As blockchain technology continues to be adapted in various use-cases, a technological concept has emerged to aid in its application – the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT technology is enabled by sensors tethered to portable smart devices that report sensor readings to the internet, or a blockchain. By creating networks of objects tracked via gathered metadata, a landscape of possibilities begin to unfold. Sensors can be embedded in vehicles or the appliances found in modern homes, within packages, or in consumables. These sensors can perform a number of tasks, such as recording energy consumed or when a device is powered on and for how long, providing accurate mileage and fuel consumption statistics, tracking GPS location, and monitoring temperatures. Creative developers are likely to come up with even more applications for these sensors.
Current development of IoT devices and compatible systems span across industries, as companies leverage blockchain-based technology as a medium for immutable recording of transactions and information.
In the parcel business, PassLfix uses IoT sensors to track distribution in their peer-to-peer delivery service. The sensors relay information to an Ethereum Android app, which compiles the data and records it to the blockchain. Temperature, GPS, speed, elevation, and other pertinent details can be gathered and mapped during a delivery. It stands to reason that other supply chains will leverage the power of IoT devices to track environmental parameters, creating a possible means of finding system vulnerabilities that can lead to spoilage or missed deliveries.
Elsewhere, the airline industry has considered utilizing an industrial class of IoT sensors. At the International Paris Air Show, Industrial IoT technology provided the possibility of outfitting planes with sensors capable of tracking the age and origin of various engine parts. It is possible that these types of sensors may provide invaluable data to flight technicians regarding the potential failure of critical engine components, thereby saving lives.
IBM is a big tech industry player, and has partnered with Indiegogo and Arrow Electronics. IBM has provided Indiegogo entrepreneurs unfettered access to the IBM Watson IoT Platform. IBM similarly has a partnership to develop IoT devices with Bosch to integrate Bosch's IoT Suite Services into the Watson IoT Platform.
Wireless IoT devices called RuBee tags have been designed by Visible Assets, Inc. for use in the US defense industry. The tags play an important role in tracking high-risk materials, such as explosives, missiles, and weapon systems. These sensors integrate with a blockchain; when a weapon is signed out to a guard, a block is generated and the transaction is recorded onto the Rubee blockchain.
In China, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has joined with ecommerce giant Alibaba Group, telecom company ZTE, and China Unicom with the goal of creating a blockchain-backed network for IoT devices called the Blockchain of Things. The blockchain solution to the existing IoT network eliminates dilemmas revolving around pricing, centralization, lack of scalability, and network vulnerability.
The future holds a world of possibilities for interconnected IoT devices that are capable of relaying vital data to AI systems of governance. One day, they may become as ubiquitous as light bulbs, televisions, or the computers to which they communicate data.