Chronicled, a San Francisco-based technology company that is currently developing a blockchain-hosted registry and protocol for the Internet of Things, has unveiled a prototype of machine-to-machine cooperation intermediated by a public blockchain.
A drone equipped with a secure blockchain-registered BLE identity chip is able to self-authenticate with a computer-controlled window and gain access to a private residence in order to deliver a package. The computer operating the door is able to test the identity of the drone by asking the drone to cryptographically sign a random number, and then comparing this to the blockchain hosted public key that was registered at the time the drone went into service along with metadata describing the make, model, and specifications of the drone. In the prototype, the drone was registered to the blockchain by Wallmeds–a pharmacy that has been whitelisted by the owner of the home-and the door is able to open automatically.
The innovation that underpins this prototype is the Ethereum blockchain, an emerging diffuse network of computers and consensus algorithm that, along with an IoT and Blockchain protocol developed by Chronicled, makes it possible to create a secure Internet identity for any physical object, product, or machine and to program smart contracts governing machine-to-machine interactions and payments.
According to Chronicled engineer Maksym Petkus, “As far as we know, this is the first use of blockchain technology in interaction with a dynamic physical object and access control in real-time. In a future version, we can assign the drone a digital wallet, so that it can send and receive micropayments. For example, the drone could make a payment for accessing a landing pad equipped with a battery recharging station.”
Chronicled is currently focused on authentication and user engagement for consumer and luxury products, but with an eye toward future applications of the platform, some of its engineers undertook the drone demo as a “hack week” project, according to CTO Maurizio Greco.
Since the system is decentralized, hypothetically any individual could register a drone containing an identity chip to blockchain and send packages back and forth across town to a friend or family member with a programmed route and simple access control devices on the windows. The identity chip within the drone, manufactured by Silicon Labs and running Chronicled custom firmware, protects a private key that enables the chip to cryptographically sign random challenges, which is the basis for the blockchain authentication. The chipset and special firmware is available for brands, companies, and hobbyists who are interested to create secure digital experiences for physical property.
The demonstration presages a world in which autonomous vehicles will provide a plethora of services to customers. These drones will need to be easily recognizable and securely verifiable to the infrastructure and machines with which they interact, and the systems and apps that arise to support this Internet of Things will need to be completely interoperable with secure identities in order to support the interaction of numerous organizations, products, operating systems, and individuals. Chronicled has developed the world’s first such interoperable, cryptographically secure “Internet of Things Protocol” ecosystem, allowing all involved parties to build functionality on top of it to solve these problems.
“Until now our relationship with the Things we own has been somewhat reminiscent of a parent and infant,” says Chronicled Engineer Allen Sogis-Hernandez, “The Things are cute, we adore them, but they lack an identity and they are helpless. The IoT Protocol can change this, allowing Things to gain a life of their own, with a secure identity, wallet, and reputation, all precursors to Things being able to self-authenticate, cooperate, and transact without human assistance.”
While a world in which autonomous drone deliveries is still a few years away, this prototype demonstrates the enormous potential of the Internet of Things to reshape the landscape of global commerce and day-to-day life. Within a few years, numerous examples of secure machine-to-machine interaction have the potential to emerge.
Last week IBM unveiled a $200M investment in a new R&D facility in Munich, Germany in connection with the Watson project, also with an emphasis on IoT and Blockchain.
Another team working on Blockchain and IoT applications is Slock.it. Widely known for their sharing economy applications, the team is now developing a solution for an autonomous electric vehicle that is able to recharge itself via electric induction plates while waiting at traffic lights. “Our project is considerably more cost effective than traditional micropayment solutions thanks to the use of blockchain technology. This creates savings that can be passed onto consumers,” says Christoph Jentzsch, CTO at Slock.it.
The blockchain can become a key factor in enabling a new interoperable IoT economy to emerge. Imagine a car without a steering wheel that is able automatically to pay the gas pump, place an order from a drive-thru restaurant, and securely access a parking garage. Imagine a home whose doors automatically unlock when its inhabitants come into range. Such a world is likely to emerge as the next stage of the blockchain and IoT technology revolution coming over the next decade.
To find out more please visit www.chronicled.org.