Ethereum Classic (ETC) Logo on Old TVs

Blockchain Powered IoT

Democratizing Data Value

Data has always been the driving force of the economy. In today’s world we see an enormous amount of data generated every moment of everyday. There are giant corporations capitalizing off individual’s actions and patterns, by selling inferred interests to retailer’s trying to hit their target market with directly focused ads. There has been a lot of news coming out of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, commonly referred to by its acronym GDPR. This is only a side note highlighting the importance of data in today’s world and not the topic of the post.

Black Mirror IoT

The Verge’s 2018 Review on this recently leaked internal Google video from 2016

This video depicts a dystopian science fiction not so distant future with an eery Mirror Black tone to it. It paints a picture of Google using a ledger of user data to target and design bespoke IoT products with the goal being to increase the ledgers’ initiative. They use very creepy language and allude to user data is like genetic code that has its own sense of self, the selfish ledger. Google wants to know your weight so they custom build you a scale designed to be visually appealing and at a price they know you’ll pay.

“We understand if this is disturbing — it is designed to be. This is a thought-experiment by the Design team from years ago that uses a technique known as ‘speculative design’ to explore uncomfortable ideas and concepts in order to provoke discussion and debate. It’s not related to any current or future products.” — Google’s Response on The Verge
Whether Google uses the mentality portrayed in that video or not, it’s still creepy to know they made that video.
Uh huh, sure…

If you checkout the video or the review you’ll get the feeling this is basically already happening. So data regulations are a good thing.

GDPR is something to protect the consumer and an attempt to put control of their data in their hands. Surveillance and privacy are both huge concerns when it comes to IoT devices. These changes to the regulation and governance of data is critical with the evolution of IoT connected sensors, especially smart cameras and robots.

People are waking up to the fact that their data is being harvested for profit and demanding control over how their data is being used. The cryptocurrency trend has surged into the mainstream with HBO’s Silicon Valley portraying an ICO in their latest season. Blockchain technology is the driving force in the new data revolution of the democratization of data value through decentralized trust.

blockchain technology is, at its core, is designed to empower people versus organizations — Eric Piscini, a pricipal with Deloitte Consulting LLP on coindesk

Distributed information and processing systems like Blockchain powered IoT are going to take the cloud connected out of the IoT equation almost entirely. Internet of Things, means devices connected to the web. That traditionally means adding WiFi and a basic processing to send telemetry to the cloud. Smart locks, cars, crockpots, cameras, doorbells, garage door openers all use this basic concept of connecting to a cloud API that allows users to access the data from a centralized API hosted by the provider. This doesn’t mean they have to dependent on the cloud to service their AI, data storage, or processing at all. In fact it will enable smarter devices that can make decisions offline.

Public Programmable Blockchain Consensus Networks

Ethereum is currently the most popular public blockchain solution. It enables anyone to build an open and public ecosystem of engagement through token economics. Ethereum is a programmable blockchain, so it not only distributes a ledger of data, but provides a mechanism for developers to developer and execute Smart Contracts using the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). Smart Contracts are deployed to the EVM and decentralized applications can interact with them. Consumers can buy and sell token as well as interact Smart Contracts via decentralized blockchain apps known as DApps.

Tokens typically have the same as every other token of the same name. There are also Smart Contracts for unique tokens called collectables which have independent values from each other. CryptoKitties is a very popular example of such collectable tokens. While each crypto asset is a Kitty, that kitty has set characteristics and logic that determine its value. Each token represents a specific kitty with a distinct value. At Sea Foam Media I lead the build of BlipDFS which will be expanding on the crypto final four project’s idea and providing a fantasy lineups dapp for all sports. Each lineup will have unique value determined by the player’s stats during a given slate of games.

Let’s consider collectables from an IoT perspective

Trusted Peers in Private “Enterprise” Blockchains

There are a number of privacy crypto currencies out there Monero and AEON to name a couple. These blockchain platforms provide transactional privacy. These are business to consumer and P2P focused currency platforms, but they’re not programmable blockchain solutions.

Quorum and Hyperledger are two popular programmable blockchain solutions that expand on EVM core concepts by adding a privacy layer. JPMorganChase forked go-ethereum to bring us quorum, an enterprise-focused blockchain. Since Quorum is a direct fork with updates from Ethereum it is supported by the truffle development framework.

Enterprise solutions typically focus on the organization rather than the individual. Let’s unpack this enterprise-focused statement. Quorum supports blockchain transactions among a group of known peers with permission to participate. These transactions themselves can be public to the private blockchain network or privy only to the transacting parties.

A novel example would be for an interbank ledger operating on private ATM nodes at bank branches. Quorum supports both transaction-level privacy and network-wide transparency, customizable to business requirements. JPMorganChase takes advantage of the enterprise buzz word, but what it really boils down to is taking the P2P transactional nature of Ethereum and enabling some neat B2B privacy features.

Enterprises, as well as small to medium sized organizations that rely on private trust networks to operate such as the cannabis industry are the perfect use cases for private blockchain solutions such as Quorum. This creates a new world of possibilities for businesses can use trusted transactional logic to transmit data value. Businesses can build private Smart Contracts to encompass logistics that would have otherwise required 3rd party intermediaries to get involved. The businesses can agree on process and program the logic into a Smart Contract which will be used to commit the organizations to future transactions under the contract.

Quorum adds a layer of permissive privacy to the Ethereum blockchain. This means that a quorum blockchain is not open for public mining, smart contracts, or dapps. Only authorized peers can participate in network activity. This is great not only for the enterprise, but for users that engage within private communities, by providing decentralized private execution and transactions of data.

Others Think Similarly

Coindesk actually beat me to the punch by a day with their article on how blockchain must adapt to build trust in the IoT space.

Purists from the cryptocurrency world will argue that a “permissioned blockchain” is an oxymoron; however, some form of identity verification is required for participants who join the network so they can trust the information the Thing contributes to the collective.

Permissioned blockchains will be the future infrastructure of IoT which depends on trusted identifiable devices to report critical metrics.

Internet of Things (IoT) storage, computation, and management: devices connected to the internet can use the blockchain as a persistent and highly-available storage solution, can use smart contracts to provide a global distributed computing capability, and can rely on the blockchain as a secure channel for receiving information about software and configuration updates and dynamically-delegated access control (including physical access control, for locking devices).

The future of blockchain and IoT seems to have have great potential to create smarter more flexible devices. Blockchain powered IoT devices have the potential to be a gateway to decentralized artificial intelligence. It will not only power the future of intelligent devices, but empower the owners of those devices like never before. You can read more about IoT and the future of public/private programmable blockchain solutions in the cannabis industry in my other blog post.

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