IONChain - Redefining how IoT devices interact using blochchain technology and edge computing!
It seems a very long time ago since the introduction of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology into the digital sphere. Amazingly, blockchain technology is one of a few inventions that did not take time to get a firm foothold and strong influence on a global scale. Considering that Bitcoin debuted in 2009, the enormous progress made in blockchain development is enough evidence to suggest that this technology is not going anytime soon. Currently, there are more than 1600 cryptocurrencies with a combined market capitalization of over $260 billion. The numbers continue to rise by the day. Today, whether it is in medicine, government, education, finance or other sectors, there is a working or proposed blockchain solution to the current problems of centralized systems. The possibilities seem endless.
Growing almost at the same time and rate as blockchain technology is The Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is a loose term used to describe smart devices with built-in sensors, software, electronics and connectivity that enables them to collect, store and exchange data without human intervention. Just think of all the smart phones, home automation devices, vehicle and industrial machines, and other physical devices that are connected to the internet and share data. All and more constitute IoT. Increasingly, individuals and organizations continue to use IoT devices to improve life and enhance efficiency at home, in the workpplace, and virtually everywhere. This makes the proliferation of IoT devices understandable and more growth is predicted in the foreseeable future.
While the world is growing smart with IoT devices, a lot is left to be desired. The problems of devices automation and IoT as a whole is increasing at a rate proportional to the supposed benefits they deliver. For example, think about the challenges of self-driving cars. If we are to trust our entire life and very existence on IoT networks, then these challenges facing the IoT industry must be quickly addressed. This article examines a blockchain solution to the many problems facing the IoT industry. But before it explains the nature of the blockchain project, take a quick look at some of the current challenges the IoT industry is battling with.
Challenges of the IoT Industry today
Like every field of human endeavor, the IoT industry experience challenges that are shaking it to the core. Just think about the following:
1. Data Insecurity and Privacy Issues: Https defines a secure way of transffering sensitive data on the internet, but there no such standard in the IoT industry. It should be a real source of concern that IoT devices exchange sensitive data in an unsecured manner. Hacking happens every time, it is almost becoming a household name. There are several high-profile cases of unauthorized access to stored data. It is obvious that IoT devices collect lots of personal and business data. Think for example., of a fitness tracking device that collects information about a persons heartbeat and other personal data. What happens if somehow, this data ends up in the hand of a cybercriminal or some other unauthorized. Today, data stored on systems completely monitored by skilled staff gets hacked and stolen. If that is the case, then, people should rightly be worried about private data stored on automation devices that manage data without much human intervention.
2. Inability to define the use of IoT end product: The IoT industry suffers lack of identifiable standard for use of tons of data provided by IoT devices. This is unlike other sectors of Information Technology with properly defined standard for use of resources. For example, the Internet Protocol (IP) is an industry-standard which defines how devices are addressed on the internet. Likewise, the IoT industry needs to come up with a properly defined business model of how the huge data generated by IoT devices can be utilized in a large-scale manner. This would be another benefit of IoT devices in addition to the smart services they offer to people that use them.
3. Cross-platform operation issues: This is probably the biggest challenge of the IoT industry. There are too many technology companies working on the same concept. While this competition could be healthy and beneficial, the real problem is that IoT device manufacturers are developing solutions independent of each other. Each company employ differing strategies and platforms to build smart devices that cannot communicate with other devices made by another company. There seems to be a wall that separates one IoT device from the other though they perform the same function. Think for example, of the interoperability issues between Android devices and iOS. Because each technology company wants to be the industry leader, cross-platform integration of IoT devices is nothing but a dream. Until a solution is put in place that effectively allows data sharing among IoT devices irrespective of the developer, it will remain difficult - even impossible - to harness the full potential of IoT.
4. Cloud Storage Speed Issues: It is an era of big data especially as IoT devices create large volumes of data per second. Cloud storage services have been hailed as the best option when it comes to data management requiring huge storage capabilities. However, are are known performance issues of cloud companies. Speed is the biggest issue that IoT comapanies worry about. In a bid to achieve lost cost and scalability, some Cloud Storage companies use architectures - such as object storage - that are known to perform poorly when enormous real-time data storage and retrieval is required by an IoT device. This slow speed however minor they seem, affect the performance of some IoT devices that require speed in milliseconds. A complete storage system should deliver speed to select IoT devices - for example self-driving cars - in order to enhance their performance in real time.
There are other challenges that the IoT industry is currently facing. These challenges must be swiftly resolved to make way for further progress in the industry. Now, consider how a blockchain solution called IONChain will eliminate these challenges and offer a new phase where IoT devices perform optimally without the hurdles we see in the industry today. First, what is IONChain?
IONChain - The Ultimate Solution to IoT Problems
IONChain is a blockchain solution to the digital divide and "cold war" that currently exists in the IoT industry today. By utilizing blockchain technology, edge computing and other technology concepts, IONChain wants to create distributed platform where all IoT devices can interact each other, share and transfer data, and communicate efficiently without the current interoperabilty issues that make each IoT platform an island. By creating a standard and secure communication protocol that cuts across all IoT technology platforms, IONChain will unify IoT device manufacturers, IoT engineering platforms, data and users to form a single, integrated global network of smart devices where data generated by IoT devices will have industry-wide application.
Because privacy and data security are top priority for the IoT industry, IONChain, will utilize edge computing and blockchain technology to ensure that data shared and circulated in the ecosystem has maximum protection from cyber criminals and hacking. By removing user data from centralized data silos where they remain a sitting target, IONChain will let users be in control of their privacy. IONChain which has integrated Inter Planetary File System (IPFS), will facilitate speedy data transfers across the network, ensuring that devices on the network can have swift access to store or retrieve - a critical challenge to the IoT industry today.
IONChain summarizes its vision as "One Device, One Coin, One Code." With the ever-growing IoT industry which expects up to 1289.9 Billion USD investment by 2020, IONChain will collaborate with smart device manufacturers to create a unique digital identity for each IoT device. As a result, data stored on the distributed platform will be transparent, unique and indestructible. With the current state of technology divide affecting efficient data utilization, IONChain will enhance interoperability and make smart devices smarter and more useful to the human race.
Consider in-depth, how each IONChain component works with others to ensure device unity in a divided IoT universe. First, Edge computing.
Data processing - changing the game with Edge Computing
Currently, the IoT industry relies heavily on cloud storage solutions which technically is the best alternative so far for data storage. But obviously, the best is not good enough. The current architectural setup of most cloud storage solutions sacrifice cheap operation cost for speed. It is clear that some aspects of the IoT industry require split-second speed. Think again, of a self-driving car which needs to decide almost instantly whether to apply the breaks or keep moving, but needs to relate to a cloud storage to determine the true nature of an obstacle. Delays in data retrieval could lead to a fatal crash, but that is the urgly situation on hand. Cloud storage solutions are inherently slow, period. IONChain has gone for the best option: Edge computing.
What is Edge Computing
Edge computing is a distributed computing paradigm in which computation is largely or completely performed on distributed device nodes known as smart devices or edge devices as opposed to primarily taking place in a centralized cloud environment.
The above definition shows that Edge Computing is almost the opposite of cloud computing. Data is processed with a smart device which represents the edge of the network as opposed to processing data in data silos and remote cloud storage centers. What are the implications of this model of data processing? Consider the following benefits:
1. Data Security and enhanced Privacy: An African adage says and I quote "If you have a neighbor who steals, the best way to secure your property is to ask him to look after it while you are away". This saying simply explains how Edge Computing transformed who is in charge of data security and privacy. IoT devices currently send data to the cloud for storage. But with data processing happening at device level, there will be no need for data transit to and from the cloud. There definitely will be no need for the cloud company to have the user's data in the first place. So, Edge Computing lets users become responsible for data security and privacy. Each device operator is left to determine who or what has access to their private data. In a case of any data breach, users will have no one to point fingers at, but themselves. Since most people today love to go anonymous, it is up to them to set the level of public access to their private data. In this way, Edge Computing redesigns privacy and data security protocol.
2. Fastest data processing ever: Just as probably everyone knows, IoT devices require speedy data access which cloud storage has failed to deliver. Edge Computing delivers swift data access and retrieval by processing - again - at device level. It definitely takes time - however small it is - to send and receive data between an IoT device and cloud storage. The difference even in milliseconds could result in a crash for a self-driving car. Ofcourse, other IoT devices like a heart monitor worn by a person who suffers heart failuire, could deliver fatal results if data storage or retrieval is delayed. Because Edge computing removed the time lost in data relay, IoT devices are faster and more efficient in delivering intended results. Definitely, this speedy data delivery will broaden the scope of IoT application.
3. In tune with Tradional IoT network Infrastructure: The question is: can we have enough processing power built into IoT devices to handle IoT big data? The answer is a resounding YES! Already, IoT gadgets are built with powerful processors to handle real-time complex data processing. Think of the hardware processing power built into - again - a self-driving car. IoT devices like that and more carry sufficient hardware to support AI data processing and storage needs. There, IONChain understands that implementing Edge Computing will not require IoT companies to build entirely different processing hardware other than they have now. What Edge Computing will do is to tap into this already made feature and integrate with it to facilitate device-level data processing for the IoT industry.
The above are some of the ways that Edge Computing is superior to Cloud storage solutions. While many projects maitain a strict application of Edge Computing in prefernce to cloud Storage, IONChain will maintain a flexible design to accommodate the two solutions. While fundamentally making use of Edge Computing, IONChain will optimize the Edge to serve as another loud of the cloud storage system. In this way, both the Edge and the Cloud are made to be compatible on the platform, making the best use of each of them.
Edge Computing and Blockchain technology - a perfect match
Having seen the enormous benefits that Edge Computing will bring to IONChain, Blockchain technology will make the system complete. While Edge Computing will deliver mostly data protection and privacy plus speedy data processing, blockchain technology will provide a distributed ledger for the permanent record of transactions data. This will ensure that any data that passes through the system is permanently on record and can never be modified or destroyed. Combining Edge Computing and Blockchain will give IONChain the capability of becoming a platform for the unification of IoT devices that can interact and communication with each other in the fastest, safest and most transparent manner.
Inter Planetary File System (IPFS) - Separating Data Storage and Processing
The root cause of blockchain scalability issues is that data blocks are processed and recorded at the same time by the blockchain. This causes slow data processes when there is huge volume of data blocks on the system. IONChain solves this problem on their platform by separating data processing and storage using IPFS (Inter Planetary File System). The IPFS is a crytographic, peer-to-peer method of storing and sharing hypermedia files in a distributed file system. On the IONChain platform, IPFS is integrated to serve as a secure data storage facility for IoT devices. Edge computing takes care of data processing using smart devices while IPFS takes care of data storage. The result is that irrespective of the volume data created by IoT devices, IONChain should be able to handle it. This serves as an additional layer of protection.
IPFS uses encryption to store and retrieve files on the system. This will ensure that only authorized users that have the private key can be able to access stored files. Thus, data stored on the platform is tamper-proof and out of the reach of intruders. The IPFS files sharing system, which is also a blockchain, extends the data security and privacy provided by Edge Computing on the platform.
Users on the platform can design their smart contracts according to the terms of contracting parties. Data trading can happen on the platform between humans and machines. IoT devices are majorly automation devices and they generate lots of data. The smart contracts will ensure that data trading will be efficiently done. While it will be possible to trade between humans and IoT devices, IONChain will build the ecosystem to support human-to-machine trading. Eventually, lots of other opportunities will open up that will see the mass application of IoT generated-data in an industrial scale.
Achieving the Vision - “One Device, One Coin, One Code”
The vision of the IONChain team is surmarized as follows: “One Device, One Coin, One Code”. IONChain wants to pull down and level the barricades created by IoT companies that have prevented interoperability among IoT devices. I have already discussed some features of the platform such as Edge Computing that will assist IONChain to achieve the above vision. Before I go on to evaluate other features, here is what each component of the vision stands for:
One device: In this instance, the "device" stands for each IoT device irrespective of the manufacturer or development platform. Utilizing the Ionization algorithm, each IoT device on the platform will serve as a mining machine which the system will reward based on several considerations such as amount of time spent on data collection. Using the IoT devices of computation will enhance data security as wheel as resource distribution on the platform.
One Coin: The "Coin" there is the IONC which will serve as fuel for the IONChaineconomy.
One Code: The code here refers to the unique identification which each IoT device will have. The code will be embedded during device production to stamp the data that will be generated by this device which will serve as a node in the network. IONChain hopes to reach a collaboration level in the future where IoT companies will be eager to have the physical identification hardware built-in into the IoT device during manufacturing.
Note: In each case, the "One" there represents a unification of all IoT devices on the IONChain ecosystem.
It is obvious that with a standard global framework which will which will integrate all IoT devices and make them independent components of one large device entity, IONChain would have created an industry standard way to harness the enormous data generated by IoT devices in addition to enhancing an environment where the IoT industry could have several applications.
Understanding IONChain System Architecture
IONChain wants to change how IoT devices interact and how blochchain systems handle data. True, blockchain development with the current model of creating and transferring data by the same system, has set the platform on which further progress can be made. Remembering that blockchain technology was not originally meant to handle large data will necessitate a change in design and function. Several blockchain challenges such as scalability result from creating and transferring value using the same blockchain technology. This is where IONChain invented a concept known as Ionization. Wait a minute, have I not heard ionization in a science class? You probably do and here is the definition again:
Ionization is the process by which an atom or a molecule acquires a negative or positive charge by gaining or losing electrons to form ions, often in conjunction with other chemical changes.
Borrowing the same idea, the IONChain separates data creation from value transfer. Today's blockchain systems where designed to handle both activities which is a prime cause of low transaction speed. The Ionization algorithm allows devices on the IONChain platform platform to do computations or create value utilixing Edge Computing in the process. The created value is transferred using blockchain technology. This algorithm is superior to what is on ground currently and enhances speed, data security, transparency and real-time data management. At this point in time, IoT devices generate lots of data - big data. Separating value creation and transfer is the only way forward to implement big data on the blockchain without the the attendant technical issues in current systems.
Take a deeper look at what happens in each layer of the Ionization algorithm.
How does IONChain Value Generation work?
The value generation process is where IoT devices on the platform create value on the system in a process called edge Computing. The value creation process is further split into 4 layers as follows: Value Generation, Value Verification, Value Evaluation and Value Confirmation. Here is what happens in each layer:
Value Generation: This is the first layer of the value creation process. Here, Iot devices work together with Edge Computing centers set up by IONChain to create and measure and value which translates to some IONC coins. Each IoT devices has an embedded with identification hardware where the details of each device is secured by encyption. Modifying the MQTT protocol to add a value transfer layer originally ommited, IONChain enables all IoT devices connected in the network to securely transfer and exchange data between each other just as molecules gain or loss electrons in science to take on chemical charges. The nearby Edge Computing centers are set up to assist IoT devices do the mining for high volume processing which may be beyond the scope of IoT device. Additionally, provide the capability to accurately measure value created by IoT devices. Once completed, the created and measured value is moved to the verification layer.
Verification Layer: IONChain employs a hybrid Proof of Work and Proof of Stake Algorithm to process the created value and validate it. If successful, the value is moved to the next layer, otherwise, it is discarded.
Value Evaluation: This is an extension of value verification. Here, there is a final confirmation that the value is not invalid. This dual protection system makes the system more secure by preventing attacks such as double spending on the platform. The next layer is value confirmation layer which takes over after value evaluation.
Value Confirmation: This final layer treats the value as finished product and packages it to the the second part of the Ionization protocol. At this point, the value takes on a discrete economic relevance in form of a digital asset.
Understanding the IONChain Value Transfer Process
This is the second part of the Ionization protocol. This section has 6 divisions as follows: the application layer, Service Layer, IONChain Protocol Layer, Smart Contract Layer, Blockchain Layer and Data Storage Layer.
The application layer: Every other service or platform provide a means for users to interact with their system. On IONChain, this happens on the application layer. IoT devices can establish access to the platform by making secure HTTPS requests using plugins designed for this purpose. The plugin functionality will enable new users to seamlessly integrate IONChain into their system.
At the initial stage of the system development, the system will include the following built-in services: Data validation, Data Query, Vendor Query, Device Registration, Wallet Query.
Service layer: The service layer contains control modules that serve various functions on the platform. This layer has a user interface which is accessible through a program. The design team will consider making the interface available for end users in the near future.
Protocol layer: The protocol layer integrates several other protocols to extend external services to other IoT devices. This builds on the team's dream of achieving a unifification of all devices for easy value creation and transfer. IONChain is considering a future where all third party programs could use this single protocol to access its services.
Smart contract layer: Smart Contracts play crucial roles in any blockchain project. They provide the safest means for transacting parties to stick the terms of a transaction on the blockchain. On IONChain, smart contracts are fundamental to the entire setup. In addition to being link between applications and the blockchain layer, smart contracts link user provisions with the consensus algorithm on IONChain. This ensures that the platform design specifications align with user requirement.
Blockchain layer: This is foundation of the entire system setup, with the consensus algorithm at the core. IONChain reinvented the combined POW/POS algorithms to extend the limits of previous blockchains on it platform. The result is a consensus scheme called IPOS which is far more robust than POS or POW. For example, even if a large number of block producers stop functioning, it will never affect the smooth running of the system. In such a case, stakeholders can replace the non-functioning producers by voting. Hence the system remains operational in periods of inactivity by some producers.
Also with IPOS, the process for selecting block producers is more secure. Hence, the possibility of foul play in the selection process is reduced to a minimal - if not eliminated. Hence, this new IPOS algorithm is the best of any current blockchains.
Data storage layer: IONChain stores data in two major ways: IPFS and BigChainDB. Please, consult earlier sections of this article where IPFS was explained in detail. The second storage method was necessary because of some limitations of IPFS as a storage platform. For example, does not store business data. Users decide how to store such data and create the necessary facility for it. Making IPFS the sole storage medium will create a bottleneck since IoT devices that IONChain was built for, generate enormous amounts of data that must be stored somehow. This necessitates BigChainDB.
BigChainDB will fill the vacuum created by IPFS, being a facility for the secure storage of Business data generated by the IoT devices on the network. Here are some main features of BigChainDB:
BigChainDB has some advantages of blockchain, like decentralization, immutability and asset registration & transfer.
Every entity which has the right to create asset is able to establish their own asset; the new asset can only be accepted by the new owner only if it meets the encryption requirements.
Scalability of the system allows legal contracts and certificates to be stored directly in the blockchain database.
The Token - IONC
The IONC token is the economic fuel that runs IONChain. It will be used to reward the IoT devices that will participate in mining activity. As more users come onboard and there is data trading velocity, the value of IONC in the coin market will rise.
Applications and Use cases
The application of IONChain ecosystem cuts across all sectors. Consider the following:
IoT in Agriculture.
The agricultural sector as seen recent boom in the use of smart devices from farming. From temperature sensors, water application systems, fertilizer applicators and other areas aspects of farming, the agriculture industry is not too far away from full automation. The only challenge is that IoT devices for farming are manufactured by different companies. These independent devices fail to communicate with each other. This makes the farmers to interpret the readings from a particular device and feed the data manually to another smart device to execute a particular activity. If only there could be a way for devices to share data, the farmer will have less work to do.
Real-World Use case:
John is a farmer in the US. He bought TemMon, a temperature monitoring bot from AGileTemp LLC. This bot automatically monitors the temperature at his farm and sends him a notification of the best time to water his crops. Based on the information from this bot, John will activate his automated sprinkler system which automatically sprinkles the right amount of water on his crops. If only TemMon and the Sprinkler system had a way of communicating, John would have no need of coming to the farm to water the crops.
While researching on how to make the two systems work, John heard about IONChain. Because he is not conversant with blockchain technology, he sent a mail to AGileTemp LLC and the company that supplied the Sprinkler system. Each company did researched IONChain and found that it could make their devices work together for John. The two companies agreed to join IONChain. Now, the TemMon monitors the temperature and determines the best time for sprinkling. It relays the information to the sprinkler system, and sent a copy to John. The sprinkler system automatically sprinkled John's crops and relays the information to John.
John is now happy to stay at home, while his smart farming gadgets do the job. In his own time, John can go to the farm and smile at the amount of work done by these collaborating devices. He is very happy that farming can now be done without breaking a sweat.
The IoT industry is growing at an astronomical rate. Smart devices have infiltrated virtually all aspects of our life from sleep monitoring gadgets, to temperature regulating devices, the list is simply endless. IONChain willcompletely destroy that barrier that has prevented IoT devices from effectively sharing data and communicating with each other. By means of Edge Computing, IONChain will turn IoT devices into one giant global mining machine with integrated parts creating, sharing and transferring value seamlessly. With security, privacy and transparency as watchwords, the vision of "One Device, One Coin, One Code" become a reality. In the nearest future, the IoT industry will see the standard utilization of the enormous data created by smart devices; opening up new application areas previously unknown.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all images in this article were taken from IONChain WhitePaper