Brief introduction to IoT
The Internet of Things (IoT), refers to the rapidly growing network of devices connected to the internet, which collect and share data. The data that each device collects is intended to bring value either on its own or when used in combination with data from other devices.
For example, Fitbit, a popular fitness tracker, collects data that shows how much you exercise, sleep, or how many calories you burn. This data is then accessible to you via the Fitbit app, which brings value by helping you reach your health and fitness goals. You can also connect with other Fitbit users, where the sharing of each other’s data brings more value yet through the additional motivation of being part of a group.
It’s possible now to make almost anything part of IoT using processors, sensors and wireless networks. Currently, IoT projects are being used or developed in the following areas:
- The Environment: To collect and share data on pollution levels, track and alert to illegal deforestation and help protect wildlife.
- The Body: Remind people to take medication, track activity levels and monitor babies breathing to prevent SIDS.
- At Home: Control lights, heating, and household appliances remotely and use them more efficiently.
- Towns/Cities: Smart bins to monitor and send alerts when they need emptying, smart parking spaces that show driver available spaces and more efficient use of electricity and street lights.
- Industry: Smart structures monitor their integrity using sensors embedded in concrete, retailers can learn how customers engage with products and farmers can monitor crops and resource levels remotely.
IoT products that are combined with AI (Artificial Intelligence) have the potential to learn from data and act on it automatically. This means smart thermostats that learn the work schedules and temperature preferences of its users, or automated vacuum cleaners that learn the layout and different surfaces of a home.
The problems with traditional IoT development models
The traditional process of developing an IoT product and bringing it to market has been expensive and complicated. Only large enterprises have had access to the budgets and talents required to develop world-class IoT products.
Before an IoT product is ready for market it must go through a three-stage process:
- Create a proof-of-concept (POC) for the idea.
- Develop and test an IoT product prototype.
- Manufacture at scale.
During the development phase alone, IoT projects require a vast array of skillsets for the integration of gateways, cloud and data analytics, hardware sensors, and middleware. Each skill is in high demand and with a fragmented industry are hard-to-find leading to skills shortages.
In most cases, multiple partners will have to collaborate on projects to produce a working solution. In the traditional IoT development eco-system, this collaboration requires a lot of trust from all parties. This causes problems, particularly when parties are based in multiple locations.
These factors have made IoT product development a particularly expensive, difficult and lengthy ordeal for small-businesses and start-ups.
The value blockchain can bring to IoT development
Blockchain can bring value to IoT development in the following ways:
Trust: Blockchain can be used to build trust between all parties including developers, engineers, and consumers. Decentralized storage on blockchain ensures data is protected and cannot be tampered with. This added security means consumers will better trust IoT products with their data. Improved working relationships develop between IoT project partners as by using smart contracts, trust can be gained in areas not possible before. Therefore, borderless teams can be set up and managed more effectively.
Costs: Blockchain platforms can open the IoT marketplace, allowing IoT projects to connect with and hire skilled IoT engineers from all over the world. Borderless payments can be made easily using cryptocurrencies and peer-to-peer partnerships lower costs by removing intermediaries. IoT developers can monetize their IoT data or hardware by leasing it remotely to those who need it using smart contracts.
Efficiency: Blockchain allows processes to be automated, removing the need for complex centralized IT infrastructure. Devices can verify and act on information between themselves autonomously. Business contracts can be written into programming code in a smart contract, where the conditions cannot be altered as they are stored on a decentralized blockchain. Decentralised peer-to-peer platforms enable IoT projects to find and train the talent they need, helping reduce skills shortages.
One decentralized blockchain platform specifically designed to facilitate IoT solution development is Hurify. They connect IoT projects with the talent they need and enable IoT resources such as hardware and data to be monetized and made available remotely. This enables faster and lower cost development of IoT projects, that is fair and efficient for both the clients and developers.
I reached out to Hurify’s CEO, Mouli Srini, who was pleased to answer a couple of questions on blockchain and IoT development. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: How important do you think blockchain is to IoT development?
A: Traditional IoT development models are suitable for large enterprises with huge IoT budgets. Starts-up and SME struggle to get their IoT products out often taking 24 months to get their product market ready with existing IoT development models. Also, the development ecosystem is highly fragmented. Therefore, traditional IoT development has to be disrupted with decentralized applications using Blockchain to create a massive opportunity to speed-up and scale the innovation to newer heights as the Nest, SmartThings or Ring are only the top of the iceberg of the possible innovation opportunities in IoT space.
Q: Do you anticipate a burst of new activity in the IoT space thanks to blockchain?
A: Absolutely, we are already seeing a lot of new models evolving in the IoT space with huge interest from IoT community. IOTA hit a peak coin cap of 11 Billion after announcing new initiatives like data monetization. ICT is building an IoT Blockchain Operating System; Hurify has created an IoT Solution Development platform. Lots of big IoT players are also jumping into this space like Bosch investing in IOTA. We are going to see more innovation with Blockchain in IoT space this year and in the years to come.
Another player in the IoT space is IOTA, who have developed what they describe as a ‘Next Generation Blockchain’ called Tangle. The Tangle is a new blockless distributed ledger that is designed to be scalable and make transferring value feeless. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow and more data is collected and shared, IOTA has the potential to enable monetization of this data. Micro-payments for data would become profitable due to feeless transactions, and as IOTA can be scaled it could deal with the ever-increasing amount of IoT devices. This could make IoT projects more profitable and create new incentives for IoT development.
The potential going forward for IoT and Blockchain
With blockchain set to speed up and lower costs of IoT development, we are likely to see a burst of new activity and innovation in the near future. This could help accelerate IoT closer to widespread adoption throughout our homes, cities, industries, environment and even bodies, helping to create a more advanced world.
Making IoT development more accessible is also great for small businesses and organizations, allowing them to create new products or improve existing ones. This is sure to boost the digital economy, bringing jobs and other benefits with it. It’s likely we will see a future where blockchain and IoT become closely intertwined, with success and development of one leading to further progress and development of the other.