Regardless of whether you think Bitcoin is dead or the way of the future, the technology it is built upon is poised to explode into exciting new realms. You may have seen references to ‘blockchain’ before and not realized it was connected to cryptocurrency, or how blockchain can be applied to embedded systems. According to IHS Market, a global information provider, there will be 125 billion IoT devices installed and working around the globe by 2030. As more of these devices come online, consumers will want to be assured their devices are secure. Blockchain may be part of the fortification of consumer confidence.
For a quick definition, “Blockchain” is an encrypted, distributed technology made up of a “block,” or a set of data, and a “chain,” or a map of the data in the previous block. This cryptographic hash is used as a link between the blocks and creates a simple but highly effective security layer; unauthorized modifications in any block creates a validation failure as data are compared up the chain. As the world begins to seriously consider the implications of security within IoT devices, this type of transaction-recording database that keeps a permanent signature of changes may be the answer to backdoor security issues.
Think back to the many cyberattacks that have occurred using flaws found after a product ships. While patches can be downloaded, the difficulty in alerting consumers of this type of fix is high and takes time. In contrast, a blockchain-based device can self-check for updates and install each patch automatically in a secure manner, checking for updates periodically. And because each device has to pass its own cryptographic identity test in order to access these updates, it is less likely that hackers will be able to access and exploit any existing vulnerabilities.
There are still challenges to overcome in the adoption of blockchain in IoT. Bitcoin’s legal status and its regulation are still in question around the world; similar questions regarding compliance and regulatory issues are there to consider in the use of blockchain. But the possibilities of blockchain solutions for IoT security are just beginning to be realized.
Technology writer Marla Keene works for AXControl. In her free time, Marla hikes with her dog Otis or searches for old cameras for her ever-growing collection.