Consumers are beginning to fall in love with their smart devices. IoT has already enabled them to control a multitude of things in their homes – everything from security systems, to thermostats, to monitoring babysitters.
But IoT is a technology reaching much further than smart homes. And its uses just continue to expand. In fact, it is predicted that by 2025, IoT technology could be worth as much $6.2 trillion globally. Its impact on almost every sector of the economy, from healthcare, to manufacturing, to entire cities is already in the early stages.
What IoT Does
Consider a patient wearing a blood pressure monitor that is transmitting data to his doctor’s office and, as well, providing alerts if that pressure spikes and warrants intervention. Of course, this is already a reality.
Now consider “smart” packages with tiny chips that allow them to be tracked from sender to receiver. Consider smart cars that are operated wholly by Internet-based technology that provides a safe ride for a “driver” who operates nothing manually. And when a consumer has an issue with his cable or wi-fi provider, he can call tech services and they can often access the devices and provide a remote “fix.”
All of these things are what IoT technology has brought us thus far – humans controlling devices remotely. And the future promises to bring entire networks of interconnected devices that will interact with one another and their environments to make critical decisions without human intervention. When sensors detect that a piece of farmland is getting too dry, it will speak to the sprinkler system that will water that ground. When sensors detect that roadways are icy, they will speak to heaters imbedded in those roadways that will activate themselves to melt that ice.
On a global level, there will also be a need for devices to speak with one another across national boundaries and languages. Using online translation services to imbed these devices with the correct information in the correct language allows them to speak with one another.
All of these things and more will certainly affect the quality of life for everyone and benefit every industry. Smart sensors and devices provide data to track inventory, control mechanisms, automate tasks, reduce the cost of doing business, and, in many instances, even save lives.
As connectivity increases, so do issues – especially those involving identity, security, and the challenges of managing so many interconnected devices. Consider just one “hole” created by one employee that allows a hacker in. That hacker is now in to every connected device being managed from that system and all of the data it holds.
And it is for this primary reason that blockchain technology is on the minds of both device vendors and those enterprises that are using both the devices and the management technology that comes with them. Blockchain provides a layer of security that no data storage system can.
The issues of security and privacy are probably the most important ones that blockchain can address. When we consider how much data is gathered and stored within smart devices and how that data can be falsified, manipulated, or even altered by human error, the risks are huge.
Blockchain, however, establishes a secure platform that is independent of all parties involved. The data is distributed across many sources, and any hacker’s attempt to get in will be caught and access will be denied. The beauty is that no one person holds data, and no one person can alter or delete that data.
Access is through key codes that are issued to those with permission. Data can be tracked and monitored but permission is read-only. Thus, the ability for any human to alter data, documents, records, etc is eliminated.
A Nightmare Scenario
It’s an individual nightmare when someone’s smart home technology is hacked due to carelessness of internet use by the homeowner. And blockchain technology will eventually eliminate these issues, once it becomes more mainstream.
But here is a much larger nightmare.
According to the internet security firm, Symantec, a group of hackers, called Dragonfly 2.0, accessed at least 20 power plant networks in the U.S. This is the same group that hacked power plants in Ukraine and took them down.
According to Symantec, the hackers were able to gain access to the system interface that could literally shut down power and cause major blackouts. Why they did not do this when they were in is not certain. However, Symantec believes they were simply looking around for a potential future attack.
Consider what a power grid attack could reap. It could shut down commerce, medical systems, and worse. And in the U.S., there are often not manual backup systems in place, as there were in Ukraine.
And here’s how the hackers got in. They used emails which, when opened, infected the computers and thus the networks, then linking those networks to an outside server. There have been other techniques used to harvest network credentials and install backdoor software that would allow remote access to the victims’ computers.
This, of course, is the nightmare that keeps many officials awake at night.
And this is why blockchain technology is also foremost in the minds of these officials and power company executives.
Clear Advantages of Blockchain and IoT
When smart machines are built that can operate and also communicate within blockchain, the advantages are clear:
- The right oversight is in place. Having a permanent and immutable record of anything entered into a block means that everything can be tracked as it passes among points – activity, data, and physical products.
- The data that is recorded and stored can be trusted by all involved parties. Machines do this, not humans, and no human can alter any record.
- Most important, blockchain provides security for IoT devices- security that can prevent those nightmares – little or big.
Two technologies promise to dramatically alter how we live; they promise to dramatically alter how businesses, health care providers, governments, manufacturers, infrastructure administrators, etc. operate.
While many private and public entities are already moving forward enthusiastically, others are hesitating. After all, it is new; it is a bit “mystical” in the eyes of many, and change does not come quickly or easily. But it is the future – it will have to be if we are to acquire the transparency and security we need.
Dina Indelicato is a blogger enthusiast and freelance writer. She is always open to research about new topics and gain new experiences to share with her readers. You can find her on Twitter @DinaIndelicato and LinkedIn.