[Expert opinion] The integration of blockchain in IoT: opportunities and limits

What are the opportunities and risks of blockchain integration in connected object and sensor networks? Daniel Crowe, Regional Director France and Southern Europe of Netscout, delivers some answers.

In 2020, 1 out of 5 Internet of Things developments will use blockchain services. Objective: Reduce security problems, eliminate points of failure, streamline processes and reduce costs. The Internet of Things and the blockchain combined can help to imagine breakthrough innovations in all sectors.

Imagine, for example, a medicine prescribed to a patient: the information would become visible for each health professional concerned (doctor, pharmacy) regardless of the compatibility of the computerized medical file. Or a connected vehicle that would automatically pay tolls and parking, and use barcode technologies to open his chest when approaching a delivery man to drop a package? Or an on-demand mobility station able to offer any mode of transport to passengers and automatically collect payments for public transport, electric car charging or a self-service bike? By associating the Internet of Things and the blockchain, these utopias could become reality.

integration of blockchain in IoT

Enhanced security, increased resistance

The Blockchain technology is a distributed registry system where transaction logging is done through multiple nodes. If blocks are publicly visible, their contents are only available to organizations with the correct encryption key. Because transactions must be authorized by several parties before acceptance, the blockchain guarantees a high degree of reliability. In addition, you can add transactions only, not delete or modify them, making this solution attractive to organizations that are required to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (US Corporate Responsibility Act), HIPAA health and health insurance) and other national regulatory frameworks.

 

On an IoT network, the blockchain can not only facilitate financial transactions but also secure the exchange of messages between devices. By operating under integrated smart contracts, two parties can share data without compromising their privacy for their owner. If the blockchain does not solve all security issues for IoT devices, such as hacking devices for use in DDoS botnets, it helps protect data from malicious actors.

Given the proliferation of Internet of Things equipment – 24 billion connected devices are expected by 2020 – the traditional server / client network traffic management models are becoming too laborious, too unwieldy to be effective. Conversely, the simplicity of transactions spread over the blockchain is what makes them interesting. Accompanied by the growth of computing devices (edge computing) and 5G networks, this simplicity will allow faster and more efficient communication between standalone devices – without going through single points of failure. The blockchain can also reliably record the “actions” and transactions of a sensor or object, which allows the devices in the Internet of Things to communicate autonomously without passing through a centralized authority.

how to ensure a continuous quality of service in a decentralized network?

Like any digital transformation technology, blockchain and the Internet of Things add complexity to the IT infrastructure. This can include devices and edge servers that participate in blockchain transactions, intermediate hardware for encryption and authentication, and virtual machines for databases and distributed applications. Although independent device communication and transaction acceleration can boost efficiency, and increased availability and security can reduce costs, ensuring the highest quality of service is more important than ever. In an Internet of Things / Blockchain environment, service provision may be affected by load, latency, or errors. Due to the highly distributed character of the blockchain, guaranteeing the provision of the service is therefore more difficult. This requires overall end-to-end visibility of the program and session flow: on load balancers, gateways, service providers (including DNS), network, servers, and distributed databases. or not – and all their interdependencies.

 

Take the DNS, for example. The announced development of the Internet of Things equipment in connection with the blockchain implies an increase in DNS requests and dependent services, which can have a considerable impact on the provision of services and their performance. The ultra-low latency of DNS services is problematic for the continuity of the business and the quality of the performance of the Internet of Things. If the DNS shows insufficient performance, then the services of the Internet of Things and the blockchain also suffer. In other words, whole sections of the connected world, which depend more and more on automation, would be shut down. DNS issues can adversely affect care, manufacturing, energy distribution, transportation and financial transactions. An adapted service assurance platform, which gives IT teams good visibility on DNS issues, like errors and busy servers, helps to avoid any loss of control.

The combination of intelligent data and superior analytics will help IT professionals understand the full context of service and DNS anomalies that affect user experience and application performance. But the future of networks of connected objects undeniably passes through the blockchain.