Category Archives: Internet of Things

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Could Blockchain Solve IoT Security Bottlenecks?

Could Blockchain Solve IoT Security Bottlenecks?

In 1982, the idea of the internet of things (IoT) started with a soda vending machine that was connected to the internet, allowing the machine to report its inventory and whether the drinks were cold or not. This increased the efficiency of the vending machine, allowing a worker to be sent out whenever it was actually needed, and ensuring that the machine was always stocked with cold drinks.

Since then, IoT has expanded to integrate any device with internet or radio connectivity, and it is estimated that 8.6 billion devices are connected as of 2018. For example, via Apple Home, a person can control their air conditioning, heating, light, speakers, outlet, switches, windows, fans, humidifiers, air purifiers, security sensors, security cameras, locks, doorbells, and garage doors with an iPhone app. This technology has the potential to make someone’s life much easier, and it sounds like something from a futuristic sci-fi movie. However, there is a major caveat: security.

IoT security concerns

With everything in someone’s home connected to the internet, a hacker could theoretically gain access to everything in someone’s home. Imagine if a hacker who intends to rob someone’s house gains control of the garage door, windows, locks, security cameras and sensors. This hacker could literally watch via the camera and wait for a family to leave their house, and then open up the windows or garage door and turn off all the security sensors, and rob the house blind without being caught. Also, having cameras connected to IoT could allow a hacker to spy on someone, compromising the basic human need for privacy.

A real-life example of IoT being compromised by hackers is the Mirai botnet, which took control of cameras, home routers, and DVRs. This botnet was leveraged to perform DDoS attacks, and also led to device connectivity problems and the exposure of private data.

Imad Labbadi is the CEO of VeCap, a company that focuses on securing IoT powered smart homes. He says:

“There is insufficient protection, several devices from well-known companies and other vendors have serious breaches in their security systems: insufficient encryption, weak authentication requirements — for example, auto-login, possibility of external connections via VPN. All it takes is one unprotected device to compromise the security of your smart system or smart home. Hackers only need to find that one breaking point to bring down the whole network. It takes hackers less than a minute to get access to smart home devices, from phones and TVs to routers and consoles; all these machines are connected to the internet. Vast numbers of devices with zero-day vulnerabilities will be hacked as soon as the breaches become known before manufacturers will be able to update all vulnerable smart devices. Short-term thinking compromises long-term security.”

Blockchain to the rescue?

This security caveat has prevented widespread adoption of IoT. However, the security and encryption of blockchain technology have the potential to make it completely secure, which would allow it to reach its full potential and be used by people worldwide without fear of hackers.

Data stored in a properly built blockchain cannot be modified or deleted, nor accessed by anyone who does not have permission. This is because blockchain technology is built with powerful cryptography. Smart contracts on the blockchain can then be used to run IoT devices.

Cyber-Trust is a blockchain-based platform which focuses on securing the IoT. It uses HyperLedger Fabric from IBM, which is a blockchain that can handle up to 100,000 transactions per second, quite necessary for global scalability considering the number of IoT devices is expected to reach 22 billion by 2024. The updated history of an IoT device’s integrity state is stored in the blockchain, which minimizes the risk of cyber attacks by ensuring that devices have the most up to date security software. Also, in general, all IoT device actions are performed via blockchain smart contracts, which prevents hackers from accessing the devices.

Another company which is using blockchain technology to secure IoT devices is VeCap. Smart contracts are used to secure all internal communications within a home IoT system, and all data is stored on the blockchain to prevent hacking.

The need for securing the internet of things (IoT) becomes even more essential due to industrial and government applications. For example, the power company CenterPoint has 7 million customers and they have installed digital meters and internet connected sensors for a 5,000 square mile area around Houston, Texas. This allowed CenterPoint to restore power more rapidly than usual after Hurricane Harvey, but it is essential that this connected grid of devices is secured from hackers. Also, medical devices in hospitals, industrial robots, and self-driving cars use the IoT, and it could be life-threatening and costly if hackers compromised those systems.

AI and computing

Hewlett Packard has invested USD 4 billion into edge computing, which uses a combination of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to strengthen industrial uses of IoT. For example, X-ray machines across the US download data to the blockchain every 10 minutes or so, ensuring the data and the devices are secure, and then the data is analyzed by AI to help identify diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia. This combination of blockchain technology and IoT is being called swarm computing.

Perhaps the greatest endeavor which has combined blockchain technology with the internet of things (IoT) is IOTA, which has a cryptocurrency called MIOTA that has a market cap of nearly USD 1 billion and is ranked #18 on CoinMarketCap (at time of writing). IOTA’s developers foresee that global data pipelines will inevitably become congested, preventing IoT devices from communicating and storing all the data they produce. The IOTA network prevents that problem by funneling all of this IoT traffic into their blockchain, which has the additional effect of providing higher security and decentralizing the network, so centralized points of failure are eliminated.

IOTA uses a unique variation of blockchain called Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG), and in the specific case of IOTA this DAG blockchain is nicknamed “The Tangle”. With a classical blockchain such as Bitcoin, all previous blockchain history is required in order to issue a new transaction. With DAG however, a node only needs two previous transactions in order to issue a new transaction. This makes IOTA fast and efficient while providing the same cryptographic security as a classical blockchain.

Aside from providing a medium which can handle the storage and communication of data for all IoT devices, IOTA also creates a new system where individuals and machines pay micro-transactions for exactly what bandwidth they consume and when they consume it instead of subscription models. Also, individuals maintain ownership over their data, and they can sell their data to make money, which has applications for the big data industry.

Thus, the proliferation of IoT, which has the potential to revolutionize the way people live, has encountered a roadblock due to security concerns. However, blockchain technology appears to be the solution, and companies and organizations like IOTA, Hewlett Packard, CyberTrust, and VeCap have already successfully integrated blockchain technology with IoT, which prevents hackers from accessing IoT devices.

This merger of blockchain technology and IoT is paving the way for a future where all the devices in the world are connected, leading to a more efficient life and a more efficient economy.

 

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Alibaba Founder: Blockchain Meaningless Without Greener, Inclusive Future

The founder of Chinese multinational retail conglomerate Alibaba, Jack Ma, has said that blockchain needs to prove it can push a greener, more inclusive future forward for society, else it is ”meaningless”.

Speaking at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, China on Monday, Ma said that the ”data age” is a great opportunity for the supply side of the economy to transform the landscape of money and finance. Referencing artificial intelligence, blockchain and Internet of Things technology, Ma said that this modern reformation should not be promoted unless these innovations can bring a greener and more inclusive direction for society.

This is a big call coming from the man who founded the world’s number one company in terms of blockchain patent applications. Although it is reported that Ma has plans to retire from the company, his attitude will surely carry influence within the company and their own blockchain developments.

Ma has defended blockchain on previous occasions, earlier this year refuting claims that the technology is a bubble waiting to burst, although he did claim that Bitcoin in fact was. At this time he also referenced a concern for social improvement, saying new technologies should be questioned on ”what value can it bring to society, government, enterprises, and consumers in the data age”.

Social enterprise with blockchain

Some circumstances show that blockchain has already had a positive impact on social enterprises, with companies utilizing the new technologies to promote their causes of financial, social and environmental well-being.

In one case of this, Finnish start-up Moni created a blockchain-backed card that tackles the issue of refugees economic exclusion due to a lack of personal identification they hold. Each card is linked to an individual’s identity that can be used by refugees to purchase products, pay bills and receive payments from employers.

Swytch is an example of a blockchain company promoting the use of sustainable energy. Right now the pilot project is looking to distribute around 3.5Gw of solar, wind, hydro and bio-gas energy, enough to power over 500,000 homes.

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Blockchain and IoT Tech to Revive Polluted River in the Philippines

Tackling environmental challenges is becoming a widely-acknowledged coupling with blockchain. Bitcoin News looked into how the government in the Philippines is tapping this potential to clear one of its most polluted rivers.

The list of novel blockchain innovations is growing. From financial services to the human genome, the technology is penetrating every facet of the modern world, and an emerging popular use is to save the environment.

River clear-up

The Pasig River Rehabilitation Council (PRRC), a state commission in charge of preserving the 27-kilometer long Pasig River, has partnered with CypherOdin, a blockchain startup with an environmental protection focus to save the river.

This is the first proof-of-concept (PoC) from the company, the Pasig River being an ideal candidate as it is one of the most polluted rivers in the Philippines.

In an interview with Cryptovest, CypherOdin and BOTcoin CEO Mariano Jose Diaz Villafuerte IV selected Pasig River after the government shutdown Boracay Island, which was to be its first “showcasing” of blockchain solving real-world problems.

He said, “So we looked at the Pasig River instead as the next most important body of water in the country.”

New technologies in tandem

CypherOdin will install Internet of Things (IoT) devices throughout the river, both above and below water level. Speaking with Bitcoin News, chief technical officer Andrew Margetts went into details of how this would work.

Margetts explained: “IoT Sensors will give us a real-time picture of the river, things such as nitrate levels, water flow speed, bacterial levels, objects in the water, microplastics levels and flora and fauna. This will enable us to have targeted clean-up efforts using the right tools and techniques, it’s a big problem to tackle so the insight makes it manageable.”

The CTO added that machine learning would analyze and categorize data to identify patterns, giving further insight into areas for improvement. The data would also allow for a “drone-based flora reclamation initiative” to run in areas where water had reached acceptable cleanliness levels.

The company will be utilizing drones with Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology to map plastics in the riverbed.

It has more plans in the pipeline for the future of environmental protection in the Philippines. Margetts revealed, “We do have plans to work with both the private and public sector in tackling the waste problem in the Philippines, we already have high-level discussion[s] under way.”

Efforts to protect the planet through blockchain technologies are popping up everywhere. For example, Ben and Jerry’s and the UK city of Liverpool are using the tech to offset carbon emissions in a big way, and there are even eco-friendly projects that reduce the environmental impact of crypto-mining itself.

It appears as though blockchain and perhaps cryptocurrencies themselves are going to be informing the future of our planet. While these technologies are well within their early stages, the pace of progress is astounding, as is the cutting-edge quality of the innovations themselves.

 

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Walmart Applies for Blockchain-Managed Smart Appliance Patent

US multinational retail corporation Walmart has recently applied for another blockchain-related patent, this time looking to manage the use of smart appliances via blockchain technology.

The application filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office covers the use of this tech on a number of devices, including televisions, computers, laptops and portable media players.

Patent details

The smart device paired with the computing system would receive a transaction request which, once accepted, transmits a configuration instruction for the appliance to be operated by the user via one or more nodes in the network needed for validation. The smart device holds the private key needed to authorize transactions.

Management of the device includes the ability to customize access and control in order to secure the system, with the blockchain server network utilizing an Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem that allows multiple smart devices to be managed. The computer system would include a memory device to store the smart appliance’s usage data, as well as a processor capable of executing a variety of instructions.

The patent application details how the technology could be utilized in creating an entire smart home system, including control over energy and healthcare environments.

Walmart’s eclectic blockchain patents

The patent request was filed on 26 January following several other similar appeals from Walmart.

In June, the corporation filed an application for blockchain technology for use with life-saving medical wearables. The device would allow paramedics to gain information about a patients ailment should the individual be unconscious or unable to communicate their problem.

In another case, Walmart filed an application that would utilize blockchain in the receipt of goods at the point of delivery from autonomous ground vehicles, while allowing automated vehicles to have safe travel access. Walmart cites in the patent proposal that one-day parcels may be delivered to the company via automated vehicles that operate on blockchain technology.

 

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IBM Recruits in Preparation for $176 Billion Blockchain Future

IBM’s pursuit of 1,800 blockchain jobs in France is a signal of intent to expand research and development in several areas, primarily focusing on blockchain technology, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things), as detailed in an interview with chief executive Virginia Rometty on Wednesday.

IBM is one of the largest and most established research organizations in IT and computing alongside companies such as Microsoft and Google. The company currently holds the record for the most patents generated in a year as well as the last 25 consecutive years. IBM assigned 9,043 patents in comparison to Samsung Electronic which filed for 3,300 putting them in second place.

IBM has previously reported working with up to 63 blockchain clients on over 400 projects related to blockchain technology. The tech giant is confident that blockchain will streamline solutions and be a leading innovator in its field. Earlier this year CFO Jim Kavanaugh stated: “For us, blockchain is a set of technologies that allow our clients to simplify complex, end-to-end processes in a way that couldn’t have been done before.”

IBM securing the market

There have been regular headlines of IBM and collaborators looking to enter the blockchain space. IBM started a partnership with Maersk and Agility, a global logistics provider, announcing their plans to track shipping containers using blockchain technology back in February.

IBM has been pushing for the lead in the race for adopting blockchain technology working alongside various industries and supporting giants like VisaHSBC, and Walmart. Walmart’s vice president of food safety and health Frank Yiannas explained that:

“As a global advocate for enhanced food safety, Walmart looks forward to deepening our work with IBM, Tsinghua University, JD and others throughout the food supply chain. Through collaboration, standardization, and adoption of new and innovative technologies, we can effectively improve traceability and transparency and help ensure the global food system remains safe for all.”

Although cryptocurrencies have been met with some skepticism many industries are starting to understand the potential benefits of the underlying blockchain technology. Industry leaders and the European Union are pouring millions into research and exploration of blockchain projects. The EU announced plans in February to increase funding over the next two years from EUR 83 million to around EUR 340 million. IBM’s general manager of blockchain, Marie Wieck previously highlighted research predicting the value-add of the blockchain economy growing to more than USD 176 billion by 2025.

 

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Futuristic Visions: The Floating Island Project to Create Self-Governed, Crypto-Backed Seafaring Smart Societies

Taking the concept of ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Smart Islands’ a few sci-fi steps further is a project that has the attention of philanthropists, scientist, entrepreneurs, academics and investors from around the world. The ‘Floating Island Project’ is a pilot project in partnership with the government of French Polynesia.

The project is to see 300 homes built on a human-made island in the Pacific Ocean by 2022; costing up to $50 Million. The island will have its own government and cryptocurrency fuelled economy.

Self-Governance and Cryptocurrency Fuelled

The Floating Island Project is a collaboration between the Seasteading Institute and Blue Frontiers. In an interview with CNBC, Nathalia Mezza-Garcia, a researcher for the Floating Island Project discussed the goals of the project which included creating hundreds of floating island-nations.

She spoke about how the self-governed cryptocurrency backed islands can be a solution to a number of ‘land society’ issues: enriching the poor, feeding the hungry, housing refugees as sea levels rise and cleaning the atmosphere are all included in the extraordinary scope of possibility the project possesses.

She said, “Once we can see how this first island works, we will have a proof of concept to plan for islands to house climate refugees.”

Nathalia also went on to describe how the Floating Island Project can act as a sanctuary for individuals and businesses who find their present governments lackluster, saying:

“If you don’t want to live under a particular government, people will be able to just take their house and float away to another island.” She continues, “This means there is stability, outside of fluctuating geopolitical influences, trade issues and currency fluctuations — it’s the perfect incubator.”

Smart Cities & Smart Islands

The urbanization of the globe is ever increasing with cities, populations, and costs of living ever rising, which threatens to increase social inequality, push up crime levels and slow down economic growth. However, smart cities are said to be a solution to the problem by utilizing technology to reduce costs and better fund these cities.

According to IoT Agenda, the definition of a smart city varies, but the term encompasses a broad mission goal to optimize the functions of a city, i.e., public transport, hospitals and traffic through the ‘emerging trends’ of automation, machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The IoT Agenda piece goes on to detail a myriad of characteristics that a smart city will contain and makes the case that local and national collaborative efforts from governments and the public are crucial in making a smart city successful.

Smart Islands are being taken too in a similar way. However, they are more of an emerging and philanthropic endeavor as these projects are designed to bring otherwise ‘unconnected’ islands to the global stage, empowering their respective civilizations using Smart City standards.

The Floating Island Project is a step beyond that, from scratch it is building a smart and futuristic environment that benefits from having true sovereignty, self-governance and its own cryptocurrency, not forgetting to mention the noble goals of the project that on the surface, looks as though it was plucked from science fiction literature.

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Intel and Filament Push for a Blockchain IoT Future

Enterprise blockchain developer Filament, which receives significant Intel investment, has released an Internet of Things(IoT)-optimized, USB Blocklet chip.

Filament chief executive Clift-Jennings explained, “Many products, not all, have the ability to connect to USB. These are for manufacturing lines – we have a version of a USB product that plugs into the onboard diagnostics port in vehicles. It’s very much trying to drive toward machines being transactive in nature.”

Blockchain can be used to increase transparency between designers, service providers, and end users, making license management safer, providing production-quality data and becoming resilient against counterfeiting via secure design storage.

Counterfeiting and product integrity

According to BusinessWire, the global total of counterfeited goods has increased to USD 1.2 trillion. Counterfeiting of clothing and textiles primarily affects profits, whereas fraudulent components for machinery, cosmetics, and consumables can have a more detrimental effect by risking health and safety. It is believed that up to 10% of aircraft parts are counterfeit. The outsourcing of services causes difficulty in tracking the source and quality of components, as well as where maintenance is carried out.

The global distribution of manufactured components, must take steps to guarantee the security of plans, and provide data that is tamper-proof and in line with regulations and production standards. This must be achieved while preventing the misuse of plans to manufacture counterfeit goods.

Blockchain IoT shaping the future

Data drives innovation so the ability to share or sell manufacturing data on a ledger could fast track other businesses. Autonomous cars are going to rely heavily on driver data to increase safety in their transition to level 5 (the highest level of autonomy). Having existing hardware produced by IBM or Filament with a variety of companies from Microsoft to Amazon offering blockchain API frameworks, this could quickly accelerate blockchain proof of concept in the industry and change how data is shared an analyzed.

Big companies such as Mastercard are already looking at the applications for blockchain to track goods, providing consumers with product integrity. This could then extend right through to the manufacturing level with the use IoT-optimized hardware.

Intel’s investment in Filament is part of their blockchain initiative for large-scale industrial IoT deployments. The vice president and general manager of Intel, Doug Fisher said, “At Intel, we believe the future of IoT will be enabled by smart, connected, secure edge-devices that drive a data-based economy.”

 

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