A Chat with Ubitquity about the Flexibility of Blockchain Technology
Originally published on The Relevance House. Re-published with permission.
What does the landing gear of a Boeing 737 have in common with a one-story house in Cambodia? They are both being tracked using blockchain technology by an innovative US startup, Ubitquity LLC. Although these use cases may seem worlds apart, they both stem from a common technical challenge: how to securely and verifiably trace the origin of physical items in the digital world.
As we previously discussed, conventional online records are prone to manipulation. For instance, 30% of property documents in the US are not reliable due to past data breaches. Blockchain technology has the potential to offer a comprehensive, publicly accessible ledger for all properties, enabling property management which is more transparent, efficient and resistant to fraud.
This is the idea behind E-Title Cambodia, a project established by blockchain startup Ubitquity. The company began life in a startup incubator when Nathan Wosnack and his colleagues founded Blockchain Factory, a software development and consulting firm with a focus on blockchain. While working on a project called iNation, which focused on non-financial uses of the blockchain such as identity, passport backup, and provenance, they understood how hugely underserved the title industry was. This is how they decided to put emphasis on real estate, an antiquated market that could benefit from this emergent technology. From then on, Wosnack says, “the rest is history”.
While it may seem like a long journey from the US real estate market to Cambodian land disputes, the technical challenges were actually quite similar. Cambodia is a country with a deeply troubled history and sadly, land disputes have become a common occurrence since the fall of the communist Khmer Rouge government in 1979. The regime ended all private ownership of property and real estate during its short but devastating rule between 1975 and 1979. After the government collapsed, in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and famine, people obviously did not worry much about formal land titles and simply settled where they could. A CNN report in 2011 explained that “when the Khmer Rouge lost power, many Cambodians resettled on plots of land wherever they could and essentially became “squatters.” House and land titles were a distant notion. Rebuilding lives was the priority.” Nevertheless, in the absence of official records of land ownership, land disputes have reportedly caused 60,000 people to be forcibly evicted from their homes.
According to Ubitquity, E-Title Cambodia will “enable users to ensure the authenticity of information related to land or property in question… in particular its current ownership and all historical transactions.” One of the biggest challenges in failed and emerging states is to build trust in national institutions like banks, regulators, courts and authorities. Without trust in these institutions and the associated benefits — such as legal enforcement of contracts and property deeds — economic development is virtually impossible. In such cases, it will be interesting to see whether technologies like blockchain can act as a stepping stone, providing a degree of trust to spur progress before national institutions have fully developed and gained legitimacy.
But how does any of this relate to aviation, you may ask? It turns out that the same underlying technology can also be applied to the airline business. Anyone who has been to an aircraft maintenance hangar will know that in many cases, the paperless office seems like a distant dream. It is not uncommon to see people transporting thousands of pages of signed documents with a forklift truck for a single major overhaul of an aircraft. Detailed rules by regulators like the FAA in the US or EASA in Europe mean that the provenance and maintenance history of almost every part of an aircraft needs to be tracked. How old are the ailerons on the wings, how many flight cycles have they undergone, and when do they need to be replaced? These are all questions that airlines need to be able to answer with documentary evidence.
AIC Title Service recently became Ubitquity’s customer in order to help to address these challenges. Ubitquity developed a unique platform for AIC Title Service. The “blockchain-based system for recording aircraft titles and registration documents for the aircraft company’s Aircraft Closing Room”, says Wosnack. This guarantees transparency and accuracy in the aircraft documentation and title recording process.
The product portfolio of Ubitquity provides a glimpse into the potential scope of blockchain technology in future — from the US real estate market, to land ownership rights in Cambodia, to the global aviation industry. At THE RELEVANCE HOUSE we are fascinated about how emerging technologies will shape our future. We help startups in the field to create a compelling brand and tell a relevant story about how their products will change the world. Why? Because only relevance has impact.
THE RELEVANCE HOUSE is a full-service marketing consulting agency for firms in the blockchain and emerging technology sector. We don’t operate like a regular agency. Think of us more as an outsourced marketing department. We become part of the team. We focus on helping technology start-ups and projects to build and communicate a relevant brand and story. Why? Because only relevance has impact.