Blockchain continues to enter into the mainstream business market at a fast pace, while moving into other industries outside of the financial services and banking industries. In addition to core business applications, blockchain is also being explored as a possible security solution for the broken and unsecure connected devices and IoT market space. But I wanted to look at blockchain from a business aspect, and explore how it’s expected to impact businesses, as well as emerging as a tool to secure the Internet of Things.
Blockchain for business
Before we dive in, let’s get our arms around what blockchain is and discuss this in simple to understand terms. Blockchain allows the secure sharing of business processes (contracts, business records, business activities, or other records) between companies and partners (business peer network) in an encrypted manner. As information or records from a business or partner is created (call it an event, transaction, or element), those events are added to a growing chain of events that are all secure and encrypted. What is interesting about blockchain, is when events/elements are added they become permanent and can NEVER be changed, edited, or deleted and become transparent to all parties within the network or chain. This essentially creates an accurate history of business transactions, activities, or elements.
One of the most leading use cases for blockchain in business is supply chain management or tracking goods and services as they move from point A to point B. According to IBM:
“Blockchain is already making a difference across a range of industries. For example, U.S. retailers Walmart and food and drink giant Nestlé are deploying the technology to create greater transparency around their food supply chains in order to reduce the risk of foodborne diseases. And Everledger is using Blockchain to help businesses to track the provenance of a diamond throughout its supply chain, tackling unethical miners and dealers. The potential applications are manifold – and exciting.”
One of the largest roadblocks for IoT adoption for businesses has been the vulnerabilities that connected devices and assets present to potential cybersecurity and network security present. As such, the industry continues to explore new avenues to secure the connected assets (devices, equipment, fleets, etc.) and provide for end-to-end encryption and reduce failure points. Because the supply chain is a major component of sensor systems and tracking/monitoring of assets leveraging IoT technologies, the supply chain opportunity is one of the largest opportunities where blockchain can be used. In addition, as we move assets throughout the supply chain, blockchain will both remove duplication and provide for more secure tracking and monitoring. This would also apply to fleet management, the delivery of goods and services (cold chain, transportation, etc.), and even better enable data logging automation requirements for fleets.
In addition to records management and supply chain management solutions around IoT and connected assets and fleet, cyber security related to connected devices is the other burgeoning opportunity for blockchain. The decentralized nature of blockchain is just what the doctor ordered to better manage and secure the host of connected and IoT devices on the market. Most cybersecurity breaches revolve around the hacker getting access to sensitive and vital company, patient, personal information. Blockchain provides for encryption and access controls that may be beneficial to connected devices that have been known to allow for an open back door into the corporate network. Based on the Forbes article:
“Just using blockchain to register a device doesn’t get you much,” said Thomas Hardjono, chief technology officer of MIT Connection Science. “We need infrastructure to manage devices and control who has access to data.” In a recently published paper, he argued that some or all of these parties could be allowed to license or sell anonymized data coming from IoT devices. Receiving the data could create incentives for outside agencies to participate in the blockchain, bringing additional CPU power to support the health of the system.
As founder and CEO of Compass Intelligence, Stephanie Atkinson leads the organizational direction of the company, including strategic initiatives, client engagement activities, financial planning and consulting services with Fortune 500 customers. She specializes in vertical markets, technology segmentation and overall market intelligence and consulting services within various high-tech industries, including the telecommunications, information technology and network infrastructure sectors.
Ms. Atkinson has been in the high-tech market research and consulting field for more than a decade. She has also worked in the industry within the equipment and service provider market. Under her direction, Compass Intelligence became a certified woman-owned business, and in 2010 made the Aggie 100 list as one of the fastest-growing Aggie-owned businesses. She was honored as one of the Top 100 Wireless Technology Experts of 2014 by Today's Wireless World, and she was recognized as a Top M2M Influencer (No. 8) by Onalytica.
Ms. Atkinson has become a well-known and respected consultant and thought leader in the high-tech research and consulting market, and she is widely recognized as a consultant in the implementation and evaluation of vertical market programs in the telecom/IT industry. She has been quoted in numerous business and trade publications, including Washington Technology, EE Times, The Congressional Quarterly, CNN Money, Network World, Healthcare Informatics, the Wall Street Journal, Finance News, America’s Network, Wireless Fidelity Magazine, CEO Magazine and Campus Technology. She also volunteers for the Center for New Ventures & Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University and is a member of HIMSS, CEA, CABA, the Women's Wireless Leadership Forum and Aggie Women.
Prior to founding Compass Intelligence, Ms. Atkinson was a senior analyst at In-Stat. There, she managed Vertical Market Deep Dive services and drove many large initiatives around business intelligence and new market research services. Prior to In-Stat, she was employed at Frost & Sullivan as an industry analyst and as a program leader within the telecom services division. There, she developed and initiated one of the firm's first vertical market research programs, serving as the senior analyst. Ms. Atkinson also held a position as an information services manager at a Texas-based CLEC, Tex-link Communications (Formerly Taylor Communications Group). There, she managed the development of a custom billing and OSS system. Prior to Tex-Link, she worked for Alcatel USA, where she served as an engineering and production planner in the Lightwave products division. At Alcatel, Ms. Atkinson coordinated with electrical, design, process, manufacturing, software, product, ASIC and PCB engineers for the research and development of the Alcatel 1680 Optical Gateway Manager project.
Ms. Atkinson holds a bachelor of science degree in industrial distribution from the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, and an MBA with a concentration in management of technology from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She resides in Bandera, Texas, the "Cowboy Capital of the World," with her husband and two sons.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Stephanie Atkinson and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications Inc. or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.