Partners are applauding an industry-wide effort by vendors, including Cisco, consumer appliance manufacturer Bosch and digital security company Gemalto, to develop a shared blockchain IoT protocol.
Through the consortium, vendors will work with Fortune 500 companies and startups to define the scope and implementation of a protocol layer across several major blockchain systems – enabling new blockchain-enabled applications such as supply chain and logistics management.
"This is wonderful news," said Marc Harrison, president of Silicon East, a Manalapan, N.J.-based solution provider that specializes in IoT security. "Success of IoT absolutely requires secure interoperability between multiple vendors' hardware…. using proven blockchain technology to ensure this will jump-start this process."
Blockchain technology is the decentralized ledger of all transactions across a peer-to-peer network – meaning that participants can confirm transactions without the need for a central certifying authority.
The new technology came into the spotlight in 2009 after the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was launched. But beyond finance, the technology has a variety of other applications and, as the Internet of Things market grows, there will be more opportunities surrounding it.
Blockchain technology could create a new way to track the unique history of individual devices through recording a ledger of the data exchanges between devices and users or web services.
Blockchain systems also can enable smart devices to become independent agents and autonomously conduct a variety of transactions. For instance, a connected vending machine would be able to track its customer purchase history and use that to automatically pay for the delivery of new items.
However, there is one application that partners like Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development and strategic initiatives at Ontario, Calif.-based solution provider Sigmanet, stress is most important in creating a blockchain IoT standard – security. "I think this is a good first step to create a real standard for security around IoT," said Monteros.
Because blockchain is decentralized, public and protects information through a private key, no single authority can approve transactions – meaning that the model is more secure.
Some vendors, such as IBM, have doubled down on blockchain through looping the technology into their Internet of Things platforms. For instance, IBM enables customers to share IoT data in a secure private blockchain as part of its Watson IoT platform.
Other companies in the consortium include electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group, Bank of New York Mellon and blockchain software developer Consensus Systems. According to the consortium, once a shared blockchain platform has been secured, the group will begin to explore varying IoT network structures and design applications.