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IBM Reveals Proof of Concept for Blockchain-Powered Internet of Things

(@mpmcsweeney) | Published on January 17, 2015 at 19:12 BST

IBM has unveiled its proof of concept for ADEPT, a system developed in partnership with Samsung that uses elements of bitcoin’s underlying design to build a distributed network of devices – a decentralized Internet of Things.

The ADEPT concept, or Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry, taps blockchains to provide the backbone of the system, utilizing a mix of proof-of-work and proof-of-stake to secure transactions.

IBM and Samsung chose three protocols – BitTorrent (file sharing), Ethereum (smart contracts) and TeleHash (peer-to-peer messaging) – to underpin the ADEPT concept. ADEPT was formally unveiled at CES 2015 in Las Vegas.

According to the draft paper, blockchains deployed within the ADEPT system would serve as a ledger of existence for billions of devices that would autonomously broadcast transactions between peers in a three-tier system of peer devices and architecture. By using an implementation of the bitcoin protocol, ADEPT could serve as a bridge between many devices at low cost.

The paper adds:

“Applying the blockchain concept to the world of [Internet of Things] offers fascinating possibilities. Right from the time a product completes final assembly, it can be registered by the manufacturer into a universal blockchain representing its beginning of life. Once sold, a dealer or end customer can register it to a regional blockchain (a community, city or state)."

The draft paper outlines a number of use cases, including several based in domestic settings. When CoinDesk spoke with chief architect Paul Brody in October, he noted that IBM was looking at how, in theory, implementations of the bitcoin protocol could change the way people live, in both big and small ways.

Blockchains in the home

IBM and Samsung envision networks of devices that are capable of autonomously maintaining themselves. In theory, the paper states, appliances in the home would be able to signal operational problems and retrieve software updates on their own. Devices could also use ADEPT to communicate with other nearby devices in order to facilitate power bartering and energy efficiency.

The authors explain:

“We demonstrate how, using ADEPT, a humble washer can become a semi-autonomous device capable of managing its own consumables supply, performing self-service and maintenance, and even negotiating with other peer devices both in the home and outside to optimize its environment.”

“All this is achieved without a central controller orchestrating or mediating between these devices,” the paper adds.

According to the paper, a Samsung W9000 washing machine reconfigured to work within the ADEPT system uses smart contracts to issue commands to a detergent retailer in order to receive new supplies. These contracts give the device the ability to pay for the order itself and later receive word from the retailer that the detergent has been paid for and shipped.

This information would be broadcast to the smartphone of the washer’s owner, a device that would also be connected to that home’s network.

Challenges remain

Certain issues, including scalability and the nature of cryptocurrency development today, are cited as potential challenges for ADEPT should the concept ever be applied on a grander scale.

The ADEPT team addresses the issue of network scalability within the context of a distributed Internet of Things, and according to the authors, there are no clear paths forward to scale the system as-is to incorporate billions of devices, but that work in this area is promising.

They explain:

“Multiple efforts like sidechains, treechains, and mini-blockchains are ongoing to address this problem. While each approach has its merits and demerits we are yet to see consensus on a common approach across the board. A blockchain to cater to hundreds of billions of devices needs to be scalable.”

The paper notes that challenges associated with Ethereum’s existing design as it relates to ADEPT’s proposed infrastructure could pose problems, saying that those concerns “are being addressed” as Ethereum moves toward its planned launch sometime this year. The authors also cited ongoing developments around anonymizing technology for cryptocurrency as potential areas where ADEPT could be impacted.

The full ADEPT draft paper can be found below:

Image via Shutterstock

IBM ADEPT Practictioner Perspective - Pre Publication Draft - 7 Jan 2015

ADEPTBlockchain ApplicationsIBMInternet of ThingsSamsung

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