Blockchain: Enabling Truly Distributed Collaboration
Although Still Early, Blockchain's Horizontal Nature Will Disrupt a Number of Industries
Our research has identified several opportunities for Blockchain across industries like Energy and Healthcare, however, many barriers to adoption exist today as the technology matures and new use-cases continue to be identified in pilots
What is The Impact of Blockchain on IoT?
Computing devices have been connected via a “distributed-client to centralized-server” architecture for decades, a model that is neither scalable or securable enough to support the Internet of Things ecosystems forming today. Expanding these ecosystems to take advantage of data collected across a diverse collection of devices, systems and people requires overcoming fundamental challenges to scalability that arise in the shift to a decentralized information architecture.
To decouple the identity of data from its architecture is where the deeper value of IoT lies. It implies a new economic model, where data becomes fluid and contextualized by the exchanges between devices, web services, and human users. Rendering objects smart in the context of network interactions is still fraught with issues, from human error to security to the integrity of intermediaries; every interaction you have online relies on some trusted authority, each of which has their own vulnerabilities and security threats. Blockchain is a model for reliable and secure data collection and brokering across distributed multi-party systems, based on distributed consensus of events past and present.
The challenges involved with embracing distributed architectures are many. Chief among these concerns are those which organizations have around the security of proprietary data, and the ability of stakeholders to manage the ever-growing number of devices being brought online in their respective ecosystems. Blockchain has the potential to provide the foundation for a decentralized architecture that would allow permissioning of data to proper stakeholders in the ecosystem their associated with, enabling devices to work together autonomously, without humans.
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What Trends are Impacting The Blockchain Market Today?
- Adoption– Early use cases have leveraged Blockchain as a semi-decentralized database to enable distributed network participants, such as across a supply chain, energy grid, or healthcare system, to efficiently and securely share information
- Technology–Blockchains embedded in decentralized IoT information architectures enable devices in these networks to autonomously transact (e.g., the transfer of funds, sharing of data, or services rendered) and record these transactions on the distributed ledger
- Creating Resiliency and Trust– Each transaction is verified by multiple parties on the network which makes fraudulent recording of transactions nearly impossible
- Device-to-Device Communication– With greater trust, devices on the network can autonomously execute transactions with other devices in response to rules-based events, lowering the need for human inputs in the system
- Creating Complex Ecosystems– With less human inputs, large scale, multi-vendor IoT solutions can be managed in an automated and more cost-effective manner
Where Are Today’s Pilots on The Smart Systems Stack?
Blockchain is being deployed across the Smart Systems Technology stack, providing capabilities which are foundational to new modes of value Creation. Recent pilots continue to identify usages for the technology as players find new ways to share data – with new participants – to enhance the overall efficiency of their operations.
- Device Software players are using Blockchain tools embedded in assets to securely connect distributed devices to other nodes on the network, enabling end-to-end encrypted data transmission and Smart Contract execution
- Network service providers are leveraging blockchain to remove single network points of failure, increasing resiliency to accidents and attacks
- Data object and device identification on a blockchain enables efficient management of information objects, forming the basis for advanced querying schemas that unlock data value
- Decentralized storage systems leverage blockchains to distribute sensitive information across hardware assets, increasing storage resiliency and maximizing the use of existing capacity
Players Leverage Blockchain to Disrupt The Industries of Supply Chain, Energy and Healthcare
Harbor has identified three industries where players are leveraging Blockchain to disrupt the status-quo and create new value:
- The Linux Foundation’s open-source Hyperledger Project, led by IBM, has demonstrated proof-of-concept of a blockchain’s ability to replace existing tracking schemes in food supply chains
- Working with Wal-Mart, the Hyperledger Project team is leveraging the blockchain to connect origin details, processing data and shipping temperatures to each item that ends up on shelves to quickly and accurately remove compromised food items from circulation
- LO3 Energy and Siemens have partnered to demonstrate the ability of blockchain to underpin a smart micro-grid pilot in Brooklyn. As decentralization becomes the norm in power grids, enabling control over localized generation and consumption is critical for reliable operations
- The pilot is demonstrating how tokenization of surplus production and consumption enables local markets to form that maximize the efficiency of energy systems
- Alphabet’s AI-outfit DeepMind is building a distributed ledger to track health care records in the UK
- The ledger will provide hospitals and eventually patients an immutable record of who has accessed patient data and what it was used for
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