Blockchains are now receiving considerable interest in the business and technology fields. A blockchain is a form of a distributed ledger that embodies an expanding list of records, while simultaneously precluding revision or tampering of such recordsretrospectively. A blockchain records the transactions on thousands of peer-to-peer computers typically located all over the world; such replicated, decentralized database effectively eliminates the possibility of voluntary or involuntary data corruption. Industry advocates argue that blockchains will be a disruptive force for the financial services industry in the next few years, since a blockchain can support a plethora of applications from allowing parties to draw up secure contracts and storing sensitive information to transferring money safely—all without the intervention of an intermediary. Many applications of blockchains have emerged beyond the original application of cybercurrency (bitcoins), including stock clearing; payment clearing and settlement; claims filing/processing; claim fraud detection; multi-stage multi-national smart logistics; data decentralization; and cybersecurity management (e.g., data integrity). A number of banks are on the record stating that blockchains are a “significant innovation” that may well have “far-reaching implications” in the financial industry. An important proposed application of blockchains is for cybersecurity.
The Internet of Things (IoT), where the world is soon expected to become populated with “smart objects”, will make technology increasingly more omnipresent in people’s lives: the IoT is poised to make substantial inroads in all aspects of modern life before the end of this decade, including applications in smart grids, smart cities, logistics, transportation, e-health, ambient assisted living, and home automation, to list just a few applications. The IoT application space is open-ended, from national-level (even global) capabilities (e.g., tracking the movement of goods), to regional applications (e.g., monitoring power lines or pipelines), to city-wide applications (such as smart cities, traffic control, metering, surveillance), to building-based applications (e.g., energy control, ambiance/lighting management), to home applications, to Body Area Networks (BANs) (e.g., instrumented wearables, e-health monitors). Home applications not only span appliance and environment control, but also medical monitoring and assisted living support, which are important in the context of the aging population worldwide (over a billion people over the age of 65 will be alive in the year 2020). There is interest in monitoring the well-being of individuals, not only in terms of medical devices’ data collection, physical security and event alerting, but also in terms of information related to activities such as walking, sitting, ascending/descending stairs, and so on. This technology’s potential impact “spans almost half of the global economy” and could “drive the next wave of innovation for the world” (according to General Electric comments). The market as measured by revenue is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of more than 25%. Developers in firms such as Cisco, IBM, Ericsson, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T are now earnestly in the process of developing technologies, systems, sensors, vertical applications, data analytics engines to support these new applications.
Clearly, cybersecurity for IoT (and supportive technologies) becomes critically important, not only because the exponential increase in the number of threats, vulnerabilities, and bad actors, but because, as noted, the technology becomes intrinsically intimate, possibly impacting (and even controlling) more aspect of a person’s life. Blockchain mechanisms play a role in securing many IoT-oriented applications by becoming part of the security bouquet. The confluence of the IoT blockchains will impact every aspect of life. The article describes some of the business opportunities for service and technology providers, as a consequence of this fortuitous confluence.