Kramaa is a Singapore based technology company converging latest technologies in the blockchain, IoT, and analytics. The company has created a blockchain based application ("The platform") for IoT identities linked to physical assets on XinFin's proven hybrid blockchain architecture. The platform securely integrates physical assets and IoT devices through blockchain, smart contracts, and firmware for creating the digital identity, provenance, authentication, e-commerce, supply chain, and finance. Industry applications for the platform include smart cities, pharma, packaging, logistics, fashion / luxury, food & beverages, precious metals, and jewelry.
The Optimum Platform¶
Developing solutions for the Internet of Things requires unprecedented collaboration, coordination, and connectivity for each piece in the system, and throughout the system as a whole. All devices must work together and be integrated with all other devices, and all devices must communicate and interact seamlessly with connected systems and infrastructures in a secure way. It’s possible, but it can be expensive, time-consuming, and difficult, unless a new line of thinking and new approach to IoT security emerged away from the current centralized model.
The Problem with the Current Centralized Model¶
The current IoT ecosystems rely on centralized, brokered communication models, otherwise known as the server/client paradigm. All devices are identified, authenticated and connected through cloud servers that sport huge processing and storage capacities. The Connection between devices will have to exclusively go through the internet, even if they happen to be a few feet apart.
While this model has connected generic computing devices for decades, and will continue to support small-scale IoT networks as we see them today, it will not be able to respond to the growing needs of the huge IoT ecosystems of tomorrow.
Existing IoT solutions are expensive because of the high infrastructure and maintenance cost associated with centralized clouds, large server farms, and networking equipment. The sheer amount of communications that will have to be handled when IoT devices grow to the tens of billions will increase those costs substantially.
Even if the unprecedented economic and engineering challenges are overcome, cloud servers will remain a bottleneck and point of failure that can disrupt the entire network. This is especially important as more critical tasks
Moreover, the diversity of ownership between devices and their supporting cloud infrastructure makes machine-to-machine (M2M) communications difficult. There’s no single platform that connects all devices and no guarantee that cloud services offered by different manufacturers are interoperable and compatible.
Decentralizing IoT Networks¶
A decentralized approach to IoT networking would solve many of the questions above. Adopting a standardized peer-to-peer communication model to process the hundreds of billions of transactions between devices will significantly reduce the costs associated with installing and maintaining large centralized data centers and will distribute computation and storage needs across the billions of devices that form IoT networks. This will prevent failure in any single node in a network from bringing the entire network to a halting collapse.
However, establishing peer-to-peer communications will present its own set of challenges, chief among them is the issue of security. And as we all know, IoT security is much more than just about protecting sensitive data. The proposed solution will have to maintain privacy and security in huge IoT networks and offer some form of validation and consensus for transactions to prevent spoofing and theft.
To perform the functions of traditional IoT solutions without centralized control, any decentralized approach must support three fundamental functions:
- Peer-to-peer messaging
- Distributed file sharing
- Autonomous device coordination
The Blockchain Approach¶
Blockchain, the “distributed ledger” technology that underpins bitcoin, has emerged as an object of intense interest in the tech industry and beyond. Blockchain technology offers a way of recording transactions or any digital interaction in a way that is designed to be secure, transparent, highly resistant to outages, auditable, and efficient; as such, it carries the possibility of disrupting industries and enabling new business models. The technology is young and changing very rapidly; widespread commercialization is still a few years off. Nonetheless, to avoid disruptive surprises or missed opportunities, strategists, planners, and decision makers across industries and business functions should pay heed now and begin to investigate applications of the technology.
Two Main Types of Blockchain¶
- In a public blockchain, everyone can read or write data. Some public blockchains limit access to just reading or writing. Bitcoin, for example, uses an approach where anyone can write.
- In a private blockchain, all the participants are known and trusted. This is useful when the blockchain is used between companies that belong to the same legal mother entity.
The Blockchain and IoT¶
Blockchain technology is the missing link to settle scalability, privacy, and reliability concerns in the Internet of Things. Blockchain technologies could perhaps be the silver bullet needed by the IoT industry. Blockchain technology can be used in tracking billions of connected devices, enabling the processing of transactions and coordination between devices; allowing for significant savings to IoT industry manufacturers. This decentralized approach would eliminate single points of failure, creating a more resilient ecosystem for devices to run on. The cryptographic algorithms used by blockchains, would make consumer data more private.
The ledger is tamper-proof and cannot be manipulated by malicious actors because it doesn’t exist in any single location, and man-in-the-middle attacks cannot be staged because there is no single thread of communication that can be intercepted. Blockchain makes trustless, peer-to-peer messaging possible and has already proven its worth in the world of financial services through cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, providing guaranteed peer-to-peer payment services without the need for third-party brokers.
The decentralized, autonomous, and trustless capabilities of the blockchain make it an ideal component to become a fundamental element of IoT solutions. It is not a surprise that enterprise IoT technologies have quickly become one of the early adopters of blockchain technologies.
In an IoT network, the blockchain can keep an immutable record of the history of smart devices. This feature enables the autonomous functioning of smart devices without the need for centralized authority. As a result, the blockchain opens the door to a series of IoT scenarios that were remarkably difficult, or even impossible to implement without it.
By leveraging the blockchain, IoT solutions can enable secure, trustless messaging between devices in an IoT network. In this model, the blockchain will treat message exchanges between devices similar to financial transactions in a bitcoin network. To enable message exchanges, devices will leverage smart contracts which then model the agreement between the two parties.
In this scenario, we can sensor from afar, communicating directly with the irrigation system in order to control the flow of water based on conditions detected on the crops. Similarly, smart devices in an oil platform can exchange data to adjust functioning based on weather conditions.
Using the blockchain will enable true autonomous smart devices that can exchange data, or even execute financial transactions, without the need of a centralized broker. This type of autonomy is possible because the nodes in the blockchain network will verify the validity of the transaction without relying on a centralized authority.
In this scenario, we can envision smart devices in a manufacturing plant that can place orders for repairing some of its parts without the need for human or centralized intervention. Similarly, smart vehicles in a truck fleet will be able to provide a complete report of the most important parts needing replacement after arriving at a workshop.
One of the most exciting capabilities of the blockchain is the ability to maintain a duly decentralized, trusted ledger of all transactions occurring in a network. This capability is essential to enable the many compliances and regulatory requirements of industrial IoT applications without the need to rely on a centralized model.