One often hears blockchain in the same breath as security and supply chains. This week, a winning entry to a competition organized by the United States Department of Defense cast both these aspects in a new light.
To keep pace with the ever-more technologized battlelines of contemporary warfare, the DoD continues to explore ways to innovate the manufacturing process and supply chain for weaponry and infrastructure in use by the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy.
The Advanced Manufacturing Olympics, held virtually this year on Oct. 20–23, sought to recruit traditional DoD contractors, technology developers and academics to mobilize new technologies, particularly 3D printing, for the manufacture and delivery of critical parts in the military supply chain.
SIMBA Chain, a smart contract-as-a-service platform developed the University of Notre Dame and ITAMCO, was awarded first place and a prize of $100,000 for its entry in one of the technical challenges set during the DoD’s olympics.
For the challenge, the DoD devised a war game scenario in which a fictional island was under siege. Participants were tasked with deploying additive manufacturing (the 3D printing of metals, plastic and composite parts on demand) and creating a secure communications and delivery network for forward-deployed military units and front-line medical staff. SIMBA Chain CEO Joel Neidig explained:
“We […] had six days to put together an entire war games solution to deliver critical parts to a battlefront, keep field hospitals operational and infrastructure like runways intact. What was different about our approach was how we met both the physical challenges of war fighters as well as the cyber threats that are playing a growing role in modern warfare.”
SIMBA beat other participants such as Boeing, which won third place, and Stratasys, second place, due to its use of blockchain to provide a secure network that established cyber-resilient communications between additive manufacturing labs across the supply chain.
The DoD’s olympics is not, of course, an idle war games challenge that stops with the creation of a fictional island. The Air Force seeks to turn successful solutions into commercial realities, and SIMBA Chain is already working with several arms of the DoD, including the Air Force and Navy. The company states it has “high hopes that blockchain, and specifically SIMBA Chain, will soon be an integral part of the U.S. military’s strategic weaponry.”