Why is blockchain the next big thing?

"Blockchain is the next big thing"

TUI boss Friedrich Joussen is certain. “Today's Internet giants are losing their data monopoly.” Google, Facebook, but also flight portals collect data about Internet users and have thus become powerful players in sales. But Joussen predicts that blockchain technology will break this power.

In his assessment, Joussen is in line with the financial industry, which is feverishly working on business models based on blockchain. To put it simply, it is a new way of exchanging data and - like in a journal in the bookkeeping - backing it up. Blocks of information are combined into chains, cryptologically linked and stored in parallel on thousands of computers.

The decentralized storage prevents manipulation. In addition, access rights can be set for individual information blocks. "Blockchain is the next big thing," said Jim Velissarios, the blockchain expert at the consulting firm Accenture, at the fvw's Travel Technology Day. The concept also forms the basis for the established crypto currency Bitcoin, for example.

Velissarios expects the technology to be mass marketed in 2025. The World Economic Forum (WEF) forecasts that ten percent of global economic value added will be processed via blockchain. In the information chains, for example, a flight offer can be supplemented with the booking of a customer. In these concepts, information nodes such as reservation systems are no longer necessary. Seller and buyer communicate directly, without intermediaries, without payment service providers during the sales process. "The blockchain enables new, data-driven business models and makes them faster, more efficient, cheaper and more secure," said the Accenture consultant. Central data centers and their costs are switched off.

Sita, a service provider that drives technical developments for air traffic, is currently focusing on the idea of ​​simplifying passenger handling at the airport with the help of blockchain. A traveler should identify himself with a security key (for example a token on the mobile phone). The token is the reference to the personal and biometric data stored in the blockchain. "This procedure enables the data to be checked independently, ensures its integrity and at the same time protects the passenger's privacy," explains Sitas Lab boss Renaud Irminger. For airlines, airports and security authorities, the processes in passenger handling are being simplified and accelerated.

Another security application suggested Accenture expert Velissarios. Accordingly, the EU Commission is examining whether it uses blockchain to store flight passenger data (PNR). For counter-terrorism, Brussels is introducing this data collection based on the US model.

Where blockchain brings the most benefits

There is an environment in which technology can show its strengths. Velissarios: "If several or all of the requirements are met, blockchain is very efficient." He lists a number of conditions: Are there many people involved in a business process? Do data have to be checked several times and at different points? Is an agreement (reconciliation) necessary between the parties involved? Do you have to be able to review the data and the progress in the processes later? These requirements apply to processes in the travel industry as well as to banking and stock exchange transactions.

TUI boss Friedrich Joussen therefore wants to convert his group to blockchain technology. He took the first radical step with the sale of the Hotelbeds bed bank. The business model of such databases will change radically, said Joussen in an interview with “Welt am Sonntag” with a view to the possible elimination of intermediaries. The group spends almost EUR 500 million annually on IT operations. With blockchain and the relocation of digital processes to cloud providers, Joussen wants to save large parts of these costs. Other companies such as the GDS operators are still investigating the consequences for their business processes and what options blockchain opens up for them.