A Beginner’s Guide to the Internet of Things

​It’s been 20 years that the Internet has entered into our lives. In today’s date, we have more than 2 billion users accessing the internet through various technological equipment not only on desktops, laptops, smart phones and tablets but also through everyday devices such as cars, lights, TV, thermostats, etc. Most electrical devices are now attached and controlled via the internet. These devices are “things” in the term commonly used, “internet of things”. 
Origin and Meaning of Internet of Things

Kevin Ashton, digital innovation expert coined the term ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘IoT’ as, “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”

Reference: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/kevin-ashton-describes-the-internet-of-things-180953749/

​The Oxford dictionary is has defined IoT as, “The interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.” The IoT is an umbrella term that covers ‘things’ such as sensors, communication technologies, applications, IoT gateways, etc.
Reference: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/internet_of_things
IoT is growing and will continue to grow in 2017 and beyond. Whether it reaches the lofty predictions of 50 billion connected devices by 2020 remains to be seen, but I strongly believe that businesses who learn to harness the data created by the Internet of Things are the ones who will survive and thrive in the future.
Reference: http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/popular-internet-of-things-forecast-of-50-billion-devices-by-2020-is-outdated

The IoT has a unique IP (Internet Protocol) address is allocated to each end point or device. Hence, consumer devices such as fitness trackers are attached to things to make them IoT-enabled. To put in simple terms, the unique IP address of an endpoint allows it identify it via the Internet. It can retrieve and/or send data from/to it.

Examples of IoT

Let’s take a look of a few examples of IoT.

Smart Home

Do you fancy stepping into a cold room before you reach home? Or having hot water in the shower after a tiring meeting? Now, that’s possible with the tip of your fingertips. It’s easy to make a smart home and connect these technological equipments to an app that you can operate over the phone!
A smart home is the new way of living a luxurious life. It’s not as expensive but is very convenient for the end user. More and more people are converting their home into a smart home. It is said that 70% of people who purchased their first smart home device believe they are more likely to purchase more, according to a Smart Home Technology Survey.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is the tomorrow! People no longer want to carry bulky devices, the smaller the device the better. For instance, every mobile company is trying to build a lighter and smaller version of a cell phone with maximum functions.
Wearable technology that has swept the market includes FitBit watches, Apple watches, Wearable music devices, etc. As per research, it is said that there were 78.1 million wearables sold in 2015 and the market is expected to grow to 411 million by 2020.

Smart Cars

“It is estimated that a staggering 82 percent of cars will be connected to the internet by 2021. App integration, navigation and diagnostic tools, and even self-driving cars will be ways the Internet of Things transforms the automobile industry.” Currently, the auto industry is investing heavily to determine the next IoT innovation.

Internet of Things – What’s Special?

IoT devices such as cars, fitness devices, electrical devices, etc. have different sensors. These sensors can monitor movement, temperature, moisture levels and location even in the most complex environmental factors.
They make it possible to inject a broad range of data into applications as they are connected to the Internet. This is also possible because of their connectivity features, IP address and a wide range of fix and wireless communication networks.
The outcomes and goals is where the real value of IoT lies. It’s not about the sending and receiving of data only. The reasons that it makes a difference in lives of people are:

  • The end result for which people acquire it; for example, people purchase the FitBit in order to keep a record of their fitness levels
  • The analysis of data that is where the data is being generated, for example in the cloud or at the edge and the insights that are generated through the analysis

Use Cases for Consumer Internet of Things

Personal Healthcare

A trending use case in the Consumer IoT is personal healthcare. Fitness trackers are very simple devices that helps keeps track of some health-related data and some activity-related data. These are then combined and shown within applications that enable you to improve your personal health, fitness and lifestyle, sometimes with group features.

Track and Trace

A typical so-called cross-industry IoT use case is the tracking of goods, products, people and even pets. As we know, a tracking system sensor allows you to find and follow a person or an object that has the sensor in it.
Track and trace, leveraging IoT, however is also used in the industry, logistics and transportation, often with more complex devices that also provide info on environmental factors and the state of goods. These trackers can be used for something as simple as tracking the location or as complex as tracking a container of goods on a ship in the ocean.

Predictive Maintenance

Let’s understand predictive maintenance with the help of an example. Imagine a vendor of big industrial robots wants to know upfront which robots might needs maintenance. The cost a company faces when these robots break down is very high.
Here, IoT can intervene and predict which robots need to be maintained when and where. This reduces the cost and the customers of the robot manufacturer enjoy great benefits. This IoT requires far more complex systems, devices, networks and platforms to analyze and intervene.

Disadvantages of IoT

With the advantages that the IoT technology offers, there are a few disadvantages attached.
IoT needs to work on the security features of the product to protect it from the hackers. In 2016, millions of devices were hacked and a lot of malfunctioning occurred in the infrastructure.
Users should also ensure that they have a backup and keep their devices secure. 

Bottom Line

This is just a start for the IoT industry. Business have started to now develop and expand the IoT technology in their products, services and operations will realize soon about the competitive advantage that they will have.

Blockchain: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

The Bitcoin fever has been spreading like wild fire throughout the world. Everyone wants to make some easy money by investing in this crypto currency. Bitcoin works on the blockchain technology. Blockchain was originally created to support the Bitcoin but soon the tech community has started using this technology for other purposes.
Blockchain is the brainchild of a person or a group of people known by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto. In 2017, the global blockchain technology market is predicted to reach 339.5 million U.S. dollars in size and is forecast to grow to 2.3 billion U.S. dollars by 2021.

Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/647231/worldwide-blockchain-technology-market-size/
Don & Alex Tapscott, author of Blockchain Revolution (2016) stated, “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” To make this simple, let’s take a look at the three main components of blockchain; the blockchain itself, peer to peer networks and consensus mechanisms. Without these three components, this technology will not be able to render any technical functions.    

Understanding Blockchain

Blockchain is basically structured data; it’s like a ledger file that keeps track of all the financial records. Let’s compare this to a book. The page numbers of the book are equivalent to the ‘blocks’ used in this technology. Just like pages, there are numbered and appear in a chronological order. For example, page number 86 comes between page number 85 and 87. Similarly, blocks have a timestamp. The blocks are added in a chronological order with the latest timestamp forming a chain of blocks.
Blockchain technology is considered to be a secure system because cryptology is used to ensure that nobody can intermingle with the timestamps or blocks. If somebody does so, there is digital evidence in the system. This makes it ideal for handling data structure and to keep track of records of anything that is valuable.
We’ll take an example of Bitcoin to showcase how the blockchain technology works when it comes to data management. When a transaction is made in Bitcoin, the block states ‘who’ sent the information to ‘whom’. The ledger stores the information of the person who owns the Bitcoin at any moment in time; this is called the current ‘state’ of the blockchain.
A transaction only takes place when it is included in a block and added to the chain. This sets a motion of documentation; once the block has been added that state of blockchain is updated which means that it gets stored in the ledger. Hence, if one needs to validate whether someone has actually made a transaction or not, the ledger has to be made publicly available. This is when the next component comes into place – peer-to-peer networks.

Role of Peer to Peer Networks

If you need to check whether someone has made a transaction to the address or wallet, you need to use a blockchain as a ledger for transactional data. This data is downloaded, synchronized and made available to a large number of computers worldwide. These computers are called nodes. To ensure that blockchain is secure and up-to-date, they work together in a peer-to-peer network. Every time a block is added, all the nodes are updated.
The advantages of peer-to-peer network are:

  • Blockchains can be checked using a blockchain explorer.
  • One does not need to rely only on one party to know the true state of blockchain.
  • It makes it difficult for the hackers to hack blockchain because there is no one specified computer or system that needs to be hacked; they will need to hack thousands of computers at the same time.
  • Blockchain can never be deleted, because it has to be deleted by all nodes.

There are a few concerns though about checking the data on blockchain. These concerns are addressed by a consensus mechanism, which is the third component of the blockchain.

Understanding Consensus Mechanism

There are a few questions such as:

  • How do I know that the data in blockchain is correct?
  • How does one know that there are no invalid transactions in the blocks?
  • Are there different versions of the blockchain, how do you know which shows the true state of the blockchain?

These questions can be answered, thanks to the cryptographic code that Nakamoto developed for Bitcoin. The consensus mechanism stirs magic: it allows nodes in peer-to-peer network to work together without having to know or trust each other.
 Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum, states, “The purpose of a consensus algorithm is to allow for the secure updating of a state according to some specific state transition rules, where the right to perform the state transitions is distributed among (…) users which are given the right to collectively perform transitions through an algorithm.”
Simply explained, this means that the consensus mechanism has a set of rules that makes sure that the network works as intended and stays in sync. The rules of this mechanism are based on how the blocks need to be added to the mechanism, which blocks are considered valid and how conflict of truth is resolved.  Let’s take a look at each rule in detail!

Adding blocks to the chain

Different blockchains add block to the consensus in different ways. Let’s take an example of Bitcoin’s Proof of Work (PoW). The first rule is to add a new block every ten minutes; this process is called mining. Nodes that add a block to the chain are miners; they use computational powers of their computer to solve a cryptographic puzzle. When the puzzle is solved, a block is added to the chain.

Validity of blocks

Once the miner solves the puzzle and mines the block, all nodes in the network check if the block is valid before adding it to the chain. For example, Tom received 1 Bitcoin which it sends later to Katherine. He then tries to send the same Bitcoin to Jack. As soon as Tom sends the Bitcoin to Katherine, the nodes update the blockchain to reflect that Tom doesn’t have any Bitcoin left. Hence, the block that was sent again to Jack would not be valid and will not be added to the chain of blocks.

How conflict of truths are resolved

Sometimes by mistake, two miners add a valid block to the chain at the same time. Imagine that a part of the nodes have accepted one block and another part has accepted the other block. Just like in the above example, one block was accepted for Katherine and the other included the transaction with Jack. The system will end up having two different states of the blockchain at the same time! This is called a fork. The blockchain was forked in two different chains; does Katherin or Jack have Bitcoin? The question remains, which of the two is the ‘true’ blockchain. It’s rather simple – the longest chain wins.
This is just a brief way to understand how distributed ledgers work.

Blockchain – New Web 3.0

This technology gives internet users the ability to create value and by authenticating digital information. Some of the benefits of using blockchain technology and their examples are as below:

Sharing Economy
Blockchain has decentralized sharing of economy by enabling peer-to-peer payments and letting the parties interact directly.

Initiative like Kickstarter and Gofundme are doing advanced work for peer-to-peer economy. People want to work independently without a third party being involved. Hence, the blockchain technology can help them create crowd-sourced venture capital funds.
In 2016, one such experiment, the Ethereum-based DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), raised an astonishing $200 million USD in just over two months. Participants purchased “DAO tokens” allowing them to vote on smart contract venture capital investments.

Since, the peer-to-peer network has a transparent ledger; the company governance becomes fully transparent and verifiable when managing digital assets, equity or information.

File Storage
Decentralized storage of files on the internet has benefits. The distributed data on several servers make it very difficult for hackers to attack or files getting lost. The Inter Planetary File System (IPFS) makes it easy to conceptualize how a distributed web might operate.

Identity Management
The ability to identify your identity is a key factor went it comes to making any digital transaction. Distributed ledgers offer enhanced methods for proving who you are, along with the possibility to digitize personal documents.
“Netki is a startup that aspires to create an SSL standard for the blockchain. Having recently announced a $3.5 million seed round, Netki expects a product launch in early 2017.”

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC)
AML and KYC can be adapted into blockchain to analyze transactions. For example, Startup Polycoin can identify transactions as being suspicious are forwarded on to compliance officers. Another startup, Tradle is developing an application called Trust in Motion (TiM). It allows the users to take a snapshot of key documents and once verified by the bank, they can be stored cryptographically on the blockchain.

Future of Blockchain Technology

“The future of finance could be dominated by blockchain technologies. A traceable global currency complete with an efficient infrastructure will not only result in massive cost reduction for all market participants, it will change global banking.”

App-Scoop blockchain team can provide more details and guidance on how to build blockchain solution for your business.
Contact app-scoop team – https://www.app-scoop.com/contact-us.html