2016 IOT recap

The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a well-known sphere of innovation embraced by a multitude of tech companies aiming to streamline our everyday lives. For those unfamiliar with IoT, it’s a system in which everyday objects are all connected through the internet, allowing them to send and receive data. In essence, the IoT is a collection of objects that can hook up to the internet and have the ability to “talk to each other.”

Mobile applications and infrastructure solutions have catapulted the IoT from a futuristic concept into a reality. Ranging in size from the smallest chip to entire city infrastructures, the IoT space has grown exponentially in 2016. However, the blockchain IoT space is an area of greater interest due to its decentralized capabilities. Here are a few blockchain and Ethereum-based IoT innovations that are permeating the decentralized ecosystem.

SMART DEVICES

The foundation of a “smarter world” relies on the interconnectedness of objects embedded with sensors to animate their functions autonomously. From smart energy meters to bicycle storage lockers, smart device adoption is gradually becoming the norm for a tech savvy society that demands more from the world around them.

Earlier this year, ETHNews reported on the world’s first Ethereum lightbulb from solutions & technology consultants, Blockchainfirst. By embedding standard light bulbs with Blockchainfirst’s Ethan BIoT© chip, users are able to send micropayments in Ether (ETH) to power light bulbs and other devices that are compatible with the chip, such as washing machines, door openers, and vehicles. This allows users the ability to rent appliances by paying a small amount of Ether (ETH) per use.

In a recent talk at Blockchain Week 2016, Blockchainfirst CEO Juergen Scharr gave a presentation on the current IoT devices in development and their applications. A new interesting design is an On-Board diagnostics connector (OBD) that would allow car owners the ability to rent their vehicles to anyone of their choosing. Embedded with an Ethan BIoT© chip and a cellular modem to house a SIM card, the device would control access via smart contracts while always being connected to a network. Although still a prototype, this IoT device has the potential to redefine the roles of middlemen in the car rental and ridesharing industries.         

SMART INFRASTRUCTURE

‘Smart infrastructures’ or ‘smart systems’ are when smart sensor technology is fused into our existing infrastructures of meters, monitoring machines, and even power grids. By designing new models that can disperse resources with more efficiency and at a lower cost, communities can partake in what is known as collaborative consumption.

When New York blockchain-based startup L03 Energy partnered with the conglomerate, Siemens, the companies introduced peer-to-peer energy trading through the platform, TransActive Grid. Brooklyn residents that participated in the experimental project tested energy-generated solar panels that can easily track and sell excess power on a local and open market. Since micro-grids can store and share energy off the main power supply, initiatives like this are crucial in the event of a main power grid failure. This new design may also generate competition amongst national energy providers which would drive utility costs down for consumers.

Another exciting smart infrastructure innovation announced in 2016 comes from Slock.it with the BlockCharge project. BlockCharge is a peer-to-peer charging technology for electric vehicles.

BlockCharge has three components to its tech:

  1. A Smart Plug containing a computer chip running on smart contracts  
  2. A mobile application that authorizes energy withdrawals through micropayments
  3. Blockchain to record data for contract-less payments

With the BlockCharge Smart Plug, drivers may download the free mobile app to authorize micropayments linked to a digital wallet. The BlockCharge app works by seeking out the nearest charging stations and negotiates the best price autonomously. This combination of interconnectedness and blockchain tech could essentially increase the amount of charging stations throughout the globe while propelling the demand for electric-powered cars, drones, and other modes of transportation to promote a greener Earth.

SMART SERVICES

2016 saw a rise in IoT partnerships with service providers such as Amazon’s Cloud Drive which facilitates web storage linked to smartphones, tablets, and personal computers. In the Ethereum-based blockchain industry of IoT, Chronicled, the pioneers behind authenticating and tracking high-end sneakers on the blockchain, developed new ways to package and deliver prescription drugs.

Chronicled’s CryptoSeal is a tamper-proof seal created to ensure prescription drugs are undamaged or tampered with during transit. Using NFC chips within seals of various sizes, Chronicled’s software can track the history of prescription drug containers, reducing modification by counterfeiters who seek to exploit the bootleg prescription drug market. Building both hardware and software solutions for IoT devices, Chronicled is one of the leaders of creating a safer world with the very real potential to save human lives.

Another component of Chronicled’s vision for medical safety is being achieved through the use of drones. Utilizing Ethereum smart contracts, Chronicled is designing a delivery system where drones can communicate with home IoT devices for the automated delivery of prescription drugs. The company’s video displays a drone interacting with smart windows that verify the recipient’s address and identity, and upon verification, grants the drone access for home delivery. This frictionless process has implications beyond prescription drugs and is being explored by companies such as Amazon.

THE INTERNET OF THE FUTURE

While many of the most exciting IoT innovations exist outside of the blockchain ecosystem, that may not be the case in the near future. As the IoT space continues to grow and more companies are exploring the benefits that smart contracts have on IoT platforms and devices, what may flourish is a marriage of objects on the blockchain and the services they provide. 2016 brought about new ways for companies to build smart services and infrastructures with the goal of improving consumer interaction with the environment and community. Positive predictions for what 2017 holds for the IoT industry can be prompted by the growing use of blockchain tech to create a smarter and more frictionless world.  

Los Silva is a writer and filmmaker who has collaborated with tech and design companies. His interest in Ethereum stems from emerging creative applications that allow artists control of their work through blockchain technology.
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