By 2020, 20.4 billion IoT devices will be in use around the world.
From your smartphone to your toaster, TV, curtain rail, car and toothbrush — the time is coming when all “things” will always be connected.
Though it is an exciting time in technology, it is also a critical time to look at the way our data is owned and used as it passes through “things.”
If we continue connecting everything we possibly can, letting anyone control our devices and data, we will face an array of potentially serious problems. After all, our data is our most important asset. If we allow our data to “flow freely,” we will lose control of it. And though our personal data can be used for good reasons, it can also be exploited.
As with all new technologies, industry leaders are still developing the best long-term solutions at scale. Trust, transparency and immutability are the characteristics that make blockchain technology the perfect partner for managing all the data flowing through all devices.
As with any great building, you need a strong and deep foundation.
A natural place to start is at the “chip” level — and I do not mean the variety that you eat. This is the foundation of any device. All are operated by embedded chips. If you can control the data from the silicon chip that sits in the device, then you have an extremely important device identity foundation.
Imagine a chip that is immutable, programmable and smaller than a pinhead.
You could program this chip once, set an immutable identity for it and deploy it on a blockchain network. In the current world, you would likely use a centralized database and register the device to the network. While this is a great solution today, it is still open to centralized vulnerabilities.
Once this chip is embedded, you can then track everything it processes, manage its security and decide what happens to the data in and out of this chip.
It takes some imagination to think about this vision, but what I am suggesting is a real opportunity, and some companies are developing these solutions.
Take U.S. startup Borsetta.io (a company I admire and have worked with), which is working on a “trusted physical assets” project. This project is a “patented decentralized security protocol,” otherwise known as a set of rules and codes built to protect, secure, tokenize and transact physical assets using technology.
What this means to you and me is that Borsetta is able to secure data from IoT devices. The data flowing through the “things” is securely encrypted at the source and then “chained” (like in blockchain) with other data through Borsetta’s zero-knowledge mesh network (a cryptographically secured network) and shared via its distributed ledger.
Another example is a real production solution we launched for a client, where the firmware updates of the “things” in the smart city run through our blockchain solution. This provides an instant, shared record of what was updated, when it was updated and with what solution. All the participants in the smart city network then know that these IoT devices are all updated and with which version of the update. The next stage is to develop the network further and start to develop the new chips.
This is the next step for leaders in IoT technology to understand: The identity of “things” is difficult to track and maintain, but every “thing” has a chip. Therefore, every device can have an immutable and maintainable identity. Everything the device does can then be tracked and traced immutably.
- We can allow all our connected devices to do what we want (or at least know what they are doing).
- We can enable them to share data with companies in return for payment or services.
- We can update the devices securely, and we can monitor who accesses the devices.
- We can share the trusted data from the device with people we trust.
The list goes on, but we need to wake up to the world of “things” and use blockchain technology at chip level to secure, manage and maintain this new and exciting world.