Calvin Powers interviews Tim Hahn, chief architect for IoT security, and John Cohn, IBM Fellow for Watson Internet of Things, to understand how IoT and blockchain are converging.
Tim describes blockchain in this way: blockchain is a technology that consists of a ledger, a consensus algorithm, and a means for performing transactions on that ledger. Ultimately, blockchain allows companies to build trust, reduce costs, and accelerate transactions.
John explains that this trust building is important in the IoT realm when you have to deal with 100s to 1000s of manufacturers with different data standards and devices. He also expresses how important it is to be able to create an unalterable record in the physical world of IoT.
Tim mentions that IBM is contributing to the open source Hyperledger® at the Linux Foundation®. Multiple companies are coming together, contributing code, to make the most of this blockchain technology. Most notably, IBM is contributing crypto technology to help everyone get to the unalterable record. Also, IBM is putting together blockchain fabrics in the Bluemix environment, so that IoT developers can create smart contract code and get their hands dirty developing in a blockchain environment.
John describes a real-world scenario of turning shipping containers into smart devices by creating a set of blockchain IoT capabilities that can provide greater transparency (and visibility) in the shipping process. And, as containers become devices that report their state, location, and contents, we can apply cognitive services to the system to allow the devices to communicate and complete transactions. What we ship can now get there faster and in better condition.
John says that blockchain is definitely a disruptive technology that requires developers and companies to innovate like they never have before. Device manufacturers will need to put a strong identity into the devices. Chip manufacturers for the devices must improve so they can run blockchain on the devices.
Tim mentions that IBM has some service offerings to help companies discover and articulate their own use cases for using blockchain and IoT together, and then start prototyping a solution using IBM Watson IoT Platform and IBM Blockchain.