By Knud Kegel, VP Product, EMnify.
Blockchain is nothing new. Originally proposed in 1982, and eventually harnessed in 2008 as the technology behind Bitcoin, blockchain acts as an immutable publicly distributed ledger. Each block cannot be edited and cannot be deleted. It is secure, decentralized and tamper-proof.
These attributes hold immense value for IoT infrastructures, and point the way to a more transparent future. Blockchain technologies can be used to support IoT deployments by improving decentralization, heightening security and bringing better visibility to connected devices.
In an accelerating digital world, here are five key ways in which IoT and blockchain can work together to improve outcomes for businesses.
1. Data authenticity for quality assurance
Thanks to its immutability, blockchain can add a robust framework to quality assurance processes. When an organisation combines IoT and blockchain technologies, it can rapidly and accurately detect any instances of tampering with data or goods.
For example, a cold chain monitoring system could use blockchain to record, monitor and distribute IoT data, indicating where a temperature spike occurred and which party was responsible. Blockchain technology could even trigger alerts to notify both parties when a shipment’s temperature exceeded a specified threshold.
And if someone attempts to dispute the credibility of the data collected by an IoT device, blockchain holds the evidence of any alterations or anomalies.
2. Device tracking for error capture
IoT networks can be huge. A deployment can easily consist of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of endpoints. It’s just the connected nature of modern businesses. But when you have such a mass of IoT devices, errors and inconsistencies can seem like random events. Fault patterns can be difficult to detect, even if a single device repeatedly runs into problems.
But blockchain technology allows a unique key to be allocated to each IoT endpoint, sending encrypted challenge-and-response messages. Over time, these unique keys build device profiles. They help to identify inconsistencies, confirming whether an error is an isolated event or a regularly occurring fault that needs attention.
3. Smart contracts for faster automation
IoT technologies enable automation. It’s one of their fundamental advantages. But when an endpoint detects something that needs manual intervention, everything stops. And that could be highly damaging for an organisation.
Perhaps a hydraulic hose fails, contaminating a production line and shutting down production. Or maybe IoT sensors indicate your perishable goods have spoiled or they’ve experienced freeze damage in transit.
With smart contracts, blockchain can be used to authorise responses through the IoT network. For example, a factory could use predictive maintenance, monitoring that hydraulic hose and triggering a replacement part before it fails. Or if perishable goods have spoiled in transit, a smart contract can automate the replacement process to reduce delays and safeguard customer relationships.
4. Decentralisation for enhanced security
There’s no getting around the fact that IoT devices can be hacked. Particularly if you’re using Wi-Fi instead of the cellular connectivity methods provided by EMnify. With cellular connectivity, you’re completely separated from any local network, which means there’s no interaction with unsecured devices in the proximity.
Yet aspects of blockchain can add an extra layer of security, regardless of the connectivity methods that you use. Because blockchain is decentralised, malicious third parties can’t just hack a single server and corrupt your data. Plus, any attempt to access data and make any changes gets documented, immutably. And just because someone has physical access to a device, with blockchain that doesn’t mean they have access to any of its data or functionality.
5. Usage records for employee performance
Blockchain can also step beyond the technology of IoT sensors, and track the actions of users too. This can allow businesses to see the who, when and how of device usage.
Just like the history of a device provides insights into its reliability, a user’s history can be used to evaluate their reliability and performance levels. This can help businesses reward employees for good work, analyse patterns and decision-making processes, and improve the quality of output.
A collaborative future
These are just some of the ways that IoT and blockchain can be used in collaboration to solve the challenges of commerce. As technology accelerates, blockchain IoT is an exciting and nascent area of growth, which will influence the future of many industries over the coming years.
About the author: Knud Kegel is VP Product at EMnify, the global cellular IoT communication platform provider. He leads EMnify’s product teams in transforming IoT connectivity into an easy to consume cloud resource. Before EMnify, Knud was SVP Marketing and Business Development at CoreMedia, an experience management software provider for global brands. Knud has over 10 years of executive leadership experience in the B2B SaaS industry.