IBM deploys Watson, one of the most powerful AI supercomputers on the planet, in collaboration with cutting-edge blockchain start-ups in order to address the challenges presented by data collection and interpretation for the smart cities of tomorrow.
The internet of things (IoT) brings together a myriad of connected devices (more than 25 billion devices and growing exponentially). Innovative technology is beginning to allow us to harvest the data from sensors that can give us vital information on sectors as diverse as animal husbandry, health, water quality and waste management.
‘Smart cities’ are where this vast array of data will be interrogated in order to improve efficiencies, use energy in a smarter way and improve the quality of life of those who dwell in our cities. The internet of environments focuses on the infrastructure of our smart cities and how sensors can be used to improve health and make deep cost savings in energy use.
These sensors can adjust the lights in a building, turning them off or dimming them due to actual room usage. Heating can be optimised based on outside weather conditions. Sensors can also detect the number of particulates in the air such as micro-dust and give readings on pollution levels and other levels that might be injurious to health.
This is a space ripe for innovation and therefore IBM is deploying money and resources towards making it the foremost player in this new and cutting-edge sector. Also, the world of Blockchain/Cryptocurrency joins forces by offering its own unique solutions that dovetail perfectly with the traditional tech giant.
So what is this innovative solution offered by IBM’s Watson and the world of crypto?
Blockchain startups combine to support IBM vision
Probably the overriding challenge with governing the plethora of data produced from smart cities is that of data security and confidentiality.
As IBM has sought to become the main AI provider for smart cities and the circular economy, it has looked to bring in other innovative companies to work alongside it. Blockchain has emerged as having the perfect requirements of transparency and security that can link with the massive AI capabilities that IBM brings to the table.
The Dutch Blockchain space provides IBM with just the right mix of flexibility and security which can bring successful smart cities and the internet of environments to successful fruition.
V-ID comes from an already successful security business before their venture into Cryptocurrency and Blockchain. Their system works by making a digital fingerprint of any file and then transferring that fingerprint to the Blockchain. The file can then be verified at any time and certified as the original file either by using V-IDs online verification service or by making use of an API, all in a matter of seconds.
The company already has around 20 clients. Prominent names such as Airbus Defence and Space, Krohne and Amspec help to give V-ID the credentials and validity needed to take it from being a successful blockchain startup to collaborating with one of the biggest names in business technology.
V-ID has recently fitted the very first Internet of Environments sensor on the rooftop of IBM’s HQ in the Netherlands. V-ID’s system will ensure that the data emanating from the sensor is from a trusted source. Bad actors would have a lot to gain from manipulating this data for their own purposes e.g. massaging specific pollution figures in order to not have to take action on them or by falsifying temperature data so as to cut costs on heating etc.
Netherlands based LTO Network adds another important element to the IBM/Blockchain collaboration. It is already working with IBM on another venture, which streamlines small criminal cases for the Dutch penal system. The LTO Network provides an extremely fast permission-less hybrid blockchain which is secure, cost-efficient and which ensures GDPR compliance.
The fact that the LTO Network offers a ‘hybrid’ blockchain makes it a perfect fit for treating sensitive data. The data itself is kept on its own private chain but the consensus is done on the public blockchain — thereby providing the best of both worlds of speed and security.
The V-ID verified files are time-stamped and anchored on the LTO blockchain. The addition of a hash means that these files are now unable to be interfered with thereby guaranteeing and securing the entire system.
IBM is obviously a huge and established, globally recognised player, not just in the embryonic internet of environments but also across an incredibly diverse field of tech sectors. Both V-ID and LTO Networks are tiny minnows in comparison and being able to survive in the highly volatile world of Crypto and Blockchain is by no means assured. A secure revenue stream is vital for both.
In addition, such a new and innovative venture will take time to come to fruition. There will be competitors who are looking for a piece of the action and some might have deeper pockets. IBM’s current blockchain partners will need to maximise their first-mover advantage and continue to impress the tech giant with what their platforms can offer.
The Internet of Environments into the future
Once successful trials are completed, it can be imagined that IBM and its Dutch blockchain partners will start the rollout of sensors across the cities of the world. It sounds like quite some undertaking and much research will need to be done on the best ways of capturing and implementing the data.
It really is fascinating to see how Blockchain is providing such a unique use case for the futuristic notion of the Internet of Environments. The thorny issue for most companies of compliance with GDPR is elegantly taken care of by the V-ID/LTO Network solution and if scaling has the same level of success then the sky is the limit.
Circular economies are environmentally friendly eco-systems where business can be done in a sustainable way. The Internet of Environments is not a buzz phrase — it offers a way to live by minimising the impact on our surroundings. IBM and their blockchain collaborators are looking to provide another important piece towards the sustainable planet of the future and so I will be looking forward to hearing/writing about a sector on which little has been widely published.