The U.S. Air Force (USAF) is planning to test a blockchain-based graph database that will allow it to share documents internally as well as throughout the various branches of the Department of Defense and allied governments.
The permissioned blockchain ledger comes from a small Winston-Salem, N.C. start-up, Fluree PBC, which announced the government contract this week. Fluree is working with Air Force’s Small Business Innovation Research AFWERX technology innovation program to launch a proof of concept of the distributed ledger technology (DLT) later this year.
The ledger could include intelligence gathered during military operations and supply chain parts tracking.
“Fluree is effectively a database. We call it a data management platform because it also plays the role of an application server in certain contexts,” said Brian Platz, Fluree co-founder and co-CEO. “It also even allows you to embed data into Web apps so you can quickly build them.”
Fluree ensures secure communications and data integrity by combining transactions into immutable time-stamped blocks and locking in each block via advanced cryptography. Users who are authorized on the blockchain gain access through a private-public key infrastructure.
The DLT platform also allows certain features to be turned on or off, such as full decentralization with Byzantine Fault Tolerance or a plain database without cryptography for use in internal project or app development, Platz said.
The USAF requires interoperability for its units around the globe; the platform can also search and ingest data from existing legacy systems and data stored on third-party Wikis through the use of the SPARQL query language and the Resource Description Framework (RDF) for data interchange standard.
The USAF declined to answer questions about the project.
Fluree’s platform, FlureeDB, was selected because like all blockchains, it’s peer-to-peer architecture is highly scalable, uses data encryption, offers semantic data standard formatting and data stored on it that is immutable.
“We’re trying to allow a blockchain-backed security to power an entire application, which you really can’t do today unless the app is really trivial or it’s a cryptocurrency,” Platz said. “Anyone using blockchain in the enterprise is building a traditional application and then some part of that is hooking into Ethereum or some blockchain platform like that.”
Smart contract rules on the blockchain also allow the permissioned DLT to be configured to restrict who can view information according to their security clearance and project involvement.
The USAF wouldn’t be the first government agency to consider blockchain. The DoD has been testing it for supply chain and logistics management, and the Federal Reserve is considering it for a real-time payment service, according to Avivah Litan, a vice president of research at Gartner.
The U.S. government is actually ahead of other sectors, such as healthcare, in testing blockchain, Litan said. “I’ve seen a few use cases,” she said. “They’re not the slowest sector.
“Fluree has a pretty clever structure,” Litan said. “It's an intriguing use case for intelligence sharing because it’s cryptographically secured and immutable, so no one can change it. You’re always worried about an enemy or insider intercept. You still have to worry about bad actors getting a hold of someone’s account and writing data that way, but it’s still harder than it is with conventional systems.”
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