From smartwatches to smart global logistics, here’s how IoT can have a bigger real-world impact
The emergence of decentralized technology stacks in IoT will save companies from privacy breach, revolutionize commerce and enhance the security around data gathering, guided by smart contracts
We all have “things” — devices that sense, collect and send data to the internet making these devices accessible to other devices. The internet-of-things (IoT) is the advancement of information and technology, which has truly evolved smart systems driven by data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Think Siri, think artificial intelligence. Think machine learning, think image or face recognition. All borne out of man’s curiosity to reduce human labor to the lowest minimum, IoT is the heart of the smart industry, utilizing all data points shared or used in everyday life to interact with humans and with other devices and to accomplish tasks that make our lives easier.
Common examples of adoption of IoT in-home are related to the concept of home automation, wherein several devices are connected over the internet to monitor and control the use of lights, air conditioners, and grocery supplies. This can also include monitoring devices and wearables that order goods and services on-demand such as Amazon Echo and Alexa.
The most common industrial use includes the use of sensors to track livestock supplies, crop growth, weather disturbances, supply chain logistics etc. In smart cities, IoT can be used to manage traffic and transportation, and keep track of the consumption of resources, all in the aim of improving efficiency and ensuring the welfare of citizens.
Blockchain and IoT will enhance data privacy and security
“In smart cities of the future, we will have millions of connected devices, built and owned by thousands of different companies … we will need solutions to allow those fragmented infrastructures to work together.”
Today, the world is making a paradigm shift towards smart “things” driven by data-based decision making. However, this comes with its vulnerabilities stemming from security, privacy, and network complexities. Recurrent news of data losses and concerns about unauthorized collection of personal data emphasize the need for more secure frameworks and facilities.
“In smart cities of the future, we will have millions of connected devices, built and owned by thousands of different companies. But, for both hardware and software, there will not exist just one single standard. Thus, we will need solutions to allow those fragmented infrastructures to work together. And here again blockchain based cloud platforms might be the ideal bridge to allow IoT systems deployed by different companies to collaborate,” says Jean-Charles Cabelguen, PhD, Chief of Innovation and Adoption at iExec.
The emergence of decentralized technology stacks in IoT will save companies from most of this privacy breach, revolutionize commerce and enhance the security around data gathering, guided by smart contracts. These contracts are self-executing agreements prompted on the basis of pre defined and agreed events effected without human intervention.
It is imperative that developers strongly consider incorporating blockchain for a more efficient and effective IoT ecosystem. According to Dr. Cabelguen, “IoT, AI, Trusted Execution Environment are great additional tech, providing highly valuable services when combined with blockchain. It may be a strong stretch from web applications. But we will see more and more full stack developers with understanding in other tech, as well as specialized developers.”
Decentralized technology is prized for its reliability, immutability, and transparency. Due to the decentralized infrastructure, there is no single point of failure. This also makes it difficult to hack or tamper with records. This can allay concerns about data being repurposed for malicious means.
Use case examples for blockchain-of-things
“Decentralized cloud computing will help democratize the IoT industry by enabling participants to deliver services without requiring a formal agreement with an established edge infrastructure provider.”
“Blockchain can help make a sharing economy of decentralized computing resources. It can be used to create a marketplace of available resources, and blockchain tokens or cryptocurrency can be used to compensate compute resources upon use,” says Michael Reed, Blockchain Program Director, Intel.
Blockchain technology allows computing resources deployed by IoT to comprise a single logical cloud to enable shared economy applications to earn considerable revenue by sharing the goods seamlessly like cloud computing. Privacy controls can be done with the help of smart contracts to monitor information shared or revealed. In the next 5 to 10 years this would be the norm: “Decentralized cloud computing will help democratize the IoT industry by enabling participants to deliver services without requiring a formal agreement with an established edge infrastructure provider,” adds Reed.
Companies like iExec and Intel have already incorporated blockchain to facilitate a reliable decentralized cloud computing framework and an effective sharing economy.
“Often, people think about how shared resources will be used and if it will be secure to share them. Meaning, how privacy and ownership will be managed,” adds Cabelguen. “There isn’t one answer, but blockchain could play a central part, thanks to its architecture embedding trust. The first steps are about tracking who provides, what is provided, how it is used and how valuable are the results. So a cloud computing service mixed with a blockchain-based platform will reassure people and companies to embrace the sharing economy and will guide people and companies to act for the common good.”
Other few examples of use-cases here also include the following.
Smart IoT-enabled devices play an increasing role in our mundane lives. IoT blockchain can enable a home security system to be managed remotely from a smartphone. With IoT gathering information on how we communicate, blockchain ups the system by solving security issues and removing the centralized infrastructure.
From 5G networks to safe information transfer and communication, the way we communicate will be drastically changed by these innovations. As demand for data service keeps increasing, safe, faster and easy accessibility will be critical to consumer lives and businesses. 5G networks that require fibre optic networks offer greater coverage and capacity. However, managing such complexities will require enhanced storage capacity and the ability to collect data at high speeds with greater calculation power taking into consideration data protection. Blockchain technology, properly integrated, will play a vital role in ensuring both speed and security in these transactions.
This use case spans across a lot of sub-sectors from cash-based transfers and crop production while reducing environmental hazards, agri-supply chain, etc. Offering a smart farming approach to farmers will enhance farming techniques by collecting and analyzing data, while distributors, retailers, and consumers are able to make informed decisions about buying a specific crop or food item. Being at the stage of technological development, a methodology has to be built for entering information unique to the industry — one that can be facilitated by blockchain.
“With blockchain’s unique advantages in data immutability and transparency, stakeholders in the supply chain can better track where, when, and how food travels through the pipeline. For instance, such information can help determine whether temperatures were properly maintained during shipment to ensure quality control. These are key factors that are highly relevant for distributors, retailers and consumers,” says Hikaru Kasai, Executive Vice-President, Elevate Ventures.
The opportunities available for integration still span across education, health, insurance, logistics, all having unique applications of technology applies. Enterprises are already exploring a variety of means that everyone can get involved in incorporating technology to more and more real-world applications.
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Jean-Charles Cabelguen is Chief of Innovation & Marketing at iExec and Chair at the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. Dr. Cabelguen has a PhD in Science from ENSAM ParisTech and 12 years of experience working on international business development interacting with big players like EDF, Areva, and Cegelec. As a digital entrepreneur, he also worked on go-to-market strategies and marketing campaign with more than 80 companies.
Michael Reed is Blockchain Program Director at Intel Corporation. He is a corporate intrapreneur/incubation executive with experience funding and driving technology ventures related to blockchain, cryptocurrency, online payments, RFID, Internet of Things, cloud computing and consumer electronics. With 20+ years of success creating new technology businesses that command market-segment leadership and $100M+ revenue, Reed is an agile leader, proven successful in venture-funded startups and Fortune 100 divisions. He is an outstanding people manager recognized for assembling talented teams and leading them to unprecedented results.
Hikaru Kasai is Executive Vice-President at Elevate Ventures. He oversees company operations and assists in strategic business development. Deeply passionate in a wide array of technologies, Kasai leads the research and analyst team in identifying clear solutions for challenges faced by the clients and the tech industry. This includes use cases, partnership strategies, blockchain technology solutions, and industry analysis.
Editor’s note: Elevate Ventures was recently cited by Forbes China on the topic of IoT. In this Medium article, our Executive Vice President, Hikaru Kasai, shares his sentiments on use cases for IoT and blockchain for the benefit of an English-speaking audience.