A “draft copy” of a work document from IBM explains the vision of the company on a possible architecture for the forthcoming “Internet of things” (IoT). The document, named “ADEPT: An IoT Practitioner Perspective” and shared on Evernote on January 7, 2015, provides many details on how IBM envisions to build a widely used architecture based on blockchain technologies, the same technologies currently used by most crypto-currencies.
“Our ADEPT platform – Autonomous Decentralized Peer-To-Peer Telemetry is an effort to prove the foundational concepts around a decentralized approach, one that will offer greater scalability and security for the IoT,” begins the document.
For IBM, the IoT is not a mere idea of objects communicating with each others, but will create a new financial and economical paradigm. “We believe the IoT will create an Economy of Things. Every device, every system can be a point of transaction and economic value creation for owners and users. Every device should be able to engage in multiple markets, both financial and non-financial and should be able to autonomously react to changes in markets. These capabilities will be crucial to everything from the sharing economy to energy efficiency and distributed storage.”, explains the draft.
Some of the “key components” to achieve this vision are “Peer-to-peer decentralized networks, P2P messaging and distributed file transfers, and Autonomous Device Coordination.” And to integrate these components into a working architecture, the blockchain is a perfect solution. “Applying the blockchain concept to the world of Internet of Things offers fascinating possibilities.”, states IBM.
According to the draft, the blockchain could even become an inherent part of any available product: “Right from the time a product completes final assembly, it can be registered by the manufacturer into a universal blockchain representing its beginning of life. Once sold, a dealer or end customer can register it to a regional blockchain (a community, city or a state). Once registered, the product remains a unique entity within the blockchain throughout its life. So in a blockchain based IoT, the possibility of maintaining product information, its history, product revisions, warranty details and end of life in the blockchain means the blockchain itself can become the trusted product database.”
An example: “Imagine a world where a smart washer is able to detect a component failing, can check from the blockchain if the component is in warranty, place a service order with a contracted service provider, and the service provider can independently verify the warranty claim – again from the blockchain – and all this, autonomously.”
The document provides several other use cases, ranging from a washing-machine able to reorder itself some detergent, to power bartering between electronic devices (a washer “talking” to the TV in order to optimize power consumption…) or advertising with automatically placed ads on a network of digital displays. In all these examples, all transactions, payments and messaging would happen autonomously through the blockchain.
In this vision, most electronic products or home devices should be able to store blockchain data. “In the next few years, we expect the processing power and storage capabilities of most products to increase as the cost of manufacturing high performing semiconductor chips declines. […] So the washer of the future or the refrigerator would be equipped with higher storage and processing capabilities that makes it possible for these products to meet blockchain requirements.”
For IBM, if the blockchain is clearly the best choice to implement the IoT, the Bitcoin blockchain is not satisfactory and the Ethereum approach has been chosen instead. Ethereum is a much talked about alternative to Bitcoin, largely based on decentralized distributed applications.
“While BitCoin contains an escalating difficulty in the mining process to restrict the issuance of currency, no such restriction is necessary in our vision of the world. We need sufficient Proof of Stake and Proof of Work to ensure network integrity and cryptographic security but without the need to impose an arbitrarily increasing computation cost and carbon footprint on the process.”, explains the document, which later reads: “Ethereum’s improvements to the traditional blockchain approach of Bitcoin and the Turing complete scripting languages they introduced were extremely compelling. The ability to create binding contracts and potentially Decentralized Autonomous Organizations led us to pick Ethereum as our Proof of Concept’s blockchain technology.”
“The blockchain based decentralized IoT can become a truly revolutionary approach to transaction processing among devices.”, concludes IBM, adding that “it is now possible to bring transaction processing, marketplaces, and intelligence to every device everywhere.”