As the Internet of Things (IoT) drives new levels of automation, distributed machines must be able to conduct transactions on their own. This requirement has given rise to blockchain, an inalterable distributed ledger technology that enables secure transactions across peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. One of Embedded Computing Design’s Top Embedded Innovators for 2018, Allison Clift-Jennings of blockchain company Filament gives her views on the technology’s evoloution.
Why is Blockchain a critical technology for the IoT?
CLIFT-JENNINGS: Originally Filament was focused on IoT asset tracking and connecting infrastructure. However, we soon recognized that IoT connectivity was rapidly becoming table stakes for achieving the real value of the machine economy. After working with customers who were eager to move past interaction and onto the next level of transaction, we tapped into our strength in protocol development and shifted our focus to address the economic aspect of connected machines.
IoT blockchain technology allows legacy machines to go beyond connectivity and transact value with each other. The Blocklet Chip is a native semiconductor that brings blockchain technology to industrial equipment. This is important because in order for machines to become economic in nature and enforce their own contractual agreements, trust must be created. Filament has productized the trust factor in its silicon chip that includes the secure elements necessary for machines to perform transactions against a blockchain. Customers can embed this technology within their products or onto their machinery so that IoT devices can have economic capability.
What is needed to advance blockchain in the IoT industry?
CLIFT-JENNINGS: 2018 is the year that blockchain and the machine economy becomes real. We are already seeing it in several high profile supply chain projects and deployments. That said, blockchain is still in its infancy and has enormous untapped potential ahead of it. We talk with many companies that are excited about its possibilities but don’t know where to start. While the enthusiasm is undoubtedly there, what is most needed is education, technical skills, and support.
And as companies are working to figure it out, so are the legislators. We’ve been involved in helping guide legislation in Nevada and Colorado so that laws around the technology back businesses and organizations that want to gain the benefits of blockchain and distributed ledger technology.
Blockchain technology will be transformative for businesses, governments, and citizens alike. As the technology and ecosystem continue to develop, more states support it through legislation, and corporations gain a better understanding of what it takes to deploy, we will begin to see the real impact of blockchain.
From a STEM perspective, what can industry and the open source community provide to ensure a consistent pipeline of young engineers?
CLIFT-JENNINGS: Our world is becoming more digitally connected every day and because of this, STEM education is more critical than ever. I serve on the Computer Science and Engineering advisory board at the University of Nevada, Reno where the school is proactively addressing the need for developing a sustainable STEM workforce and has a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Programs are being launched to foster a new generation of engineers and I am optimistic that many schools and universities across the country, despite the challenges, are also actively supporting STEM and engaging in programs that cater to the needs of our digital future.
I also believe in the power of informal education through mentoring as I have been fortunate to connect with others in this capacity. Collaboration and guidance helps younger engineers and entrepreneurs get the instruction and inspiration they need to keep pushing forward. I’m encouraged by the growing number of women and minorities pursuing technical careers, and hope that the education and resources become increasingly available to cultivate a strong workforce in the future.
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