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Introduction

Smart cities, AI, Blockchain, are the new buzzwords these days.  In this post will be talking a bit about these technologies and their relationship to blockchain.I have been to a few meetups at The Blockchain Hub at York University in Toronto. The Blockchain Hub folks seem to be contributing a lot to the blockchain action in the Toronto area.  Of the meetups worth mentioning following come to my mind:

  • Smartcities, IoT, and Blockchain
  • AI and Blockchain
  • Hadera, a public version of the Hashgraph

Smart cities, IoT, and Blockchain

I totally understand smart cities and the use of internet of things, but the whole proposition becomes questionable where people throw the word blockchain in the mix.  There were claims of money saving and energy efficiency, what escapes me is what does blockchain have to do with all this.  It would have made sense if the presenter had spoken about a specific blockchain use case, apparently not.  The way I see it is that what makes a city or a home smart is the deployment of various sensors and control systems performing actions in unison.  IoT comes into play where all the control systems and sensors are connected together over IP.  This  central hub processes all the information flowing in from the IoT devices, and signals IoT devices to perform certain activities.

 

The only use case I see of the blockchain is when monetizing is involved.  IoT devices effectively could be charging other IoT devices and control systems for providing them the data they have collected.  For this collection, sharing, and charging for data a very fast blockchain technology has to be utilized.  The only blockchain that is capable of accomplishing such speed is IOTA Tangle, which is designed for this very purpose.  There is nothing stopping anyone from using existing database technologies such as MySQL, Oracle, etc.  It really depends on the architecture and requirements that the platform needs to address.

AI and Blockchain

This is the area where people have done presentations saying data is being stored on blockchains. As far as I know, current blockchains are not capable of storing a lot of data to begin.  Then comes the issue of data privacy.  Is the blockchain going to be private or public.  To date none of the private blockchains are robust enough.  AI and ML need very fast storage as well, and to date no blockchain based storage technology exists that can quench the needs of the AI/ML processing.

 

Hadera Platform

Hadera is a public blockchain platform that is based on the hashgraph consensus algorithm.  Swirlds is a US based company and developed hashgraph, and now Hadera. The blockchain is based on a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) algorithm, it is very close to IOTA Tangle blockchain.  Main difference in my eyes is that while IOTA Tangle does not have any transaction costs, Hadera transactions will incur some costs.  Charging for transactions is a great SPAM and DDOS protection approach.  Hadera will be operated by a board of directors from 39 large organizations, across the globe in multiple verticals.  Although the main principle of blockchains is de-centralization, this idea of Hadera being managed by a group of elders is totally negating it.  For a platform to be purely de-centralized, the platform decisioning should also be on chain just like Tezos is attempting to do.

 

Properties of Blockchains

The main properties of a blockchain are:

  • Distributed-highly available as there are multiple nodes.
  • Immutability– Data cannot be modified.
  • Replicated-all data is replicated across multiple nodes.
  • Transparency-all data written to blockchain is available to everyone to read. When it comes to crypto currencies, this property is questionable, hence introduction of privacy tokens that are trying to address the issue of privacy and fungibility.
  • Consensus-a mechanism to agree on writing data to the blockchain even though nodes are owned by parties who have no trust relationship with each other. While this aspect of trust is true for public blockchains, private blockchains operate in trusted environments. And the consensus mechanisms are usually monetary based for public blockchains and for private there are none.

 

Conclusion

Although blockchain is a cutting edge technology, it is not a solution to all problems. Always ensure you document the requirements first, and then look for a solution, and blockchain may well be the solution. So far teams are building blockchain based solutions looking to solve a problem, which is great for an ICO and collect money from poor souls who are just looking at it from “nice and shiny” aspect, and the fact that it is a great money multiplier.  Of all the ICO’s I have seen, almost 95% have been failures.

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