Every day we use devices that send data to a centralized location. It could be a private alarm system, or a home thermostat that allows you, the home owner, to control your AC from work. These devices use the internet and apps on one’s smartphone. Collectively—they are referred to as the Internet of Things, or more succinctly by the acronym—IoT.
An IOT Analytics study showed that the number of active IoT devices connected worldwide has grown from 3.8 billion connections in 2015 to 8.3 billion connections in 2019. And, according to IOT Analytics, it is expected that there will be over 21 billion connections worldwide.
According to Sam Cook for Comparitech the most common application of IoT technology is the healthcare industry. Over 60% of patient monitors are connected, and 33% of x-ray and imaging devices are connected to IoT.
The second most prevalent industry to use IoT is energy, where 56% of energy meters are connected to IoT.
When it comes to industrial and manufacturing analytics, perhaps the most noteworthy statistic is the growth of IoT in manufacturing. It grew by 84%. This compares to growth for healthcare: up 11% from 2016 to 2017.
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Industry is using IoT for commercial drones, robotics, construction, and more. Moreover, the adoption of IoT for smart agriculture is expected to exceed $13 billion by 2023.
As is evident, IoT will become a vital part of nearly every aspect of our lives from consumer oriented products to industrial applications. There is plenty of optimism for its application to bring economies of scale and efficiencies. However, there are areas of concerns when all the data collected is sent to centralized data centers—either in server farms owned by the enterprise, or leased server space in the cloud.
Implications for Blockchain
As you look at IoT, you may see there is a connection to blockchain and the internet. The merging of blockchain and IoT is one of the most promising blockchain use cases. According to Leeway Hertz (Hackernoon) —blockchain technology is based on decentralized ledger technology which transparently and securely processes data transactions. Blockchain data transactions are time-stamped digital records that are immutable—that is they cannot be modified or deleted once it’s been added to the chain. Decentralized blockchain data is protected from bad actors reducing the risk of data theft or hacking.
By coupling blockchain to IoT, the blockchain has the potential to keep all the data confidential, secure, and transparent. It can help to “remodel IoT industry”. (Hertz). One area that blockchain can help IoT is through its decentralized network that is able to scale. As billions of devices get connected to the IoT, the number of interactions between servers and devices can be costly. One factor of why existing systems are not able to support a large IoT network. Moreover, cloud servers are susceptible to a single point of failure which can affect an entire system.
This is why a peer-to-peer blockchain network model—as opposed to a client-server model—may be just the right solution for IoT. Hertz adds that “with decentralization in place, storage needs and computation can be distributed across millions of IoT devices and central failure cannot have an impact on the whole network.”
The internet continues to evolve. Undoubtedly, the internet has the potential to connect every citizen around the globe in the same way I have enjoyed conversations with friends in Mongolia and South Korea from my home in Los Angeles via Skype .
But as technology has the potential to improve our lives with medical devices, or our home environment with air conditioning efficiencies, the possibilities are only limited by what we can conceive.
The convergence of blockchain, the internet, and IoT is clearly inevitable. “The internet is evolving beyond its technical infrastructure,” says Jayshree Pandya for Forbes. “As we move towards creating an integrated cyberspace, aquaspace, geospace and space (CAGS) internet of everything (IoE) ecosystem that benefits from the fast-tracking technology, application trend paradigm shifts, and convergence beyond blockchain and artificial intelligence, it raises more questions than answers,”