By Inas Azzam
In the last 10 years, technology platforms shifted drastically from the bulky desktops computer to more mobile platforms. Smaller communication platforms have become the daily cell phones that in turn became “the” smart mobile platforms of choice for browsing the internet and performing tasks on connected applications on the go. Tablets were derived from that “smart” platform, and became a more useful platform for running application, home control, car control, and performing tasks were being performed on personal computers. Laptops became more mainstream than desktop computers; smaller, smarter and flexible laptops bridged the gap between mobile platforms with simple mobile operating system and personal computers with desktop grade operating system. Systems back then were locally connected to a machine or multiple machines to hold data and centralize processing; there was no remote connection outside the “entity” that ran these machines. Devices were localized and centralized.
IoT devices transformed from personal tinkering projects to everyday usage mainstream devices. These devices are basically simple platforms that connect to the internet or to a designated network in order to perform specific tasks. Today, these IoT platforms connect to each other through cloud based services; the model is still centralized but not limited to a localized machine like it was a back few years ago. We now also see distributed processing models, key based cryptography, biometric sensory actions, locational driven services, wearable technologies, and yet smaller and smaller transistors allowing the existence of sub 5nm wafers and manufacturing processes. The accuracy of GPS improved from multiple meters to centimeters. With all these advances in mobile and connected technology, IoT devices are undergoing huge expansion and advancements.
IoT devices can be found in our appliances, cars, airplanes, mobile cellphones, hobbyist platforms, industrial machines, and many other aspects of life. In fact, IoT devices became extremely essential to the functionality of these industries. IoT devices are paving the path to a totally decentralized directly connected world. Decentralization methodology is what gave birth to IoT devices in the first place. Devices that communicate with each other directly without a centralized connectivity hub create an open access IoT network. The inventors of these IoT devices enabled them to perform the needed tasks well but left a very critical component out of the equation; security. With all recent attacks and discovered vulnerabilities in the existing model of centralized data, IoT devices will surely struggle to scale to the desired requirements of the “Internet of Things” security requirements. These devices are designed to have direct communication and be able to validate and execute a multitude of transactions.
Barring an alternate model, security concerns will cause IoT devices in the coming years to hit a dead-end where scalability will suffer and functionality will be limited. Luckily, a security model exists in cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency was built around secure and decentralized transactions and communications. Security of these decentralized transactions is based in a technology called blockchain. Blockchain enables nodes on a network to communicate directly with each other without the need for a local, remote, or cloud based centralized data unit. Blockchain allows for the transaction data record to be a contained in a “block” of data that can reside on a node, then passed along to other nodes where it can be stamped. IoT devices can use this blockchain model without centralization in order to ensure more secure and dependable performance. “Blockchain is promising for IoT security for the same reasons it works for cryptocurrency: It provides assurances that data is legitimate, and the process that introduces new data is well-defined,” said Ahmed Banafa, IoT expert and lecturer at San Jose State University, who wrote a popular overview of the potential for blockchain to solve IoT security challenges.
Utilizing this technology, IoT devices of the future can then have a real open access IoT network where devices can interact, exchange data and perform transactions while keeping everything secure and logged. As a matter of fact, using this model, the infrastructure of so many industries can be simplified significantly where less manpower is needed, lower maintenance is required and less error takes place. In a simple scenario, a mail package can depart a shipping center utilizing several IoT platforms while securely updating its location instantaneously to ensure the final destination is accurate thus reducing the error of shipping significantly. The implications for this technology are endless.
As a matter of fact, this technology also addresses a major issue that the public faces with secure transactions. Online transactions are plagued with security gaps. The internet was never designed with these high level secure transactions in mind. The internet communications protocols do not have enough data about the identity of users or nodes built into them; that was never part of the design to start with. With this much larger picture, the implementation of blockchain based IoT devices will very likely change the way internet traffic security works and minimize security It is indeed an exciting time in computing as we are still in the early phases of such implementations for the IoT infrastructure and the transformation of the internet digital communications engine.