Welcome!

@ThingsExpo Authors: Shelly Palmer, Karthick Viswanathan, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: @ThingsExpo, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo

@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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Mobile device usage has increased exponentially during the past several years, as consumers rely on handhelds for everything from news and weather to banking and purchases. What can we expect in the next few years? The way in which we interact with our devices will fundamentally change, as businesses leverage Artificial Intelligence. We already see this taking shape as businesses leverage AI for cost savings and customer responsiveness. This trend will continue, as AI is used for more sophistica...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Mobile Create USA will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Mobile Create USA Inc. is an MVNO-based business model that uses portable communication devices and cellular-based infrastructure in the development, sales, operation and mobile communications systems incorporating GPS capabi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enroute Lab will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enroute Lab is an industrial design, research and development company of unmanned robotic vehicle system. For more information, please visit http://elab.co.jp/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Suzuki Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Suzuki Inc. is a semiconductor-related business, including sales of consuming parts, parts repair, and maintenance for semiconductor manufacturing machines, etc. It is also a health care business providing experimental research for...
Real IoT production deployments running at scale are collecting sensor data from hundreds / thousands / millions of devices. The goal is to take business-critical actions on the real-time data and find insights from stored datasets. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Walicki, Watson IoT Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud, will provide a fast-paced developer journey that follows the IoT sensor data from generation, to edge gateway, to edge analytics, to encryption, to the IBM Bluemix cloud, to Wa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Nihon Micron will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Nihon Micron Co., Ltd. strives for technological innovation to establish high-density, high-precision processing technology for providing printed circuit board and metal mount RFID tags used for communication devices. For more inf...
SYS-CON Events announced today that mruby Forum will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. mruby is the lightweight implementation of the Ruby language. We introduce mruby and the mruby IoT framework that enhances development productivity. For more information, visit http://forum.mruby.org/.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Greg Gorman is the Director, IoT Developer Ecosystem, Watson IoT, will provide a short tutorial on Node-RED, a Node.js-based programming tool for wiring together hardware devices, APIs and online services in new and interesting ways. It provides a browser-based editor that makes it easy to wire together flows using a wide range of nodes in the palette that can be deployed to its runtime in a single-click. There is a large library of contributed nodes that help so...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ryobi Systems will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ryobi Systems Co., Ltd., as an information service company, specialized in business support for local governments and medical industry. We are challenging to achive the precision farming with AI. For more information, visit http:...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SIGMA Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. uLaser flow inspection device from the Japanese top share to Global Standard! Then, make the best use of data to flip to next page. For more information, visit http://www.sigma-k.co.jp/en/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Daiya Industry specializes in orthotic support systems and assistive devices with pneumatic artificial muscles in order to contribute to an extended healthy life expectancy. For more information, please visit https://www.daiyak...
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. B2Cloud specializes in IoT devices for preventive and predictive maintenance in any kind of equipment retrieving data like Energy consumption, working time, temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp em...
What is the best strategy for selecting the right offshore company for your business? In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, will discuss the things to look for - positive and negative - in evaluating your options. He will also discuss how to maximize productivity with your offshore developers. Before you start your search, clearly understand your business needs and how that impacts software choices.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Interface Corporation is a company developing, manufacturing and marketing high quality and wide variety of industrial computers and interface modules such as PCIs and PCI express. For more information, visit http://www.i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Keisoku Research Consultant Co. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Keisoku Research Consultant, Co. offers research and consulting in a wide range of civil engineering-related fields from information construction to preservation of cultural properties. For more information, vi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusic will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Fusic Co. provides mocks as virtual IoT devices. You can customize mocks, and get any amount of data at any time in your test. For more information, visit https://fusic.co.jp/english/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...