The Internet of Things (IoT) has gone from an idea to a prototype to a major player in the future of technology within the span of just a few years. As IoT evolved into a mainstay across a variety of industries, new challenges are emerging that are forcing the technology to continue growing.
One of the biggest concerns is the amount of data IoT devices output. Because they’re constantly in communication and must consistently absorb data about their ecosystem, IoT-enabled tools produce once-unheard-of amounts of data points.
This is both a good and a bad thing. On the positive side, IoT technology enables new platforms and services that were once unimaginable. Self-driving cars, automated logistics, improved healthcare, and more are all becoming a reality thanks to the Internet of Things. On the negative side, however, IoT produces problems because information is all collected in a central location. This creates problems of consistency in record-keeping, security, and even communication between devices. While the Internet of Things is a force for positive change, its drawbacks still mean that the technology needs an extra component to reach its potential.
Blockchain, originally created to be the backbone of bitcoin, uses a distributed ledger that removes this centralization and offers a potential breakthrough in IoT systems. By incorporating them, it is possible to create IoT tools that are more dynamic, better at communicating, and more robust in terms of security.
IoT Is Good, But It Could Be Better
The current IoT landscape is still taking shape, but the future is undeniably bright. The technology has long since left its theoretical phase and has been implanted in a variety of industries and fields with resounding success.
One of the biggest and most impressive implementations of IoT systems is supporting smart cities. IoT devices can be used in a variety of ways, including automated street lighting, road and vehicle conditions for better traffic control, public utilities, and more. There are already major cities worldwide implementing such systems.
A smaller but no less successful application of IoT systems is in logistics. A field that requires precision and timely data about deliveries, routes, conditions, and other aspects, logistics has benefited from creating systems that produce better data and allow organizations to reduce friction throughout their supply chains.
Regardless, these systems are good, but they could be better. In many cases, these IoT implementations remain held back by the constraints of centralization. IoT networks still rely on sequential communication, meaning data transactions may sometimes be double-recorded, and speeds are lower in general. Additionally, IoT systems are at risk of potentially crippling targeted attacks that in some cases could result in catastrophe.
What Blockchain Brings to the Table
Unlike the rigid data structures that dominate much of the technology landscape, blockchain offers a more decentralized approach that could enhance IoT infrastructure. Currently, the amount of data IoT systems generate creates possible bottlenecks that could easily clog and collapse networks and databases. The problem is only set to get worse as the technology evolves and produces significantly more data. Even so, blockchain’s data storage model means that bottlenecks could be avoided and data could get where it needs significantly quicker.
One of the biggest advantages blockchain offers is its decentralized data storage. Unlike centralized systems that must relay all data output to a single database and server, blockchain distributes data to all users across a network simultaneously. Transaction logs are kept publicly and immutably, and data must not travel to a central point to be redistributed. This reduces significant friction in device-to-device and device-to-controller communication. Additionally, it provides greater transparency and reduces the likelihood of double-recorded data.
Another major benefit blockchain grants IoT systems is improved security from network-based attacks and data manipulation. The former is a major problem for current systems, as networks that rely on a centralized source can easily be collapsed by DDoS attacks and similar methods. Blockchain systems, by virtue of their decentralized structure and distributed data, are significantly harder to attack and reduce the likelihood of network-based hacks.
Moreover, blockchain’s immutable ledger is nearly impossible to manipulate or alter once data has been verified and appended. As such, it is not likely that anyone could alter records or tamper with transactions for nefarious purposes.
Finally, blockchain offers a more agile means of communication, as every node can communicate directly with each other instead of requiring relays. This more streamlined communication speeds up networks and reduces the likelihood of data bottlenecks by removing the intermediary points that slow down transmission and communication. This faster communication and removal of intermediaries also has an added benefit of reducing costs.
A Match Made in Heaven
The Internet of Things is still finding its bearings when it comes to blockchain, but the future is already looking promising. Blockchain provides a more efficient backbone to support massive IoT networks than do centralized networks. Thanks to their decentralization, security benefits, and cost-reducing abilities, blockchains should become a central component of IoT systems in the years to come, providing communities and companies with better services, smarter tools, and more streamlined systems.