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Blockchains and Smart Contracts for the Internet of Things

 

Motivated by the recent explosion of interest around blockchains, we examine whether they make a good fit for the Internet of Things (IoT) sector. Blockchains allow us to have a distributed peer-to-peer network where non-trusting members can interact with each other without a trusted intermediary, in a verifiable manner. We review how this mechanism works and also look into smart contracts-scripts that reside on the blockchain that allow for the automation of multi-step processes. We then move into the IoT domain, and describe how a blockchain-IoT combination: 1) facilitates the sharing of services and resources leading to the creation of a marketplace of services between devices and 2) allows us to automate in a cryptographically verifiable manner several existing, time-consuming workflows. We also point out certain issues that should be considered before the deployment of a blockchain network in an IoT setting: from transactional privacy to the expected value of the digitized assets traded on the network. Wherever applicable, we identify solutions and workarounds. Our conclusion is that the blockchain-IoT combination is powerful and can cause significant transformations across several industries, paving the way for new business models and novel, distributed applications.

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