The Blockchain and IOT Convergence

Internet of Things (IoT) has been making waves and fascinating the technology circles for some time. Creating a secure ecosystem of the IoT architecture has been an issue of the technology architects. Converging the blockchain technology with IoT can solve these issues is another which is being brainstormed.

We shall start our discussion by first understanding the basic building blocks of IoT infrastructure and its limitations. Then we shall discuss the blockchain technology in brief. We shall then study the feasibility of convergence of IoT and the blockchain technology.

IoT Basics:

Any IoT architecture can be represented by four basic building blocks:
1.     Things: These are the uniquely defined nodes or primary sensors to communicate without human interaction using various connectivity methods.

2.     Gateways: These are the intermediary channels between “Things” and the cloud to provide connectivity, security and manageability.

3.     Network Infrastructure: This comprises of the routers, aggregators, gateways, repeaters and other devices that control and secure the data flow.

4.     Cloud Infrastructure: The cloud infrastructure is the pool of virtualized servers and storage devices, networked together with computing and analytical capabilities.

Like any new deployment, there are certain challenges in IoT deployments as well. One of the major issues has been to channelize the data securely to the right place, at the right time in the requisite format. These may be aggravated by the design and implementation.

One of the biggest issues has been in the security and platform configurations of the virtualized IoT platforms supporting multi-tenancy. Other, related to this is privacy concerns.

Another issue of the IoT ecosystem is its centralized brokered communication model based on the client-server paradigm. IoT devices are identified, authenticated and connected through cloud servers. Connections between devices have to go through the internet, even if they are a few feet apart.
Existing IoT infrastructure solutions and their associated maintenance cost with centralized clouds are quite expensive. These costs will increase drastically with the increasing number of IoT nodes.

 Lately, the industry has visualized for decentralizing the IoT networks to solve the above issues.

This is by adopting a standardized peer-to-peer communication model to process the billions of transactions between devices. This should reduce the associated costs of installation and maintenance. Also, the cost associated with maintaining large data centres will reduce. With peer to peer networking, chances of collapse due to the failure of a single node will also be diminished.

The peer to peer networking also has its issues but the blockchain technology already has a well-matured ecosystem on peer to peer networking system. The pre-requisite for adopting peer-to-peer in IoT are: peer-to-peer messaging distributed file sharing and autonomous device coordination. All these pre-requisite aspects are matured features of the blockchain technology.

The Blockchain Technology

Blockchain has lots of features and applications which can be brought in use directly when using it for IoT applications.

The blockchain technology offers a system to record transactions in digital form in a secure and transparent, immutable and open way. So, in simple words, blockchain is a chain of blocks where each block contains some information. The information is a timestamped digital document which is not possible to backdate or temper. However, blockchain cannot work without the internet.

The blockchain is referred to as meta-technology. It can affect other technologies. Any blockchain application consists of a database, software application and connected computers called nodes, to name a few.

There are three types of blockchain: 1. Public Blockchain, 2. Private Blockchain and 3. Federated Blockchain.

In the context of the IoT, depending on the applications, any one of the blockchains can be used. Generally, public blockchain is recommended for IoT applications. The public blockchain is also protected using the method of public and private keys, and digital signatures.

The blockchain is a decentralized solution. No single authority can approve the transaction. Specific rules are pre-decided, it works on the basis of consensus to accept any transaction.

The blockchain is a secure technology. It is also called an immutable technology. If any of the records in a block of data is tampered or changed, the whole block is changed.

 The Convergence of Blockchain and IoT

The blockchain technology can be used to address the privacy and reliability concerns of the Internet of Things. It can also be used to track the billions of connected devices, enabling the processing of transactions and coordination between the devices. Ultimately, this will interpret into exhaustive savings for the IoT industry.

The decentralized approach of the blockchain can be applied to eliminate any single point of failure, thus creating a resilient ecosystem for the IoT nodes.

The blockchain ledger is tamper-proof as it is located on multiple blockchain nodes. The decentralized, autonomous, and trustless capabilities of the blockchain make it an ideal component to be an element of IoT solutions.

The blockchain can keep an immutable record of the history of smart devices in the IoT network. This enables the autonomous functioning of smart devices without the need for centralized authority.

The blockchain opens the door to a series of IoT scenarios that were remarkably difficult, or even impossible to implement without it.

By leveraging the blockchain, IoT solutions can enable secure, trustless messaging between devices in an IoT network. The blockchain will treat message exchanges between devices similar to financial transactions in a bitcoin network. Message exchanges can be enabled using the smart contracts function of the blockchain applications.

There are lots of exciting capabilities of the blockchain which can be integrated with the IoT to make it more feasible and cost-effective.

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