IoT, Blockchain & Cross-Chain Technology
Brief History of the Internet
The Internet has played a significant role in revolutionizing computers and communications worldwide like never before. It has become our mode of disseminating information, and a medium of collaboration and interaction amongst ourselves without the need to be physically present. As early as the first century BCE, humans made use of animals such as pigeons and horses to communicate over a long distance, and in the early 1800s, electric telegraphs were made. The telegraph system might have been abandoned but the technology used now lays the foundation for the present Internet Technology of modern times.
The Internet Of Things
During this revolution, a lot of ‘things’. These things include smartphones, laptops, smart-home security, activity tracker, washing machine, vehicles, gates, bulbs, and so on. At a time, we had more things to be connected to the internet than we had people using these things, and some of these things have no means of talking to each other. The Internet of Things simply means giving ‘things’ the capabilities such as senses to speak, to see, to feel, and to communicate and share data amongst themselves. For example, a smartphone has these sensors such as cameras, a global positional system (GPS), accelerometer, gyroscope, microphone, and so on.
This may sound like another apocalyptic technology similar to Artificial Intelligence believed to take over the world at some point, lol. But on the brighter side, this Internet of connected Things can however make our daily lives easier. A typical day with the Internet of Things could be that your smart wrist band measures your heart rate to determine if you are in good health while asleep and gently wakes you up with a vibration, after detecting you have had enough sleep and the details of your sleep are communicated to your smartphone, breaking the details down with all checkboxes green on your smartphone to signify everything is alright. Afterward, your smartphone automatically communicates with the bulbs to switch on, and thermostats to provide the optimum temperature levels based on your body temperature determined by the thermometer embedded in your smart wrist band, amazing isn’t it?.
The Weak Foundation of The Present Internet Of Things Technology
Before we proceed on how Blockchain technology can improve IoT, we must first discuss the shortcomings of the already existing Internet Of Things. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that many of these Things connected have a central point of failure, these points of failure may include Cloud Storages or Data Centers. Hackers can easily gain access to this data and misuse them, even known reputable companies who store this data can make use of this data to make a profit without the user’s consent (Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal). Global-outage could also be possible, as we have seen with centralized companies like Google in 2020. A central point of failure for the Internet Of Things (IoT) devices can be devastating because many Things rely on data from other Things to perform their function. There has been good notable use case of data by these central authorities, for example, Google once used search terms of the word “Flu” to create a map of locations that searches this term and how frequently it’s been searched, to help health organizations combat the disease. But what if we had a decentralized database for IoT, where the advantages out-weighs the disadvantages of Centralized Databases?
So how does the Blockchain make any difference?
A Blockchain is an immutable database that records transactions, this means no particular individual or centralized authority can modify data stored on it. This makes the Blockchain a perfect database for storing safely information gathered by IoT devices without the need for a central authority. The Blockchain provides data between the IoT devices seamlessly making it cost-efficient, more secure, and decentralized. With smart contract compatible Blockchain like Ethereum, tokenization for IoT devices makes them even more powerful when they act upon their data.
The idea of IoT device tokenization is possible with smart contracts which allow the decision of payment to be made by IoT devices based on the information stored on the Blockchain. For example, An IoT device that monitors the electricity usage can optimize power consumption by only turning the power on when its needed and vice versa but its function can be extended beyond this, it can also know and decide if and when to pay the electricity bills of the house or farm or an organization. This essentially means that a new data market of IoT devices can be created via the Blockchain with unmanned traffic and a potential launch of smart factories.
Tokenization for IoT devices with smart contracts can provide a decentralized way for the manufacturers and owners of these devices to earn by either renting their IoT device (a subscription service model). Robonomics Network, a secure, cost-effective, and futuristic IoT platform for connecting robotics is working on cross-chain robotics communication on Ethereum and Polkadot Blockchain.
A smart fridge can detect if items stored in it are running out and then sends the data via a smart contract to drones to pick up the necessary item in a public marketplace while the smart fridge directly pays for the items to the store owner’s address. The smart fridge can verify that the necessary items are delivered to the drone before releasing payment through the camera sensors of the drone by scanning every item and calculating their exact price based on the goods price data on the Blockchain. The manufacturer of this smart fridge could deploy the fridge on the Ethereum Blockchain and its token can be used for transactions to purchase these goods and services.
Another scenario could be that a self-driving smart car could be in a hurry to a particular destination and might have to pay other cars to let it overtake them. This means that these smart cars can communicate via smart contract on the Blockchain for a permission-less transaction with tokens to settle payments.
Other scenarios of IoT device needing decentralized payment, either between other Things or humans may include a decentralized farm where all operations are carried out by a Decentralized Autonomous Organization of Things like smart tractors that communicates and automate the farming process via Blockchain without the need for any human intervention, all data including soil type, plant type are stored on the Blockchain. If this farmland is deficient in a nutrient, this information can be communicated to other farm machines that specialize in spraying manure, or farm machines of other nearby farmers can be tasked for the job by renting their service with the exchange of tokens in a decentralized manner involving smart contracts.
With the increase of electric cars, one may imagine a future of Decentralized Autonomous Vehicles (DAV) where the passenger pays the self-driving taxi some tokens in other to be transported from one location to another. This self-driving vehicle stores encrypted details of its position, velocity, and other metrics (generated by the sensors) on the Blockchain, and also these tokens paid by the passenger can be received to the wallet address of the owner of this vehicle via smart contract and properly recorded on the Blockchain. Dav Network is a Blockchain-based transportation protocol that is already working on this amazing technology.
There are many other areas IoT systems can fit-in with the blockchain, especially areas where some form of transactions are required between these devices. But we are left with the question of what Blockchain to deploy these devices on. Well, It depends on the manufacturer, many manufacturers might design their Blockchains or use already existing Blockchains like Ethereum, IoTeX, Polkadot, or IOTA. Some issues might come on such as IoT devices not been compatible with one another when making transactions. In the next section, I will explain how cross-chain token transfer between IoT devices can be achieved.
Cross-Chain Token Transfer Solution For IoT Systems
Any manufacturer can decide to deploy on any Blockchain that best fits their aim, but it necessary that these IoT devices can purchase any goods & services they ought to, with the native tokens of their Blockchain. There is currently a bridge protocol that can be leveraged to solve this issue.
Darwinia Network is a decentralized cross-chain bridge protocol building on Substrate Framework and it provides the safest heterogenous cross-chain solution that does not rely on any third party. This bridge protocol is the perfect solution for cross-chain IoT systems transactions such as cross-chain token transfer amongst different Blockchains of the respective IoT devices. This essentially means that an IoT device deployed on Ethereum Blockchain can pay ERC20 tokens to another IoT device deployed on Polkadot Blockchain.
How Blockchain and IoT Could Save Your Life (Conclusion)
Now with this complete solution of Blockchain and Cross-Chain Technology to the already existing IoT industry, you may still doubt how all this can make any difference in the user’s life. Let us go back to a typical day of yours, where your Blockchain smart wrist band detects some abnormalities in your sleep and it vibrates aggressively to wake you up. You grab your chest in pain and you checked your smartphone for the details of your health problem, which your smart wrist band has safely communicated with your smartphone via the Blockchain. Your smartphone immediately relays the information to your doctor via the Blockchain and pays for all necessary medications via smart contract tokens (even though the hospital operates on a Blockchain different from your IoT device), since its an emergency it didn’t have to ask for your permission to share the data, unlike other less important issues. It even suggests you take aspirin or drink some water before the medical team arrives. In no time, the medical team arrives and places you in the ambulance. Immediately, you were rushed to the hospital but the traffic was heavy and they had no choice but to pay other cars ahead via smart contract on the Blockchain, in other to overtake them and as soon as you got to the hospital, all necessary medical operations were carried out and then you ask the doctor if everything would be okay, then he replies with a smile, saying “no major damages occur because we were informed right on time”