IBM and Samsung bet on Bitcoin Tech to save the Internet of Things

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In-brief: IBM and Samsung are collaborating on a platform they say will help billions of connected devices interact securely. The technology, “blockchain,” is borrowed – in part -from the online currency Bitcoin, but has better applications as a transaction processing system.

The folks over at Zdnet have an interesting piece that looks at some research out of IBM and Samsung. Specifically, the article, by Colin Baker, digs into the work the two companies are doing on the use of “blockchain” technology, akin to the kind used by Bitcoin, as one way to link up billions (hundreds of billions?) of IoT devices.

IBM first started making noise about this in September, unveiling ADEPT (Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry), a platform that cobbles together the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing protocol, the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, Ethereium, and the Rehash peer-to-peer communications protocol. According to the article, the two companies are working together to build a proof of concept system based on ADEPT that will act as a “ledger” (and you know we like ledgers!) for billions of transactions conducted between IoT devices.

The focus on Blockchain technology is part of a larger argument – spelled out in this report by IBM – that the company calls a “Democracy of Devices.”

The central idea is that IoT’s biggest transformation will be in shifting power in a network from the center to the edge. Rather than devices and users communicating through central hubs – mainframes or cloud based management servers, IoT will allow devices to communicate directly with each other.

This “democratic” vision of a decentralized Internet is part of what animates thought leaders like Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt to argue that the Internet will soon “disappear” from our consciousness: blending into the background of our connected lives.

This illustration captures the interactions between devices within a blockchain based system. (Illustration courtesy of IBM.)
This illustration captures the interactions between devices within a blockchain based system. (Illustration courtesy of IBM.)

Before that can happen, however, technology companies need to overcome considerable obstacles. IBM sees many of those hindering adoption of IoT technology already and warns of a dystopian future in which the dream of a “smart, safe and efficient future is threatened by subscription fees, ubiquitous advertising and intrusive surveillance.”

If IoT is to be embraced, IBM argues, companies need to counter the skepticism created by the revelations of ubiquitous government spying, address “broken business models” and provide products that have real value, IBM argues.

Blockchain technology helps address some of those – particularly the “trust and security” pieces. IBM anticipates a movement away from closed source and “security through obscurity” towards open source and security based on transparency.

And, rather than putting trust brokers at the center of the IoT, the Blockchain envisioned by IBM would democratize trust by holding a record of every transaction made by every participant and having many participants verify each transaction, providing highly redundant verification and eliminating the need for centralized trust authorities.

In fact, IBM argues that blockchain technology is even more useful as a transaction processing tool than it is as a “long term store of value” (as with Bitcoin), given the “regulatory and economic risk” that attend to currencies and currency movements.

“In our vision of a decentralized IoT, the blockchain is the framework facilitating transaction processing and coordination among interacting devices. Each manages its own roles and behavior, resulting in an “Internet of Decentralized, Autono- mous Things” – and thus the democratization of the digital world,” IBM says.

In the IBM model, users will authenticate to devices and “dynamically create and maintain rules of engagement with other devices.” Those might be based on proximity, social relationships or temporal relationships – or some combination of those.

Rather than manufacturers being responsible for devices for their useful lives (think: Maytag Repairman), devices would be birthed by manufacturers and immediately registered into the blockchain. After that,  empowered by liberated within the blockchain: capable of negotiating autonomously with other devices: executing digital contracts, transacting payments and so on. Devices would be empowered to act autonomously as a kind of “self contained business,” IBM says: sharing resources and cooperating with other devices to maximize resource use and unlock unused capacity.

Read more via Is blockchain the key to the Internet of Things? IBM and Samsung think it might just be | ZDNet.

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