For Solution Providers, Blockchain Is The Next Wave Of Opportunity For IoT

Solution providers deploying internet of things (IoT) solutions are looking at blockchain technology as the next step to offer predictive analytics and security solutions for customers.

Blockchain technology – the decentralized ledger of all transactions across a peer-to-peer network – adds another layer of opportunity for channel partners to differentiate themselves in the IoT market, particularly in the finance and manufacturing industries.

"We're seeing an increasing demand in the blockchain space – blockchain is coming together to help the financial, retail and manufacturing sectors as the distributed support model picks up rapidly," said Brian Blanchard, vice president of cloud solutions at 10th Magnitude, a Chicago, Ill.-based solution provider. "IoT gets data from the field faster so we can analyze it more quickly. But blockchain allows businesses to have a better understanding of the relationships between the data and their customers, so they can follow those interactions more closely."

[Related: Blockchain Technology And IoT: What It Is And How It's Driving Development Of New Smart Systems]

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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 service. Participants can, for example, confirm transactions without the need for a central certifying authority.

Blockchain systems also can enable smart devices to become independent agents and autonomously conduct a variety of transactions.

10th Magnitude, a Microsoft partner, works closely with the Azure-based blockchain offering to secure blockchain in a variety of verticals.

The company works with fast food restaurant customers to use blockchain to collect and aggregate financial data and marketing demographics. Restaurants can utilize blockchain on their kiosks to track how much customers are spending on recurring orders.

"The biggest benefit for customers is to accelerate their time-to-market, but then companies can also gain business value from the data to shape the retail food experience around their customers at the point of sale," said Blanchard. "Through predictive analytics capabilities, restaurants can drive additional product sales based on what similar customers have ordered in the past."

As the industry begins to grasp the opportunities around IoT, more vendors are making broader use of blockchain, with IBM and Microsoft being two of the more notable examples. IBM enables customers to share IoT data in a secure private blockchain as part of its Watson IoT platform.

"Companies like Microsoft are partnering with enterprise clients to implement huge applications for blockchain with the internet of things," said Amanda Gutterman, CMO at Consensys Systems, a NYC-based blockchain software developer. "We're seeing a huge number of big technology and finance institutions start to get involved in blockchain. From a channel perspective, there are opportunities for consultancy services around how to implement blockchain technology for these enterprise customers."

Despite the interest from vendors, Blanchard said that there are still challenges around blockchain adoption from customers due to a lack of understanding and a hesitation to add a new back end data management process to their business models.

Vendors, for their part, are trying to overcome these hurdles – In January, an array of vendors including Cisco, consumer appliance manufacturer Bosch and digital security company Gemalto, announced they are developing 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.

Looking forward, more partners can tap into the opportunities around blockchain through looking at their existing analytics and business intelligence service capabilities, said Blanchard.

"When partners can demonstrate bringing together blockchain and data analytics as a holistic story, it’s a good starting point," he said. "If you have resources around Cortana, BI, and analytics, you can add to the size and duration of that offering by adding blockchain."