Inside the bridge of Spanish ship Alvaro de Bazan at Riga, Spain, March 24, 2016.

Inside the bridge of Spanish ship Alvaro de Bazan at Riga, Spain, March 24, 2016. NATO photo

NATO and the Pentagon Want to Get Their Hands on the Technology Behind Bitcoin

Blockchain technology promises secure, tamper-proof, and even faster communications and data transfer.

Blockchain technology, the backbone of bitcoin, has a lot of applications. Finance firms want to use to cut down on administrative costs and trade faster. Estonia is using to securely track health records. Now it’s the military’s turn.

Both the US Department of Defense (DoD) and NATO have put out requests for military-related apps built on blockchain, a decentralized digital ledger system. The ledger is stored in multiple copies across a large group and changes are sent out to all of them immediately, using a mathematical protocol that makes the ledger tamper-proof. That creates an immutable record of the information, and since everyone has a copy of the data, records are still safe even if a few people are hacked.

The two are looking at different implementations. The DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, wants to use blockchain to create a secure messaging service. The group recently put out a public request for pitches on the project, and wants a web or native messaging app to help secure communications between different departments and even potentially troops in combat. NATO is looking at more traditional uses—using blockchains to make military logistics, procurement, and finance more efficient.

Blockchain can be faster than traditional messaging and data transfer systems, and more importantly, its decentralized nature makes it less appealing for hackers. If “significant portions of the DoD backoffice infrastructure can be decentralized,” DARPA writes, “‘smart documents and contracts’ can be instantly and securely sent and received thereby reducing exposure to hackers and reducing needless delays in DoD backoffice correspondence.”