Troy Norcross says with 30bn devices set to be connected by next year, the Internet of Things and blockchain have significant opportunities to grow together in the future
THERE will be some 30bn connected devices by 2020 producing a staggering five quintillion bytes of data each day, according to Tim Stack of Cisco Systems.
So what are these billions of connected devices? Think about all of the smart home devices like thermostats and lighting controls, sensors built into your cars, and even simple Bluetooth devices monitoring temperature, humidity, and motion on containers.
Today’s solutions for managingthis growing glut of data from an ever-growing number of devices is to pullthe information into one or more large central locations.
Google takes in all the data from Nest and Google Home. Amazon pulls in data from Amazon Alexa and all things connected to the Alexa-based smart home.
Dozens (if not hundreds) of other smaller companies are collecting their own large data lakes of information which they are desperately trying to figure out how to monetise.
But these are centralised thirdparties who may not have business interests aligned with those of us who have all of these sensors in our lives. What is needed is a decentralised system for storing, managing, and monetising the data across multiple stakeholders. Blockchain is such a solution.
Today’s blockchain technology solutions are simply not designed to handle this level of raw data nor the rate at which it is being produced. The bitcoin blockchain can only handle 3-7 transactions per second — and the bitcoin ledger already exceeds 180GB.
The current Ethereum blockchain protocol is limited to some 15-20 transactions per second. Neither of these, nor any of the other primary protocols, are fit for purpose when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Luckily, there are evolutions in blockchain technology such as IOTA which are suited for this explosive growth in demand for performance and storage capacity.
IOTA promises a platform to allow for machine-to-machine communication and payments without the direct involvement of any human in the process.
With zero transaction fees, microtransactions become feasible across a wide range of applications. The IOTA architecture is not like most blockchain technologies. In IOTA every single device is a core part of the network and serves the functions of verifying and validating transactions across the network without needing a high processing power and without needing to hold a copy of all the data in the network. This alternative to a classic blockchain approach is called a tangle.
A secondary aspect of how blockchain technology will be instrumental to the success and growth of the IoT ecosystem is that of identity. Today we have the concept of identity for individuals and companies or enterprises.
IoT will require that each of those 30bn devices have their own identity which can be verified and authenticated as part of each individual transaction. Identity for an IoT device can include many things such as type of device, type of data provided, the location of the device, owner of device, and connection points, as well as much more.
As part of machine-to-machine communication and payment, there will need to be logic involved in the interactions. In the early days, this will be in the form of smart contracts.
As the amount of data evolves there will be the possibility for artificial intelligence (AI) to play a bigger role in the interaction between devices. There are already some AI solutions that dynamically write and publish smart contracts.
As AI gets better and more data is provided, we should expect greaterinvolvement from AI and thus better performance of machine-to-machine networks.
As for smart contracts, as are already in production in many Ethereum, EOS, and other smart contract capableblockchain protocols, IoT exists as part of oracle services.
Oracle services connect smart contracts to the outside world in order to check and verify conditions. An example of an IoT-based oracle service might be to determine if the temperature in London exceeded 12C on a given day.
Multiple sensors across the citycould collect their data and reach aconsensus as to if the condition was satisfied or not. This is a great way for IoT to engage with existing smart contracts.
A real-world application for IoT on the blockchain is possible in the hotel industry. Using a series of IoT devices and smart contracts for payments hotel guests could pay for and automatically activate services within a hotel room or Airbnb apartment.
Examples include paying forpremium movie channels, unlocking access to a mini-bar, and paying for high-speed internet. The hotel guest could interact with the network directly from a smartphone app and the payments could be received directly by in-room IoT devices allowing for instant access.
One of the immediate areas for IoT devices to be used with blockchain technology is in the area of supply chain monitoring. Imagine every shipping container being fitted with its own onboard sensor collecting data on temperature, humidity, and motion.
This data can be reported to a central hub which then adds the data to the blockchain providing real-time tracking and status of each container throughout the journey.
This data can then be used to expedite customs processes, provide data tosupport supply chain insurance, and allow for both shippers and receivers to identify early on if there is a problem with a shipment and to engage appropriate contingencies.
International shipping company Maersk, working with IBM HyperLedger, is already implementing some of this in their blockchain platform known as Tradelens.
Using IoT devices such as fitness trackers and other health/medical devices is a high-interest area with a number of complexities, especially in the areas of data ownership, sharing, and privacy.
Blockchain solutions often tout transparency as a key benefit. Great care must be taken in designing what data is stored in a blockchain and how that data is protected.
Furthermore, with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), companies are rightly concerned about how data which is immutable (unable to be changed) can be compliant with the “right to be forgotten”. Blockchain solutions can be designed to be fully GDPR compliant with data whether that is patient data, general health data, or data used for advertising.
So does blockchain suck when it comes to IoT? Not necessarily. Yes, blockchain technology is in its infancy. There are limitations on scalability, performance, and adoption.
There are also a wide range of applications where blockchain adds significant value to the IoT ecosystem today. With the continuing development of new technologies, even better solutions will be available in the near future.
IoT and blockchain have significant opportunities to grow together in the future.
Troy Norcross, co-founder of Blockchain Rookies, is one of the speakers at the Beyond IoT2 conference on January 21 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork. He will be on a panel led by Joel Briggs from TechCrunch discussing ‘Blockchain Sucks’
THE Nimbus Research Centre exists within the CIT Research and Innovation ‘ecosystem’, as part of the Faculty for Engineering and Science.
The primary focuses are end-to-end applications for the internet of things, ICT for sustainability, and software platforms for IoT.
The centre itself was established in 2007, but Nimbus activity truly began in 2000, with researchers working out of a small room in CIT’s F Block. Fast forward 18 years and Nimbus is now Ireland’s largest dedicated research centre for IoT.
The Nimbus Gateway is a self-contained unit that works exclusively on our industry projects.
The centre is entirely self-funded, through national (eg, Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland) and EU (eg, Horizon 2020, Interreg) research programmes and from industry partners.
Nimbus’s core research and innovation strength lies in hardware systems, embedded and cloud-based software, wireless/mobile networking, data analytics, and artificial intelligence, all targeted at the internet of things and cyber-physical systems application space.
Energy management, water and environment, and smart cities and communities have been the dominant IoT themes over the past three years, with Industry 4.0 applications an emerging theme. Secondary themes with future potential include infrastructure security, tourism, agri-food, edtech, health and assisted living, and wearables.
On average, it delivers 60 projects per year, with 70 projects active in collaboration with companies, from start-ups to multinationals.
Nimbus took on the task of delivering an exemplar event back in January 2018, creating Beyond IoT, sponsored by SteriTrack (Matrix IT).
The aim for 2019 is to capitalise on the success of the sold-out 2018 event and deliver an even bigger and better event, starting with an impressive line-up of speakers from across the Atlantic and Europe, to bring technology gurus from Silicon Valley, and other global players, to Cork.
Nimbus has global ambitions and aims to bring the Beyond IoT conference oversees to the US and Asia by 2020. The event is being managed by Richard Linger, Nimbus industry director. He has over 25 years working in high-tech industries across the globe, with Deloitte, BP, Shell, and Ernst&Young, and has several start-ups under his belt. He understands the importance of bringing global technology leaders and Irish industry together to learn from each other.
Beyond IoT 2, in Pairc Uí Chaoimh, offers an opportunity for multi-nationals, SMEs, start-ups, entrepreneurs, and academics to hear what international, battle-tested entrepreneurs, technologists, investors, and dedicated researchers expect from the next wave of technology innovation and investment, and to learn how their organisations can benefit.
Speakers include Vitaly Golomb, managing director and global head of principal investments at IEG Investment Banking Group, who addressed the inaugural Beyond IOT, John Biggs (TechCrunch), Dave Troy (the man who saved Twitter), Jon Soberg (MS&AD Ventures), Stuart Hillston (ConCap), Helen McBreen (Atlantic Bridge) and more. The topics will include internet of things, blockchain, space, security, artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual Reality, funding, and business expansion.
Clinics will provide a unique opportunity to get expert advice from field experts in technology, investment, funding avenues, entrepreneurship, and academic research.
These sessions will provide invaluable advice and guidance on how attendees can facilitate investment, drive technology innovation, create collaborations, and foster new commercial relationships. Attendees will include researchers, investors, entrepreneurs, academics, start-ups, business owners, and top executives from large multinationals.
The event is approved by Engineers Ireland, providing continuous professional development (CPD) in areas relevant to engineers.
Start-up companies can register for free tickets. Limited number only, so book now. The event has proven to be extremely beneficial for networking and forming collaborations, particularly in industry research, where SMEs can access funding through technology gateways.
To register for Beyond IoT 2, on January 21, and to book your tickets, please visit the website: http://beyond-iot2.com or find out more on https://twitter.com/BeyondIoT2019