It’s pretty much a done deal that there will be an incredible number of ‘smart’ (aka “internet of things” or IOT) devices connected through the internet in short order. For example, Cisco predicts there will be 50 BILLION such interconnected devices by 2020. However, there are serious questions of security, privacy, data integrity, and scalability associated with this growth.
Enter blockchain, which offers several attractive characteristics that could securely enable the parabolic growth in IOT devices. The Bitcoin blockchain doesn’t quite fit the bill here – but blockchain technologies such as Ethereum and Hyperledger, with their built-in support for “smart contracts” (distributed code that executes when defined conditions are met), seem quite promising.
The potential applications of IOT and blockchain seem limitless. Appliances that sense they need repair and contact maintenance -and even schedule a repairman visit, pharmaceuticals equipped with NFC (Near Field Communications – the kind you see used for Apple Pay) tracked throughout the supply chain from ingredients to consumer, the aggregation of individual pollution monitoring IOT devices for accurate detection of air quality. The IOT/Blockchain combination could power the “prosumer” movement (for example: I’m not using my car for a few days – maybe someone out there wants to rent it). An MIT research paper discusses how smart drones could use the blockchain to decide what to do as a group, and IBM is developing Watson (AI) IOT platforms (both shades of SkyNet)!
A lot of collaborative work remains to be done – but there are already several consortiums plowing ahead.