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Chain of Things Explores Benefits of Blockchain Technology for Internet of Things

In London on Wednesday, Chain of Things held a conference and case study focussed on blockchain and the Internet of Things, with an emphasis on how blockchain could ensure security as the IoT interconnects billions of devices. The day consisted of a case study of Solar Energy and linked hackathon, followed by a number of presentations to highlight the need for security and explore possible solutions.

Kicking off the conference was the case study of SolarCoin, which uses blockchain technology to record and reward the generation of renewable solar energy. SolarCoin utilizes blockchain technology to bypass the need for tedious and time consuming paperwork and provide instant settlements for renewable energy generation. Currently with a prototype, SolarCoin and its affiliates are looking to investigate methods of monitoring energy generation, avoiding fraudulent claims. It is also looking into the benefits of smart contracts and developing an open system protocol.

Tied to this was the following hackathon to look into use cases of solar energy generations and applications. Six teams competed, with ideas ranging from financing and reward options to security methods and smart contract applications. The winning team was one which came up with a method of gaining the maximum revenue for sellers of solar energy. In their presentation a method of using blockchain technology to interface with solar panels, with the blockchain addresses being used to track the energy and options for surplus energy to be sold to maximise income.

Over the afternoon, various speakers spoke on the links between blockchain and IoT. Simon Harrison, Head of Technology at the RWE Innovation Hub, spoke on the importance of security, especially with interconnected devices and risks of confidentiality, integrity, availability and non-repudiation. Citing examples from recent history with hacked webcams, printers and other technology, Harrison spoke of the threat posed by criminals, malcontents, terrorists etc. that had access to the multitude of interconnected IoT devices, showing the need for secure systems to be put in place before it is deployed.

Blockchain-Finance’s Hans Lombardo gave a brief talk on the current possible benefits of blockchain for IoT applications, namely the ability to facilitate machine-to-machine communication without necessary human intervention. Machine-to-machine payments, contracts, identity, authentication and reputation would all be enabled. Some blockchain-IoT combinations have already been initiated, like IMB’s Adept experiment and Filament’s tap and patch products generating a lot of interest. Note was made of blockchain technologies not yet being ready to support a fully-fledged IoT however it was expected that when it was needed, the technology would be ready.

New technology IOTA was then introduced by Johann Tanzer. Similar in function to blockchain technology, IOTA was described as a tangle, rather than a chain, with the intersections between strands acting to stabilise and secure the system. Designed to enable micro-transactions and machine-to-machine payments, it is currently undergoing development testing and is expected to be ready to launch in a few weeks.

Other presentations gave different perspectives on the subject, including a talk from Cisco noting security as a top priority and the favourable light blockchain was viewed in. Michael Freeman presented on his view of having security through transparency – using open source software to allow everyone to examine the code and identify bugs and weaknesses, which can then be fixed; utilising the potential of a huge user base to increase security.

The conclusions drawn over the course of the day seemed to indicate a natural mesh between blockchain technology and the Internet of Things. Whilst blockchain technology might not currently be able to handle the volume of transactions that would be required, by the time it is needed it would likely be capable. The importance of having a secure system was paramount, with the potential for malicious actors to control power, access and function to linked devices it needs to be the focus for systems as they are developed. Hopefully, the realisation of blockchain technology, or similar developments like IOTA, will be able to enable a secure and workable Internet of Things.

Based near Windsor, England, Matthew Warner is an enthusiast for innovative, cutting edge technologies. He is a B.Eng. graduate in engineering with honors from the University of Warwick and also holds an PGCE in education degree. Matthew is a member of Mensa.
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