Blockchain and its connection to the Internet of Things

When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), hearing about new technologies related to it is nothing new.  Every month, there’s some advancement with this company or that which influences or affects the IoT in some way.  While blockchain might not be new, it’s a widely unknown technology.  But even so, it might just play a key role in much of the development of IoT.

What is blockchain anyway?

Blockchain always makes me think of those spammy chainmail emails you get from coworkers you don’t like and wish you could block.  It’s a fringe technology, but undeniably an important one and surprisingly easy to understand.

Blockchain allows digital information to be distributed easily, quickly, and without a centralised location.  An easy way of understanding it is to look at Google Drive Documents, which is a perfect example.  If I were to create a document (blockchain) I could share it around with a link which would allow others to edit the document accordingly.  I could even allow some to edit while others can only view the document.

The document is updated in realtime and therefor changes are seen instantly by all involved parties.  This makes for easy collaborations, especially when the previous way required constant sending of word documents to various parties who then sent them back with revisions.

Blockchain is an especially robust system because it isn’t housed or stored in any one place.  The information is stored throughout the network which helps to make it both secure and difficult to corrupt.

How does this relate to the Internet of Things?

Well, since the IoT is based all around the immediate transfer of information through sensors and data compilation and then analysing that data, I think you can start to see the similarities between the two.  Connecting these devices through a low-cost, low-maintenance system like blockchain becomes a very viable strategy for many different types of companies.

In fact, some firms are already relying on the combination of these two technologies.  Sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation are just a few to name.

Through the use of blockchain, we might be able to further even automation technologies.  While a bunch of robots shooting around a warehouse might sound like chaos, the truth is that these two technologies are what take what would be chaos and bring order and efficiency to it.

Building a safe, reliable network to work on is an important task and a difficult one.  With the help of blockchain and the IoT, creating a flexible system just feels a whole lot easier.

Where exactly is the IoT Technology right now?

When talking of the Internet of Things, often we hear about what it will soon be capable of.  Whether we’re talking about city infrastructure, consumer devices, or even improving efficiency in processing and manufacturing, there’s always the question of what can be done right now and what’s being done.

We’re in the early stages right now.

If the Internet of Things were a human, it’d be somewhere around toddler age.  It’s just now starting to get its feet planted firmly and is expected to be running around like a rabid monkey soon.  Enough with that analogy though, let’s talk about where the IoT is shining right now — manufacturing.

Manufacturing is one of the few places where the IoT is either already being used or already being planned around.  85% of global businesses surveyed have said that they’ll be adopting IoT technologies by 2020.

Business leaders across nations firmly believe that the IoT is going to be changing their businesses significantly and are looking to capitalize on the opportunity.  Their data needs vary from customer insights, fast analysis, improved operating efficiency, and more.

What’s the big deal with the IoT all of a sudden?

The big deal is big data.  We’re living in a world where your local barber knows what toothpaste you bought last week.  Nearly every company out there is gathering some data or another.  Some of it’s from you, some from their machines, and some from their employees.  The fact is that a lot of companies out there have a lot of data to sift through and there’s no better sifter or data collector than the IoT.

The way the Internet of Things works is that it takes data from sensors and sends it through the internet to the cloud which can then be analysed and used in a variety of ways.  Sounds simple, right?  It can be!  Or it can be the most complex thing you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Some systems might only need a few sensors or a few inputs of data, but most, especially those global companies, are going to have hundreds if not thousands of different data streams coming in every day.  There’s just no way that any technology other than the IoT could handle such a load, which is why it’s shining so bright right now.

So… what is the future looking like then?

It’s looking big.  It’s looking really really big.  With all the different sectors that the Internet of Things is expected to enhance, we’re going to have a bit of a technological revolution on our hands.  Out with the old and in with the new.

We’re going to see a big boost in productivity and efficiency in many of the manufacturing departments.  Shipments of merchandise and materials will be coming and going faster, systems will be enhanced, and even employee lives and schedules could be affected positively.

As for the consumer side of things, you can expect… a lot.  With any new technology there will be a few problems.  One of the biggest out there right now is security, which is struggling at the moment when it comes to how the IoT works.  But once those issues are resolved, you can expect to find yourself in a much more user-friendly world.  Better traffic, better advertisements, and potentially even cheaper goods.  After all, if manufacturing is more efficient and therefor less costly, they’ll likely pass those saving on to you.