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Blockchain Technology – What Does it Mean to Engineering?

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As a student aspiring to be an engineer or an engineer hoping to once again be a student, you come to CircuitBread to learn both what’s old and what’s new in electronics. That’s why we offer well-tested content that you can use, like equations and calculator tools, along with info on some of the latest technology in a fast-moving field.

One rapidly evolving technology that’s worthwhile to know about is blockchain, and not just because you want to learn about its use in cryptocurrency. Blockchain technology is poised to bring about some interesting changes in the field of engineering.

Simplifying Blockchain – What it is

Blockchain is essentially a distributed database software product that is very secure. Using blockchain, you enter your data into a block or cell. Once all your information is entered, the data is encrypted and a number is created that is known as a hash. This hash is then entered into the next block header and encrypted, and so on down the line of nodes in the network.

This process creates a series of blocks that are “chained” together, which leads to the term blockchain. Someone trying to change the information in an individual block will cause that block’s hash to change, meaning that the hash in all subsequent blocks would also have to change in order to be verified, which would entail using enormous computing power.

Blockchain is not crypto

So, blockchain essentially creates copies of your database that are saved on many machines throughout the network, and these copies must all match for the information to be valid. Blocks are also time-stamped, so chronological tracking of events is possible. These features make databases using blockchain technology essentially unalterable once the information is initially entered.

What this means for Engineering

Design engineering is a discipline that often requires critical data to be shared among many users at different locations and at different companies. These databases can be both proprietary and public, but what is typically very important is that the data remains secure and, at some point, trackable for both audit and regulatory purposes. Designing a modern jet fighter, for example, requires part and system files not only to be shared by engineers at airframe designers, but also by engine developers, testing vendors, and maintenance and repair suppliers.

Safeguarding critical and proprietary data is the primary benefit of blockchain technology. It allows needed information to be shared and traced securely, and also facilitates proper version management. Version management enables efficient communication and tracking of design changes to a product or system, identifies what changes were made, when they were made, and who made them. It also allows the restoration of older versions when needed.

Product Sourcing Logistics – the Other Side of Engineering

Efficient and elegant outcomes in electrical and electronic design engineering are also heavily dependent on authentic components, reliable supply chains, and secure product sourcing. This is where blockchain technology can be of even more significant value in the engineering ecosystem.

Applications for blockchain solutions to enhance the component procurement cycle include:

  • Customs clearance of components
  • Supply chain management and integrity
  • Counterfeit component avoidance
  • Verification of component quality data
  • Verification of critical part inventory

It’s easy to see any number of ways that blockchain can add security and features to supplement purchasing logistics systems for electronic parts. It’s also the reason that our friends at OnlineComponents keep track of the latest developments in this area. You can read their additional content on blockchain technology in engineering at www.onlinecomponents.com

Conclusion

Blockchain isn’t just the hidden technology behind the growth of the worldwide interest in cryptocurrencies. It is, however, the technology that allowed this area of finance to reach a practical reality. In the very near future, its’ features and assets will be adding value in many fields. Crypto was just the start. More importantly, blockchain applications across engineering will add important security, tracking, and intellectual property protection to a discipline that relies on the safe sharing of information to produce new, effective, and efficient products and services.

Yes, blockchain technology does currently require a ton of computing power for some applications. But solving that problem is just another exciting challenge that waits for the creative input of future engineering talent – like you.

Authored By

Josh Bishop

Interested in embedded systems, hiking, cooking, and reading, Josh got his bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Boise State University. After a few years as a CEC Officer (Seabee) in the US Navy, Josh separated and eventually started working on CircuitBread with a bunch of awesome people. Josh currently lives in southern Idaho with his wife and four kids.

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