Smart devices are all those devices that communicate through the Internet. They are connected to each other and also to the Internet of Things (IoT). Today, there are a multitude of smart devices on the market: from various household robots to household machines and control systems. For home use, users connect them to shared networks using tools provided by the biggest online giants such as Google and Amazon that use smart assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant to communicate with smart devices.
Even though it may seem that the user is communicating directly with the smart device, this is not (yet) the case. Namely, this communication is carried out in such a way that the user first communicates with the computer server or the cloud server through the application, to which he/she re-enters their username and password each time. This server then communicates on its behalf with the devices in the smart home or apartment.
Likewise, whether or not the user agrees, the server records the relevant information about its use of smart devices. How this kind of data is then stored and processed mainly depends on the ethics of the smart device company. To protect the users from the inappropriate use of their data in the European area introduced GDPR Directive. But this is precisely why server solutions for managing smart devices are also an interesting target for attackers, who can disable thousands of devices around the world in a single attack, thereby gaining terabytes of interesting data to abuse.
Most security and communication issues related to smart devices and systems can be solved by blockchain technology, which is therefore becoming a key competitive advantage for smart device providers. Namely, blockchain technology has some unique features, such as transparency, immutability, increased security, and the ability to isolate intermediaries in processes that can help solve the challenges of the information and communication industry. One of its key benefits is the decentralization of the smart devices network, which in other words means that the devices are not communicating via a server or cloud service, but directly with each other, which reduces the chances of intrusion and thus increases confidence and user satisfaction.
If we introduce blockchain technology to the smart device system and its use in smart homes, the communication between the user and the devices changes significantly in comparison with what we were used to before. Namely, the user and all his devices included in the network are given a unique identity by which they identify themselves. The blockchain network, however, has the role of verifying the identities of users and devices with each other, ensuring that information and instructions are only transmitted to those users and devices authorized to do so.
Similar to our digital identities that we use when we are interacting with different services online, identity on the blockchain network can carry various data and information, and their content is always encrypted. Identities on the network are verified by a system of public and private keys, where the private key represents the digital signature of the individual or an individual device. The essential difference is that the individual no longer accesses the server that communicates with the devices, as the communication between the devices and the individual is done directly through smart contracts; and servers get the role of nodes.
Smart contracts are automated commands written in the programming language on the blockchain network. When the conditions stipulated in the smart contract are fulfilled, the command that the smart contract carries is executed. In our case, this means that the individual and the device identify with each other with their private key, and the smart contract allows them to communicate with each other. When used in a smart home, this comes with a number of benefits: a single application allows the user to control multiple smart devices, and thus remotely control the heating, lighting, opening or closing of shutters, or locking the front door. Such use will only increase further in line with the development of the devices and their integration into the planning processes of the construction of future homes.
– Safety: Imagine suddenly being unable to turn off the lights in the middle of the night; or that you can’t start the air conditioner on the heat nor turn on the cooler in the summer heat? Smart devices communicating with the user using blockchain technology are far more secure than if they do so via single-server solutions. When we eliminate central point of communication, it (ie. the central server) is no longer the single vulnerability that hackers often attack to disrupt entire systems which can put the end user in an unenviable and even dangerous position when they can no longer operate the devices in their own home due to an external attack.
– Cost-effectiveness: Smart devices that communicate with each other on the blockchain network save on the cost of setting up and using server services, because we simply don’t need them in this case.
– Privacy and protection of personal information: If communication between devices and individuals takes place on a blockchain, the device provider also cannot arbitrarily dispose of information about how and when the user uses his device, since the data is encrypted and can only be accessed by those who own a private key. This gives the user more privacy; on the other hand, it also offers the ability to make the data available to the provider in return for certain discounts, benefits or improvements.
– Automation of device performance and upgrades: One of the key benefits of blockchain is that it is not necessary to upgrade applications with new generations of devices, as the identified devices find their new features on the network. Device manufacturers also have the ability to monitor the condition of devices remotely, identify errors more quickly and provide repair. Also, communication between the devices and the user takes place smoothly and continuously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Device management through the blockchain network is thus becoming a reality in our country and in Europe as well. In Slovenia, we offer blockchain technology for business purposes at Netis, where we are developing AceBlock – an infrastructure that enables companies to subsequently develop various blockchain-based services. In addition to establishing a blockchain network, AceBlock also enables them to quickly establish identities on the blockchain and connect them to AceSpace’s distributed data storage service through the AceID solution.
This option is primarily for those companies that still want to securely store data on users and smart devices and develop additional services based on this. Namely, storing data in a distributed repository enables them to set up various innovative business systems or platforms with the potential to reward users in exchange for using their data. In this way, smart device providers can increase user satisfaction and restore their confidence by collecting personal information in a transparent, encrypted and also anonymous manner.
In the future, we can certainly expect smart devices and smart device networks to work with blockchain technology in our homes. Today, however, we are still in the phase of implementing pilot projects with providers of such devices who have decided to gain primacy in this field. Their courage and daring vision of the future will definitely pay off as successfully carried out pilot projects will become the basis for commercially accepted solutions that will undoubtedly be our new standard of living.
The article was first published in a professional magazine for architecture, construction, interior and design PRO Bauhaus.
AceBlock is a blockchain technology framework which enables companies to develop innovative solutions on top of our modular infrastructure. One of its critical ready-made building blocks is AceID, with which any holder can present verifiable credentials everywhere online.
AceID is based on a concept of an SSI (Self-Sovereign-Identity) which promotes that digital identity becomes a right for every individual. Because it is portable, it allows online privacy and free movement between different web providers or services from one point, which is possible only when the individual becomes the owner of the data.
Give it a try and contact us at [email protected] for more.