By Harish Jaggi, Lab Chief, GlobalLogic India
IoT has immense potential and wide-spread applicability in areas such as smart infrastructure planning, healthcare, environmental monitoring, agriculture and home serviceable smart devices. However, the risk of data hijacking and potential abuse is a challenge that needs to be addressed in order to ensure an optimal use of IoT.
IoT plays a pivotal role in transforming cities into smart cities, electrical grids into smart grids and houses into smart homes. According to Deloitte India’s TMT Report 2018, number of connected devices is predicted to reach anywhere between 20 and 40 billion by 2020.
Embedded devices have specialized operating systems, which are constrained by memory and computing resources, making them deviate from traditional computing devices fundamentally. These devices cannot encapsulate complex encryption logic and therefore, traditional security systems is not the answer. Research has shown that medical devices such as pace maker and drug infusion pump have vulnerabilities that hackers can tap and threaten patient’s life. Even hacking a single car in connected network can cause devastating results.
Therefore, it is critical to identify existing and potential vulnerabilities to IoT and address them effectively to establish a robust security mechanism for safe use.
This is where Blockchain technology assumes significance as a complementary tool that could ensure safe application of IoT, without compromising on the user safety and privacy. As futuristic solutions, Blockchain and IoT are poised to come together under one umbrella. IoT is based on the core idea of being able to take the right decision at right time enabling better customer experience. While Blockchain has the ability to make IoT network distributed or decentralized with no single point of failure.
The convergence will prevent the malicious hacking of even a single IoT device/node. Blockchain thus enables consensus mechanism among IoT nodes and help them verify decisions in-group and establishes mechanism to find odd behaving nodes/devices from network and quarantine it on real-time.
Blockchain and IoT – Early Adoption
One industry that has substantially profited from Blockchain and IoT solutions is the supply-chain industry. Enterprise solutions have emerged that track crops, fabric etc. from source till last mile along with temperature, moisture and humidity being monitored using IoT and relayed to Blockchain network. In shipment, tracking of packages is being done on real-time using integrated IoT and Blockchain solutions.
Challenge in IoT and Blockchain Integration
To expedite the opportunity, blockchain scalability challenge needs to be addressed and this would mean going away from proof of work and explore out of the box, consensus mechanisms to increase throughput significantly. This is essential to be a facilitator in millions of IoT devices where transaction rate is extremely vital. Establishing interoperability among IoT and blockchain platforms is second biggest challenge that needs to be addressed. First challenge is being addressed by introducing concepts such as ZK-SNARK, Raiden, Sharding, Plasma and Lightning while standardization and tools such as Polkadot aim to resolve interoperability issue.
Proof-of-existence in Blockchain provides an unalterable date and time stamp for a specific object. With identity management, every individual will have a private key generated for identity. Public-private cryptography, which is inherent to Blockchain is the answer to identify a device and link that device to a subscriber’s identity and operations. Blockchain makes it easier to identify the weak links and take remedial / corrective actions proactively. Broadcast of malfunction triggers from devices will lead to substantial saving due to early warning through Blockchain ledger. Cryptocurrencies based on Blockchain can automate transactions between the machines without human intervention. This enables wider adoption of this amalgamation in several verticals and industries.
There are use cases where Blockchain and IoT amalgamation can bring impactful solutions. For instance, malicious cyber-attacks that temper and steal genuine medical records which are then sold in grey market. Lack of secure, scientific, structured and preventive health check data is a hindrance to predict diseases and life style changes. To deal with such problems, Wearables and fitness trackers are IoT devices that broadcast data vis-à-vis individual’s vital health parameters. This data will continue to get saved on Blockchain and collated over time. If critical parameters surpass prescribed stipulation, smart contract will trigger notifications to person’s doctor and associated hospital to investigate heath-check proactively. This data and analytics is temper-proof due to inherent Blockchain cryptography and security protocols.
Although Blockchain use in IOT is relatively recent but we can find enormous proposals in areas like traceability, smart cities, energy sector, authentication, engagement and smart contracts which have the potential to bring a striking change.
Technology player Slock has proposed blockchain framework which aims to address security, identity, coordination and privacy over billions of IoT devices. IoT assets can be rented securely and quickly without the need for any central authority. Another company Aigang has deployed smart contracts over the Ethereum test-bed that issue policies, conduct risk assessment and process claims automatically using their currency AIX. MyBit plans to build an ecosystem of services where IoT assets (from drones to cars) are owned by a group of people, and the revenues are shared.
The Chain of Things is a blockchain-enabling IoT research lab that proposes Maru, an integrated blockchain and IoT hardware solution. Blockchain provides devices with universal identity from birth, security and interoperability. IOT Micropayment is an agnostic out-of-the-box solution that will see the day of light in near future.
Blockchain and IoT collaboration is need of the hour. IoT needs Blockchain and in the same note Blockchain is on a cusp to tap opportunity that IoT represents. With emergence of solutions around scalability and interoperability, world will witness huge influx of their integration on the horizon. Together they will create an expedient world around us. In the long run, IoT devices will come shipped with Blockchain at the core and network of smart IoT-Blockchain devices will revolutionize enterprise solutions to a level not seen before. This shall be beginning of a new era of innovation in information technology. Embrace towards an exciting future ahead!