The use of blockchain for IoT data transmission is very much in the hype phase of new technology adoption, meaning people are talking about doing it more than actually doing it. When talking to TSIA member companies about their current and expected use of blockchain, the most common answer boils down to, “We are looking in to it, but aren’t actively adopting it at this time.”

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a distributed ledger system, and is the underlying technology that allowed cryptocurrency to occur (aka bitcoin). Although it was created for cryptocurrencies, the technology system can be leveraged to add security to any information sharing/distribution of data.

How Does Blockchain Apply to IoT Data Security?

When it comes to the use of blockchain to address security concerns with IoT data transmission, thinking of it as only a security solution is a misappropriation of the technology. Blockchain isn’t a data security solution, it’s an information sharing and transparency solution. The security blockchain provides is secondary to the information sharing capability it enables. Approaching it from a data security solution perspective is missing the revolutionary capability of blockchain technology.

 

The types of problems that blockchain can help solve revolve around transparency of information to help reduce complexity of an interaction.

There Are Many Benefits to Blockchain

Before considering the deployment of blockchain as part of your IoT strategy, it is important to first identify what problem you are trying to solve, and then ask if blockchain is the appropriate solution.

The types of problems that blockchain can help solve revolve around transparency of information to help reduce complexity of an interaction. In the sections below, I explore some of the main problems within healthcare technology and industrial equipment that lend themselves to blockchain solutions.

Blockchain in Healthcare Technology IoT

The healthcare technology industry is well-positioned to benefit from blockchain because healthcare technology and related ecosystems can boil down to a common goal: patient care. Increasing transparency between organizations regarding the patient care contributes to higher quality care, reduction in administrative complexity, and subsequently faster care. All these things, in turn, increase the benefit to the patient’s well-being.

In the world of healthcare, the perspective shift of secure data sharing and transfer can be organized around this centralized goal of improvement to patient care. There are software companies already working to improve patient care with blockchain. Including IoT-generated data addresses the reduction in complexity and reduced time to care because it can allow for real-time data transfer from healthcare technology devices. IT removes manual data entry and allows improved accuracy in the information sharing ecosystem.

Within supply chain management, multiple organizations are working toward the common goal: get the right part, to the right place, at the right time.

Blockchain in Industrial Equipment IoT

Meanwhile, the industrial equipment industry is more in the hype phase than healthcare technology and will benefit by asking the question, ”What problem am I trying to solve?” Within industrial equipment, unlike healthcare technology, the industry isn’t centralized around a common goal. The subset aspect of industrial equipment that could be improved through the use of blockchain is supply chain management.

Within supply chain management, multiple organizations are working toward the common goal: get the right part, to the right place, at the right time. Having access to a distributed ledger generated through blockchain technology, can allow for increased transparency and identifying and solving for issues earlier than in a system will restricted visibility.

Information Sharing Perspective Shift

In order to fully realize the benefits of blockchain technology, there fist must be a mindset shift around data and information sharing. The gains from utilizing blockchain within IoT will be limited unless all parties involved in the transactions are incentivized to the outcome possible from increased data sharing.

This is where we once again come back to the human behavior and mentality shift that is necessary for the evolution, deployment, and adoption of these new technologies. Blockchain, more than anything else, is a new way to think about data sharing. It’s a system of accountability at the level of visibility, with both sides motivated to share and receive the same level of data. Without the motivation to share the data, the usefulness of blockchain in IoT is limited.

There are many ways to share data and generate useful insights in a secure way that don’t require the use of blockchain technology. The use of edge computing to quickly and securely deliver insights within an IoT ecosystem will be explored in the next blog in this series.

Read more posts in the “IoT Strategy for Industrial Equipment and Healthcare Technology” series:

 
 
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About Sarah Swanson

About Author About Sarah Swanson

Sarah Swanson is a research analyst for TSIA and is part of the company's "A-Team", which works to collect and analyzes technology and services industry data for the benefit of TSIA members. She holds a Masters in Social Science Research from University of Chicago and has worked in the analytics field for 5 years applying research methodologies and quantitative analysis to various data sources. She has a passion for using data-driven processes to improve efficiencies and optimize performance.