Welcome!

@ThingsExpo Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: @ThingsExpo, Agile Computing, @DXWorldExpo

@ThingsExpo: Blog Post

Big Data, IoT and Blockchain: Ready to Follow the Yellow Brick Road? | @ThingsExpo #IoT

Recently, a new topic has enlivened the disruption discussions: Blockchain technology

Disruption. You can't have a discussion today about business or technology without the term entering the conversation. I think it's become an unwritten rule. It's almost as if no one will take you seriously unless you're talking about business disruption. Or how disruptive technologies can be used to advance business and provide a competitive edge.

Take Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT). Both rank highly on the list of disruptive technologies. As with most technologies, there are areas of great synergy that ultimately provide a yellow brick road to real business value. (See my recent blog Big Data, the Internet of Things, and Russian Nesting Dolls.)

Blockchain enters the disruptive dialogue
Recently, a new topic has enlivened the disruption discussions: Blockchain technology. And with it, the requisite stream of questions. What exactly is it? How does it help (or does it help) provide business value? How will it affect my current initiatives? Are there synergies to be had - or do I have to worry about it blowing everything up?

What is blockchain - and how is it associated with Bitcoin?
If you do a Google search on blockchain, you'll find several results that inevitably pair the terms "blockchain" and "Bitcoin." That's because blockchain technology enables digital currencies like Bitcoin to work. As you may be aware, Bitcoin has no physical form, is not controlled by a single entity, nor is it backed by any government or agency.

(I'm not going to attempt to discuss the pros and cons of Bitcoin here. Those conversations can be almost as emotional as political discussions - and voluminous enough to fill books.)

A permanent digital transaction database...
In simple terms, blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions that you might think of as a spreadsheet. Yet it comprises a constantly growing list of transactions called "blocks" - all of which are sequentially connected. Each block has a link to the previous one in the list. Once a block is in the chain it can't be removed, so it becomes part of a permanent database containing all the transactions that have occurred since its inception.

...is also the ultimate distributed database
Perhaps the most interesting thing about blockchain is that there's no central authority or single source of the database. Which means it exists on every system that's associated with it. Yes, every system has its own complete copy of the blockchain. As new blocks are added, they're also received by every system - for the ultimate distributed database. If you lose your copy, no problem. By rejoining the blockchain network you get a fresh new copy of the entire blockchain.

How do you ensure transactional security?
By now you're probably wondering, "How can this possibly result in a secure method for conducting digital transactions?" The short answer is through some very complex cryptography, math puzzles, and crowdsourcing consensus. There's a great video that explains it in some detail on YouTube. It's a little over 20 minutes long, but is the best explanation I've seen of a very complex solution.

The net result is called a "trustless system." Which is not to say the system can't be trusted. It simply means that two parties don't need a trusted third party (such as a bank or credit card company) to maintain a ledger and valid transactions. Every transaction can always be verified against the distributed ledger, a copy of which resides with all parties.

Note: One thing that's important to understand is that while you can't have Bitcoin without blockchain, you can use blockchain without involving Bitcoin - and that's when things can become very interesting.

Blockchain and Big Data
When you talk about blockchain in the context of Bitcoin, the connection to Big Data seems a little tenuous. What if, instead of Bitcoin, the blockchain was a ledger for other financial transactions? Or business contracts? Or stock trades?

The financial services industry is starting to take a serious look at blockchain technology. Citi, NASDAQ, and Visa recently made significant investments in Chain.com, a Bitcoin blockchain service provider. Oliver Bussmann, CIO of UBS, says that blockchain technology could "pare transaction processing time from days to minutes."

The business imperative in financial services for blockchain is powerful. Imagine blockchains of that magnitude. Huge data lakes of blocks that contain the full history of every financial transaction, all available for analysis. Blockchain provides for the integrity of the ledger, but not for the analysis. That's where Big Data and accompanying analysis tools will come into play.

Blockchain and the Internet of Things
There's no doubt that IoT is a tremendous growth industry. Gartner predicts that the number of "things" will exceed 25 billion (with a B) devices within the next four years. These things can be anything from a small sensor to a large appliance - and everything in between. Two key challenges are securing those devices, and the privacy of the data they exchange.

Traditional centralized authority and message brokering could help address these issues, but will not scale with the number of devices predicted and the 100's of billions of transactions the devices will generate.

Several major industry leaders put forth blockchain technology as a possible solution to these challenges. The vision is a decentralized IoT, where the blockchain can act as the framework for facilitating transaction processing and coordination among interacting devices. Each device would manage its own roles and behavior and rules for interaction.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road
The blockchain builds itself a block at a time, always growing and moving forward, but also maintaining the trail of where it's been. While the blockchain's original purpose was in support of Bitcoin digital currency, like most disruptive technologies its value is growing in unexpected ways and directions.

As a technologist, I find the technology fascinating. That being said, technology is just a tool. It's our responsibility to ensure the tools can be leveraged to provide true business value. Whether it's reduction of transaction processing time, analysis of transaction trends, or providing a mechanism to securely scale the Internet of Things messaging, the synergies with Big Data and IoT are one way we can follow that yellow block road to true business value.

This post is sponsored by SAS and Big Data Forum.

More Stories By Ed Featherston

Ed Featherston is VP, Principal Architect at Cloud Technology Partners. He brings 35 years of technology experience in designing, building, and implementing large complex solutions. He has significant expertise in systems integration, Internet/intranet, and cloud technologies. He has delivered projects in various industries, including financial services, pharmacy, government and retail.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...