Internet of things
Today’s Internet of Things(IoT) landscape already includes billions of connected devices that intelligently communicates with each other. IoT is revolutionizing how various industries operate, making them more efficient and productive. There has been a visible success in continuous jet engine monitoring allowing its manufacturers to make it more energy efficient, smart meters are enabling homeowners to monitor their energy consumption in real time and reduce their energy costs. IoT has broadened the scope of the data that could be collected and analysed, providing a competitive advantage to the various industries which they never had.
IoT enabled devices communicate with each other through the exchange of data for example, the vending machine companies can now remotely monitor the stock on multiple machines at various locations and restock the inventory as required, this has greatly improved the efficiency and reduced the manpower required to manage all the machines making it more cost efficient. The most significant aspect of IoT is generation and analysis of data, hence it’s equally important to protect that data as well else these unprotected devices can be used as ammo by various malicious parties on the internet as proven by the infamous “21st Oct DDoS attack” that caused widespread disruption of legitimate internet activity in the US. The hackers used a botnet to find unsecured devices on the internet and directed them to create huge amounts of bogus traffic at targeted servers, belonging to a company that is a major provider of DNS services to other companies. This made it hard for thousands of websites like Twitter and Reddit to function properly and caused massive transaction failures for various payment services like Paypal.
This brings us back to the major concern of how secure are our own devices, according to a recent ESET research at least 15% of home routers globally are unsecured (and the total number of home routers on the internet is probably on the order of several hundred million). The reason behind these unsecured devices is that the current centralised security system is extremely expensive to maintain and the increasing price competitiveness does not allow smaller companies to invest in complex security protocols. For the IoT to survive and grow from billions to hundreds of billions of devices, there needs to be a more scalable security architecture.
Decentralised architecture as a solution
Blockchain is a technological breakthrough that has fundamentally changed our notions of centralized authority, the blockchain is a universal digital ledger that functions at the heart of decentralized financial systems such as “Bitcoin”. The blockchain holds a record of every transaction made by every participant, and the combination of cryptographic processes behind it offers an intriguing alternative. Because blockchain is built for decentralized control, a security scheme based on it should be more scalable than a traditional one. And blockchain’s strong protections against data tampering would help prevent a rogue device from disrupting a home, factory or transportation system by relaying misleading information. According to Ahmed Banafa, an IoT expert and lecturer at San Jose University “Blockchain is promising for IoT security for the same reasons it works for cryptocurrency: It provides assurances that data is legitimate, and the process that introduces new data is well-defined,”
IoT applications by definition are distributed, so it makes sense to use the distributed ledger technology to secure how these devices communicate with each other. Distributed ledger can keep a trail of not just devices but also how they interact and, potentially, in which state they are and how they are handled. As the IoT scales exponentially, decentralized networks have the potential to reduce infrastructure and maintenance costs to manufacturers. Decentralization also promises increased robustness by removing single points of failure that could exist in traditional centralised networks.
Blockchain technology uses smart contracts to process transactions and interactions. Smart contracts are a set of codes and instructions which are automatically carried out when certain conditions are met. The use of smart contracts with IoT will not only make it more cost efficient, but also take it a step closer to functioning autonomously for example, in case of vending machine companies smart contracts can enable the vending machine to automatically create a request for restocking of a particular item the moment it gets over, removing the need for continuous monitoring.
How long until we see real blockchain enabled IoT ecosystems?
Though it is still early years of this groundbreaking technology, however, big tech companies are not waiting. IBM Blockchain, for instance, already allows to extend private blockchain into cognitive Internet of Things for example, according to IBM complex trade lanes and logistics could benefit a lot from their blockchain system by allowing it to follow everything that has happened to individual items and packages. IBM states three key benefits of blockchain for IoT as building trust, cost reduction, and the acceleration of transactions.
It’s not just the big companies that working on blockchain enabled IoT systems, there are many new startups who are also working on this disruptive technology. Homi Smart Homes is one such company, they have a mission to make smart homes a reality. In order to achieve this Homi believes that it needs to address the key problems around the smart home business which are high cost, low functional value, privacy/security, and lack of user friendly platform for multiple devices. Homi is working on its own private IoT blockchain ecosystem that will tackle all
of these problems by allowing other standalone devices to efficiently connect to each other providing flexibility to users to choose any device of their choice, provide functional value of energy savings, and a datamarket place for the users to monetize on their data over which they have full control. Additionally, Homi’s blockchain ecosystem uses a consensus based verification method providing the maximum security possible in a most cost effective way.