfeit goods of all stripes, from toys and athletic wear to prescription drugs, saying they cost U.S. companies hundreds of millions of dollars every year in lost income.

The proof-of-concept blockchain connected product data correctly to the product and to the license, resulting in fewer physical examinations of products being imported, according to CBP. The seven companies participating in the test could communicate with others participants using their unique blockchain, regardless of different software used by each party, thanks to the program’s open global standards and approaches.

Supply chain for military tires

SAIC announced a blockchain pilot with The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company to secure the supply chain for aircraft and vehicle tires for the armed services and foreign military sales under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Global Tires Program. SAIC said the program has delivered more than 1.5 million tires worldwide, with a 97% fill rate.

SAIC plans to integrate data from internet-of-things sensors with smart contracts to enhance real-time supply chain track-and-trace capabilities so that participants will instantly know if weather or a mechanical breakdown delays a truckload of aircraft tires. The pilot, supported by Microsoft Azure Blockchain services, will allow participants to track, view and analyze supply chain activity, further aiding customers in making informed buying decisions.

Coronavirus support

A professor at the University of California San Diego has been studying how moving medical supply chain records to a blockchain could help anticipate shortages in health emergencies by identifying chokepoints in the delivery process.

Timothy Mackey thinks that by eliminating these hiccups in the system, public health officials and medical suppliers could more easily see which hospitals were prepared to treat COVID-19 patients and others in need of acute care, according to a report in Forbes.

Blockchain technology helped the Chinese government and medical agencies battle against the coronavirus, according to Xinhuanet, China’s official news outlet. In the first two weeks of February, at least 20 blockchain-based applications were launched to tackle the emerging challenges, including health records management, securing gated communities for residents, managing relief supplies along and tracking logistics of epidemic prevention materials.

Drone communications

Researchers at Purdue University have received funding from NASA for a blockchain-inspired secure, scalable, distributed, and efficient communication framework to support large scale drone operations.  The researchers propose unmanned aerial vehicle traffic information exchange network to safely, securely and economically distribute UAV flight data across the network.

According to the award notice, the project will demonstrate how traffic data can be shared between UAVs and aircraft traffic controllers in a city with obstacles blocking radio signals. Additionally, the researchers said it can also provide a reliable and real-time information source for drone developers working on collision avoidance systems and route planning strategies that ensure airspace safety and efficiency.

Secure vehicle communications

The Federal Highway Administration said it expects to sponsor research into the use of blockchain technology for highway transportation. It is interested in support for secure, real-time communication for connected vehicles, freight data management, dynamic roadway asset tools that optimize routing or geofencing of roadway segments and highway pricing featuring dynamic and auction-based mechanisms.

About the Authors

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.

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