In 2018 blockchain & IoT technologies have continued to emerge & mature in terms of scalability, verifiability, manageability and audit-ability. If you’re a business new to the world of blockchain or IoT, knowing where to start and how they fit into your operations can be confusing. Understanding blockchain platforms, emerging business models and processes will be critical to success.

Interview with Wallet.Services & Waracle | Blockchain Technology

In order to help you navigate the rapidly growing and highly lucrative world of blockchain tech, two of Exception’s Emerging Tech partners, Caroline McClelland (Waracle) and Iona Murray (Wallet.Services) have taken the time to discuss how their areas of expertise overlap and how IoT & blockchain initiatives are picking up speed.

What is Blockchain technology… and bitcoin?

Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology (DLT). The simplest explanation of ledger technology is that it’s a data structure, shared among a distributed network of computers, instead of resting with a single provider. Like a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers, ledger technology creates an immutable record of all data transactions across the network – hence the term “ledger”. The result is a more open, transparent and verifiable system that will fundamentally change the way we think about exchanging value and assets, enforcing contracts and sharing data. Bitcoin was blockchain’s proof point. It’s a cryptocurrency that transacts millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency a day.

It’s important to distinguish between public and private blockchain networks however:

  • – Because public networks, like bitcoin, aren’t owned by an entity, they must be governed by network consensus.
  • – Private networks are networks that, as the name suggests, are privately owned by an enterprise or individual. This lets the owner commission users on to the network and write the rules when it comes.

Why is it called Blockchain?

Because the structure of the tech is literally blocks arranged in chains! The ledger contains a continuous and complete record (the “chain”) of all transactions performed which are grouped into blocks. Each block contains an encrypted hash of the previous block, tying the chain together. It’s these hashes that make it impossible to change or remove blocks, as then the chain simply won’t tie together. If you’re interested to learn more, it’s worth downloading Waracle’s mobile megatrends whitepaper.

How secure is Blockchain?

Data contained on the DLT is cryptographically secured, so it is mathematically implausible to cheat and expose the data. Each user of the network has a private and public key. Unsurprisingly, it’s a user’s public key that is shown to the network, and the corresponding private key is kept hidden by the user. The combination of both these keys creates a unique digital signature on every transaction, keeping everyone accountable.

Think of a username and password: the username is what is recognisable to the network, and the password is what you keep to yourself to access the network. However, people can often find ways of transacting on regular networks without necessarily being held accountable. It’s the digital signature in blockchain networks that is the added level of security – as it allows all transactions to be traceable (depending on the rules of the network). These sort of security characteristics are quite unique to blockchain and are some of the reasons why it’s getting so much attention.

What’s the most simplistic use case?

Probably the example of transacting money, as this is something almost everyone has had to do and its an area where more and more transactions are made electronically.

When data is put on to the blockchain, in this example a money value, it’s as real as having the cash. The data is secured and can’t be copied or spent more than once. Only the intended user can decrypt the data, so spend the money, and a record of all transactions is kept in a tamper-proof ledger. In this case, there is no need for a middle man such as the bank, to check if the sender has the appropriate funds or if the recipient is who they say they are.

What opportunities does Blockchain provide for IoT

In its simplest form, the concept of the Internet of Things is connecting any device with the ability to be turned on and off to the internet. The most commonly seen uses include wearable devices such as the Apple Watch but anything from your lightbulbs to your toaster could all be connected in theory. The number of “smart” devices on the market are increasing and number of connected devices is predicted to jump from 21 billion in 2018 to 50 billion by 2022.

As the number of connected devices increases globally, household and corporate networks will continue to grow and more complex data will be shared on those networks as the devices communicate with each other. One of the key concerns surrounding sensitive data being shared is the secure transfer of that data. That’s where blockchain comes in. Blockchain technology has been identified as a key component to secure transactions as well as improve automation. When you think about what blockchain does, it allows for enabling multiple parties to transact across multiple organisations in an efficient and permanent way.

An area where the IoT & blockchain partnership is growing from strength to strength is in supply chain management. Decentralising the network to a peer-to-peer format rather than depending on a central sever to authenticate every transaction has proved beneficial to a number of organisations. Using unchangeable records and encryption with access limited to private and public keys, enhances security and flexibility. The authenticity of the information shared across the network is trusted so there can be no grey area on time of dispatch, arrival, temperature of shipment etc. The key areas where blockchain technology can enhance IoT networks are:

  • – The speed of transactions, cutting out the middleman and decentralising.
  • – Security
  • – User inter-connectivity
  • – Automation
  • – Infrastructure, Operational Costs are reduced

Blockchain technology is having a visible impact on an array of emerging technologies and providing a number of additional applications which were previously not considered. Whether it be IoT, Machine Learning or Augmented Reality; blockchain continues to produce alternative use cases for the most cutting edge technologies.

Conclusion

If you’re new to the world of blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), understanding the basic elements of the technology and how it can be leveraged in a commercial setting will be critical for big businesses in the next decade. If you’re new to the Internet of Things, the same logic applies. Understanding how emerging technologies such as IoT integrates with DLT is an entirely new concept altogether (for most businesses and consumers). If you’re a business interested in blockchain, IoT, mobile applications and how these technologies can be combined for maximum impact, contact Exception today to kick-start the conversation.

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