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Why The IoT Needs Blockchain For Its Own Security

The Internet of Things or IoT, as many of us famously call it, has been helmed as one of the few technologies that have the potential of changing the way the entire world works. Gartner predicts that there will be about 8.4 billion connected devices by the end of this year, a figure which is up by a whopping 31% in 2016. According to consulting firm, McKinsey and Company, which had recently carried out a comprehensive economic study of the technology's much talked about economic potential benefits, the total economic benefit of IoT in the year 2025 could hit anywhere between $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion, with the high estimate equivalent of 11 percent of world GDP in 2025.

While these numbers do paint a rosy picture for IoT, but in reality, despite the enormous hype and truckloads of money being spent on researching the technology, it's growth has unfortunately largely gone unchecked. According to some distinct expert voices being heard in the industry, while the IoT is expected to lead to a huge explosion of data, but the innovators are still not giving that much importance to the security side of this as they should. It was only last year that a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack had forced a temporarily taken down of some of the most popular websites including Twitter and Netflix. This particular incident send out a panic wave across the industry with almost 90% of developers believing that IoT products do not have the necessary security in place and 85% admitting that they have rushed an IoT application to the market despite knowing about security concerns.

But, there's another technology can help bail out IoT from the various challenges it's currently facing, and that is: blockchain.

For the uninitiated, the current ecosystem of IoT is based on a centralized model, known as the server/client model, in which all the devices are identified, authenticated, and connected through cloud servers. Hence, this particular infrastructure is not be able to cope as these ecosystems scale up, but blockchain has this ability. A blockchain is basically an anonymous online ledger that makes use of a data structure to make the process of transaction an easier and simpler process. It provides users the ability to manipulate the ledger in a safe way without seeking the support of a third party. While a bank's ledger has connections to a centralised network, a blockchain is anonymous as it helps in protecting the identities of the users. This is what makes the technology of blockchain a safer way to carry out transactions than any other existing processes. When it comes to cybersecurity, blockchain in largely unparalleled, with proven cryptographic signing capabilities. Till date, it has been credited for protecting digital currency worth over $10 billion worth without ever being hacked.

Hence, this particular transparent and trustworthiness tag that the blockchain is synonymous with, makes it a perfect architecture fit for the IoT. By doing away with single points of failure, it ends up creating a more resilient ecosystem for the devices to function in. Blockchain can be given the responsibility of keeping totally secure and indisputable records of messages being sent between various IoT devices, thus enabling the autonomous functioning of smart devices without any centralized authority. To put it simply, blockchain will be treating message exchanges between IoT devices similar to the way it does transactions on a bitcoin network, with smart contracts that model the agreement between the two parties involved in a transaction.

A lot of tech, financial and fintech biggies from all over the world have already foreseen the great potential that both these technology hold together and have started their work to realise it. Recently, we reported that business world biggies Cisco Systems Inc, Bosch Ltd and several others have come together to form a consortium to brainstorm on how blockchain technology can be used to secure and improve "internet of things" applications. The group, which also includes Foxconn Technology Group, Bank of New York Mellon Corp, security company Gemalto and several blockchain startups like BitSE, Consensus Systems and Chronicled Inc apart from Cisco Systems Inc and Bosch Ltd, have said that they will join hands to come up with a shared blockchain protocol for IoT - the concept that makes everyday objects, right from shipping containers to washing machines, to connect to the internet and send and receive data.

IBM also recently debuted its proof of concept for Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry (ADEPT), which it has developed in partnership with Samsung. ADEPT runs on blockchains and utilises a mix of proof-of-stake and proof-of-work in order to ensure secure transactions. It has the potential of serving as a ledger of existence for billions of devices that would autonomously broadcast transactions between peers in a three-tier system of peer devices and architecture. The paper mentions that applying the concept of blockchain to the world of IoT offers numerous fascinating possibilities. According to the paper, right from the time the final assembly of a product is completed, the manufacturer can register it into a universal blockchain representing its beginning of life. Once the product is sold by the manufacturer, the dealer or end customer can then register it to a regional blockchain.

While blockchain can prove to be the knight in shining armour the IoT has been looking for so long, but there still exists a few thorns along the path. However, experts are hopeful that since the blockchain concept is still in its nascent stages of development, the coming days would see it maturing to a great deal to offer more possibilities and opportunities.

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