Blockchain & Convenience, A harmony of tech.
You may or may not have heard about “The Internet of Things”, a network of physical devices, vehicles, homes and so forth all connected to a particular network and this enables them to connect and exchange data. However, you should brace yourself for “The next big thing”, Blockchain.
Let’s take a scenario of strawberries being transported from the farm to the final destination, a grocery store. This is how the combination of The Internet of Things along with Blockchain, makes the process a whole lot smoother.
1. The first step is that all the participants in this scenario agree on the terms of a smart contract. For instance, the smart contract is focused only on the temperature of the containers that will hold the strawberries during the shipping process. The participants include the growers, shipping company, trucking company, depot and the grocery store. The container temperature cannot exceed 32 degrees Fahrenheit or the container must be opened for inspection and possible rejection.
2. The origin of the strawberries is tokenized so as the shipment progresses, the various handlers of the produce can be assured that they have the correct produce and also report on the location of the shipment through the Blockchain. Tokenization is the idea of replacing a physical object with a digital representation of that object. And, as we all know, whenever something becomes “digitized” time and space become irrelevant. Think of the benefits of email versus snail mail to capture this notion. Also, certain qualities of that object can be represented by the token. In the case of these strawberries, the origin and location of the fruit is digitized in the token. As the strawberries move along the logistics path, ownership of the token is transferred to whomever possesses the strawberries at that time and logged in the Blockchain. This way, the participant taking possession of the strawberries is assured of where the fruit came from and the physical location of the strawberries is updated in the token.
3. The strawberries are loaded into smart containers. The smart containers are equipped with special Blockchain Open Ledger Operating system (BOLO) core sensor devices that monitor the temperature of the container. These BOLO core sensors are Blockchain aware and also have a private key for device identity and a special anti-tampering capability if the device comes under attack. The token is updated to show that the shipping company now has possession of the strawberries.
4. Because the smart containers are network capable, whenever there is connectivity to the Internet, the current status information of the produce is transmitted to the “Internet of Things” cloud and then replicated in the distributed ledger across the Blockchain. So far, the smart containers are reporting that the temperature is 2 degrees Fahrenheit which is within the allowable temperature range specified in the smart contract.
5. The ship reaches the depot and the smart container is now transferred to the truck. Since there is Internet connectivity at the depot, the smart container transmits status information to the “Internet of Things” cloud. The temperature is 31 degrees Fahrenheit which is still within the allowable temperature range specified in the smart contract. The token is updated to show that the trucking company now has possession of the strawberries.
6. The smart container reaches its final destination at the grocery store. Since there is Internet connectivity there, the smart container transmits the latest produce status information. ow, the temperature being reported by the smart container is 3 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature is above the allowable container temperature that was detailed in the smart contract. Therefore, the container must be opened for a physical inspection before the produce will be accepted.
What does Blockchain bring to the Internet of Things?
The answer could vary based on the application our client requires. The most significant aspect of the Internet of Things/Blockchain forcefield, is identity. Due to the “things” referred to in the name, the “Internet of Things” each being some type of electronic device, it is of paramount importance that each of these devices have an unchallengeable identity via their individual serial numbers, IP addresses and firmware they use. Each of these devices are encrypted with tamper-proof technology that sends messages mentioning their status, either being “challenged” or “response”. As time goes by, these devices are equipped with a “Reputation History” based on the reliance of each device.
The Blockchain comes in by being the source of authenticity and origin, while providing safety to all parties involved in transporting their products, which is auditable and shows the entire chain of custody.
Finally, combining a Blockchain with the “Internet of Things” unifies the process and methods of validation for all the participants in the process. Instead of the shipping company, matching shippers with signatures and port stamps to verify the location of the shipment, while the grower must wait for confirmation through a back channel of paper document flow, the near real time updates to the distributed ledger in the Blockchain gives all the participants in the process the same information that has been confirmed through the consensus method inside the Blockchain. When you mix smart contracts, distributed shared ledgers, device identity, provenance of the movement of assets, immutability, and shared consensus of Blockchain with smart containers, intelligent sensors, and store and forward data capabilities of the Internet of Things, it is clear that two next Big Things are better than one.