IoT is thriving, gearing up for explosive growth in the coming years. By the end of 2021, there will be some 13.8 billion connected IoT devices worldwide—a number that’s expected to almost triple by the end of 2025. IBM research further reveals that IoT could increase global productivity by up to 25% during that same period, presenting enormous opportunities for businesses to capitalize on profitability. At the same time, adoption of blockchain technology is also on the rise, with 84% of major businesses already actively involved. With tremendous power to complement each other, blockchain IoT use cases are naturally expanding, from manufacturing to retail, supply chain to mobility.
What makes blockchain and IoT work so well together? Despite the many opportunities that exist in IoT, this burgeoning sector is not without its challenges. The technology on its own still has several shortcomings that can hamper its potential. For instance, connected IoT devices still rely on centralized systems with limited scalability. Rising demand can lead to issues such as bloated networks, high latency, device reliability, and a lack of transparency in the supply chain.
Moreover, IoT devices remain easy prey to opportunistic hackers. From breaches of cardiac devices and baby monitors to security cameras and digital systems in vehicles, in the wrong hands, IoT can have potentially devastating outcomes. Blockchain can help to address these issues by providing a secure, scalable, and efficient network to underpin IoT devices.
Thanks to its decentralized design, blockchain removes IoT’s dependence on centralized servers and single points of failure that expose IoT devices to bad actors. And, since all transactions are instantly viewable on a shared immutable ledger, blockchain IoT applications can enable better transparency in areas such as the supply chain.
With all these benefits in mind, let’s take a look at the top six blockchain IoT use cases right now — and how this powerful combination of technologies can unlock new opportunities for companies and consumers alike.
1. Pay-as-you-go mobility
Fueled by concerns about the environment and a need to reduce both carbon footprints and transport expenses, the number of people using car-sharing technology is growing exponentially. IoT analyst firm Berg Insight forecasts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.5% from 2020 to 2025. That’s an increase from 71.9 million people to 190.3 million in a few short years.
However, with the multiple vulnerabilities in existing car and ride-sharing applications, pay-as-you-go mobility needs to improve to be sustainable. Implementing blockchain and IoT solutions can provide customers with a secure and seamless pay-as-you-go mobility service. Not only does blockchain provide a tamper-proof foundation allowing for secure data transfer but its smart contract functionality can automate the settlement of contracts and billing, making the experience safer and more reliable all-around.
2. Real-time supply chain tracking/monitoring of goods
The tracking and monitoring of goods throughout the supply chain has long been a logistical challenge for retailers, manufacturers, and other participants. Littered with opaque practices and multiple changing of hands around the globe, verifying a good’s origin, location, or condition often relies on trusting a third party. Thanks to IoT sensors in delivery trucks and smart containers, however, real-time data is now available. This allows for round-the-clock tracking and tracing, and for participants to be alerted when anything needs attention, such as adjusting the temperature or carrying out container maintenance.
Yet, IoT devices cannot be relied upon alone. Using blockchain, businesses can be sure that all relevant parties across the supply chain can access the information they need as it is secured on an immutable, tamper-proof ledger. All parties involved can check the same ledger, which acts as a universal source of truth, providing transparency and improving relationships between stakeholders. Consumers benefit from greater efficiency and high-quality verifiable products and businesses generate cost savings by eliminating faulty goods, missing items or harmful and expensive product recalls.
This improved efficiency becomes increasingly important as supply chains grow bigger and more complex globally, making the use of blockchain IoT applications essential. In fact, by 2023, Gartner estimates that blockchain will be used to track and trace some $2 trillion worth of goods and provisions annually.
3. Automatic provisioning of IoT devices
With the number of IoT devices growing exponentially, leading to bloated networks and bottlenecks, using blockchain for the automatic provisioning of IoT devices provides the perfect solution. Using its smart contract functionality, IoT providers can program certain conditions to automatically execute. This means that they can securely and automatically validate, permission, or provision new IoT devices joining the network.
The implications of this are huge. IoT can grow at pace with demand without the need for human intervention to verify and allow each permissioned device to connect to the network. Blockchain and IoT together can drive efficiency, reduce costs, remove the possibility of human error, and improve the user experience at the same time.
4. Monitoring air quality in smart cities
IoT devices are essential to the growth of smart cities. By using connected sensors, lights, and meters, for example, data can be easily collected and analyzed ensuring round-the-clock functionality. Blockchain, once again, provides the perfect foundation for these IoT devices, ensuring the security, efficiency, and validity of data.
Blockchain and IoT solutions for monitoring air quality in smart cities are gaining traction fast. Since blockchain removes the possibility of security hazards and performance inefﬁciencies, air quality can be monitored effectively and corrupt or bad actors are unable to alter any data.
5. Machine-led maintenance
IoT devices are already helping manufacturers around the world to eliminate inefficiencies and boost their bottom lines. By using smart sensors on their equipment, businesses can reduce expensive downtime through machine-led maintenance. The sensors transmit real-time data on machinery and send reports or error messages allowing business owners to schedule preventive maintenance, essentially fixing a problem before it arises.
However, with the attack vector of IoT devices still an easy target for hackers, human intervention and checks are still widely used to ensure that error reports are not altered, tampered with, or overwritten, blockchain can help eliminate this. Plus, with the data distributed across multiple servers, blockchain eliminates the threat of attack and single point of failure of centralized systems, greatly increasing IoT’s reliability while removing the need for manual processes and eliminating human error. This risk mitigation translates into significant cost savings for businesses that they can pass on to consumers.
6. Smart homes/biometrics
Following on from smart cities, smart homes are gaining protagonism as well, as IoT devices are increasingly used in our everyday lives. In fact, according to Meticulous Research, the global smart home market will reach some $144 billion by 2025 (at a CAGR of 16.5% from 2019).
Yet, the same problems exist with IoT devices that are prone to vulnerabilities, latency issues, and modifications by unwanted external parties. One major way to combat these risks is through biometrics such as facial recognition or fingerprint authorization. In fact, most of the larger operators in this space from Google to Apple have already implemented this.
Yet, biometrics alone cannot remove the issue of centralized infrastructure or the possibility of hackers tampering with the data captured by smart devices. Blockchain provides a much safer way of securing the multitude of biometric data, ensuring that it is only accessible to the right parties. This not only keeps consumers safe but saves businesses from the threat of costly cyberattacks, data breaches, and even litigation.
These top six blockchain IoT use cases represent a small sample of ways these two technologies are combining to provide safer and smarter solutions for businesses and consumers. IoT is already making many innovations possible yet, on its own, the risk of undesirable outcomes remains high. Blockchain’s decentralized nature not only removes the threat of attacks but its transparency, immutability, and smart contract functionality can increase efficiency, reduce cost, and improve profitability at the same time.
If you’re looking to find out more about the benefits of blockchain IoT applications for your business, Protokol can help. We deliver industry-leading blockchain IoT solutions that can help you achieve security, scalability, and sustainable growth. We develop highly customized solutions that integrate with your existing technology stack along with an end-to-end development service for seamless implementation. Find out more about blockchain and IoT, or contact us now for a free consultation.
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