Recently, Riak held a roundtable discussion in San Francisco with Riak’s CEO Adam Wray and some of our technology partners, including Mac Devine, vice president and CTO of emerging technology at IBM; and Benjamin Wilson, product line technical director at Raytheon; as well as national media and analysts. The conversation focused on some of the technology challenges and promising rewards presented by IoT initiatives. Many initiatives are still in the testing or experiment stage and haven’t yet been fully deployed. Riak organized the roundtable as a way to uncover some of the ways companies have taken IoT initiatives from concept to large-scale implementation.
The first part of the discussion focused on cognitive IoT at the edge. The second part highlighted the need for factually accurate data. In this third and final installment, we’ll look at how blockchain and security technologies are enabling some slightly experimental yet innovative approaches to distributed IoT deployments.
Devine suggests that, when you start talking about dynamically interacting in a point to point fashion, in a decentralized fashion, it is the protecting of the data and the exchange of the data that really matters, more so than the verification and authorization of a client or a device to an application. Now it’s, “can this entity get access to this data?” “Can this data flow to this individual or not?”
Devine continues: “Decentralized, point-to-point technologies are really going to make it such that you can actually have this kind of autonomous innovation happening at each edge,” Devine continues. “This will allow organizations to do very interesting things around data. For instance, tools like containers and microservices will allow organizations to easily move things around. This gives them the ability to actually get an aggregate view, create a model, and then push that model by way of a container out to the edge so that it can, in real time, make a difference with the real-time data sources out there.”
One potential solution to more effective communication: the blockchain.
A Wall Street Journal article from earlier this year examines the blockchain as a technology. The article suggests blockchain, as a decentralized distributed technology, is “emerging as a way to let companies make and verify transactions on a network instantaneously without a central authority … A blockchain is a data structure that makes it possible to create a digital ledger of transactions and share it among a distributed network of computers.”
Devine talked about how different sized companies in the same ecosystem can use blockchain technology to work together: “It is an open ledger that allows organizations to basically create smarter contracts in a dynamic way. A small provider, for instance, might have interesting data. Blockchain technology lets that small provider negotiate terms and conditions with a larger company in a way both are comfortable with. The agreement allows both companies to see if the data is really is as good as they think it might be. If it is, the smaller company might see that the larger, established player can provide insight beyond what they were capable of deriving previously. If both sides are happy with the initial results, they can then negotiate new terms and conditions and share more data. Or they could decide, well, this really didn’t work out, and then easily end the contract.”
In short, blockchain technology was built specifically for decentralized point-to-point architectures. Its’ usage for IoT Solutions is still in the experimental phase but it shows tremendous promise.
In short, blockchain technology was built specifically for decentralized point-to-point architectures.
About this time last year, IBM started a new open source community around blockchain technology called Hyper Ledger. Most of the use cases within the Hyper Ledger community have been around financial trading and similar initiatives. But blockchain technology can also be used to establish initial trust between two or more entities.
Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiated the “Blockchain Challenge,” to help find a “potential salve for ills that plague the increasingly complex world of digital health records.” Initially associated just with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, Blockchain technology has proven to be potentially fertile ground for a wide range of use cases and industries. Even Overstock.com has created an initiative focused on blockchain technology, adding the retail industry to the growing list of interested parties.
Wilson talked about the challenge to achieve an evolving balance of open architecture, high performance, and security to meet the challenges of multiple markets. The IoT era requires the efficient routing and control of information at the data item level to meet new use cases. For example often in order to go to market; several regulatory, security, privacy and compliance requirements must be certified on subsets of distributed information sources. Pathfinding the ability to dynamically use IoT era technologies such as blockchain, multi-data center replication, content-based routing, and real-time event processors could cost effectively help make it possible to utilize information otherwise inaccessible. This larger information set then enables the ability for authorized parties to form new distributed capabilities such as machine learning on a richer set of streaming training data. Ultimately the larger customized information set will result in new insights, investment return, and disruptive marketable capabilities.
Pathfinding the ability to dynamically use IoT era technologies such as blockchain, multi-data center replication, content-based routing, and real-time event processors could cost effectively help make it possible to utilize information otherwise inaccessible.
There is an open experiment called Blue Horizon. It’s in collaboration with IoT vendors, enterprise customers, citizen scientists, and universities. “ Horizon’s decentralized tools and services enable data owners, data consumers and services providers to discover each other, safely form binding agreements, and begin working together to gain real-time business value.” Universities across the globe have really embraced this experiment to address issues that are important to the students such as smarter water (e.g. Kenya), smarter noise (e.g. NY City) and smarter air (e.g.China) solutions.
Tools like blockchain, controlled multi-datacenter replication, dynamic routing, and real-time event processors are helping open the world of IoT to an increasingly wider audience. It’s clear that decentralized point-to-point architectures are soon going to become the norm, and even experimental initiatives are helping to push this needle.
Riak Technologies would like to thank Mac Devine and Benjamin Wilson and their respective companies for participating in this enlightening discussion. If you found these articles interesting, you may also enjoy reading two articles written by Adam Wray and published in Tech Target’s IoT Agenda:
- How IoT is Making Distributed Systems Cool Again
- How IoT is Making Distributed Systems Cool Again (Part 2)
Thank you for your interest.