Blockchain DLT: Friend Or Foe To Artificial Intelligence, IoT & Big Data?

Blockchain is a different way of doing familiar things. It’s perhaps a testament to the indoctrination we have suffered as a species that it is taking years for adoption of the decentralized ledger to become mainstream.

This seems a fair statement, because blockchain is an easier, far more secure and enabling way of doing business and making payments. Speed of use is a legitimate consideration, alongside scaling issues, but blockchain as an idea is a step up from where we’ve been. On the back of a single consideration – what blockchain does for business – we as a people can accept it and be content forever more.

Yet, in part due to the world witnessing the extreme volatility of investment desires foisted on an asset class ill-suited to trade as usual and also humanity’s ingrained approach to life, while adoption has been substantial, it remains globally disappointing.

Prior to 2009, rising “big league” IT development issues were centered on the progress of AI, data lake management and the pending, giant IoT. Comparing blockchain to these things is not valid, as they are aspects of modern business and life in general that are currently focus points for development.

This doesn’t imply mutual exclusion, however. If anything, the emergence of blockchain technology in 2009 simply brought with it the possibility of a different way of doing those things, rather than any superseding of one by another. Indeed, while some solution providers may find themselves on the wrong side of blockchain and find their clients calling for a decentralized (and currently sexier) solution, life as a whole is far more enabled by decentralized ledger technology than anything else.

Blockchain DLT And AI

Looking at the realm of AI, it is already seen to be involved in many aspects of cryptocurrency exchanges, current ICOs as well as more peripheral protocols than one can mention. Although a disruptive technology putting paid to any notions of a central authority by employing consensus agreement, blockchain is a more secure way of transacting. If anything, the trustless, smart contract protocols at play in cryptocurrency blockchains, for example, lend themselves to AI in ways no other technology does.

In comparison to centralized protocols and accompanying technologies, blockchain can make any operation more secure and more transparent. AI is concerned with machines being able to behave efficiently, effectively and, importantly, independently. In areas such as facial and speech recognition, education and even self-driving cars, AI seeks to enable machines not to just learn by gathering large streams of relevant data, but to also make them more intelligent on human terms, so that they apply lessons learned from historical inputs.

There appear to be three principal points of investigation that outline blockchain’s compatibility with AI, and vice-versa. A decentralized ledger enables authentication, accurate record-keeping and execution. AI largely facilitates decision making, evaluating patterns and datasets in a manner that leads to device autonomy. Blockchain and AI share several characteristics that will ensure a seamless interaction in the very near future.

Three Points Of Communion For AI And blockchain

Security has been synonymous with modern life, and so much more so online. Blockchain can be applied to everything from seemingly mundane tasks to high value transactions on the network. This is all enabled by virtue of the smart contract protocols inherent to the technology.

In the case of AI, allowing machines to learn and take previously human decisions also requires tight security. Although incorporating blockchain technology into AI functions and outputs may not be a prime point of focus as yet, it should be, as the potential for a seamless fit is pronounced. Since both disciplines or aspects of IT require watertight security, there is already a huge interface for both emerging technologies to populate with collaborative improvements.

Another aspect of the decentralized blockchain is its insistence that the entire network has access to transparent data. Likewise, AI is a Big Data-dependent reality or, more specifically, relies on data sharing for its value to emerge. In a nutshell, a decentralized, open data pool would make machine assessment and prediction far more accurate, with more reliable algorithms. In some ways, it appears almost as though blockchain was designed to take machine learning to the next level, so more seamless a fit is it for the objectives of artificial intelligence.

Lastly, the issue of trust is germane to both arenas. The lack of widespread application of blockchain to date shares a single issue with allowing machines to make human decisions – trust. That said, no better structure or technology exists to feed AI’s intelligence than blockchain.

Blockchain solves the issue of trust by rendering it obsolete with unbreakable smart contracts. AI currently solves the issue by becoming better and better. And since AI improves in leaps and bounds with the quality of data – blockchain data being the tightest and most transparent – it seems a marriage made in heaven might loom over the medium term.

Current best use cases include AI-centric blockchain apps employed by the healthcare industry. Handling massive data inputs and also needing infallible records per institution, patient and treatment, AI-centric blockchain technology now employed by the healthcare community is a giant step up. With less possibilities for error, no corrupt data and a wholesale transparency, automating certain processes with AI while building a decentralized ledger is paying industry pilots big dividends.

The technological future will be one of decentralization, as a tendency. With blockchain being the poster child and AI the first beneficiary, future machines will interact better with us and one another. A rapid enhancement of AI’s possibilities looms in the entrenchment of blockchain technology, as better quality (blockchain) data enables a better modelling of human behavior and activities.

Blockchain And The Internet Of Things (IoT)

The “installed base” (things, cars, gadgets that form part) of the IoT, not including phones, tablets and PCs, should reach a huge 26 billion units by 2020. That market will be worth some $3 trillion. By the year 2025, those estimates rise to $6.2 trillion, a staggering amount. Two sectors dominate in this projection: healthcare devices at $2.5 trillion, and devices in manufacturing valued at $2.3 trillion.

The IoT, put simply, is a network of interconnected and possibly interrelated physical objects like machines and motors that are accessed via the internet. IoT technologies can facilitate an endless number of access and authorization procedures, remote monitoring and control, as well as data collection.

Developments in hardware and bandwidth, alongside cheap, bulk processing, have all enabled the almost logical rise of the IoT. The development of IP (internet protocol) Version Six (IPv6) is also enabling a seamless life online that aids development of the IoT. That said, although components of the IoT are currently most easily distinguished by their internet connectivity, the IoT-AI symbiosis also manifests differently.

If echoes of blockchain are heard in a depiction of a network of interconnected and on-or-offline devices, it’s no mistake. Components of the IoT flit on- and offline as users require, but the similarity between a blockchain enabling transactions and the vision of a machine performing upon instruction (or through AI) to function as directed, is pronounced.

A blockchain makes smart decisions with smart contracts, without a central authority. An IoT unit can do likewise, especially when imbued with AI, with its learned abilities. Both systems or visions benefit from an immutable ledger that contains infallible data. When an object, a machine, can sense its environment and communicate, then how and where decisions are made changes – as well as the person or entity responsible for making them. And this is all for the benefit of the end user – exactly like blockchain technology.

Practical Rollout Of The IoT On A Blockchain Platform

Industries like healthcare, manufacturing, agriculture, logistics, retail, energy and electronics, of course, are set to be the major players in the IoT over the short term. One sector, retail, is anticipating a 70 percent inclusion of IoT-derived data by 2021.

Enterprise endeavors like CRM and ERP systems already now collect a huge amount of data from diverse devices. By the time 2021 comes around, it is anticipated that some 40 percent of data employed by the sector will come from sensors. So logical even to the layman does the marriage of blockchain and the IoT seems, that deploying blockchain technology to the IoT is a popular pursuit of many modern companies.

Other statistics that point to a seamless fit for the two technologies include the carefully estimated contribution of $3 trillion blockchain is expected to make to the business sphere by 2030, although that figure might be a gross underestimation according to some commentators. Add to that the fact that by as early as 2019, about 20 percent of all IoT units or deployments will incorporate at least an elementary level of blockchain technology.

Imagining blockchain technology as the backbone of the IoT’s interactions, one can see a democratized and secure platform emerging – one whose functionality hinges on no single controlling authority.

The joy of a hi-tech future can only be realized if security is unbreakable. As it currently stands, the immutable nature of the blockchain presents as the most logical protocol to apply to a connected world of things. Some commentators argue that the IoT, in fact, really needs blockchain, and that blockchain will become a household name due to its facilitation of the ubiquitous IoT.

Blockchain DLT And Big Data

There are still a myriad of companies growing on the back of data management. Big Data is still expanding as a phenomenon and an arena of inexhaustible value, and the extrapolation and extrication of the value of the world’s data is far from organized and over.

In truth, it seems that another decade or two will be needed for all companies to get up to speed with data capture, management and use. Add to that the fact that more data pours in all the time, as companies attempt to make sense out of historical data while running a going concern, and it’s easy to glimpse just how massive data management is and will remain.

Simply put, blockchain’s construct aids Big Data’s collection and value. Due to the block-by-block build of the technology, data can now be far cleaner and more accessible, and more easily put to use because of it. Big Data is concerned with collecting all data, preferably unscrambled, clean data; storing it in a manner that builds understanding, and disseminating it downline as a democratized tool that enhances business fitness. When put like that, once again, blockchain is the only logical answer.

Although strongly associated with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, distributed ledger technology is flexible enough to manage any digital information. It’s really just talking about Big Data from a different perspective, as “managing digital information” is simply another way of saying “Big Data.”

The massive benefits for Big Data in blockchain are the absolute purity of the network as corrupt data cannot be added at any point, and the immutable nature of the blockchain. Not only is incoming data clean and transparent, it never becomes anything else. In stark contrast to the endless niggles that modern Big Data management has to surmount, blockchain inputs would simply land on a higher plane.

Blockchain DLT Friend Or Foe Conclusion

With blockchain technology merely offering an alternative to doing typical things, there is no fierce competition for survival between it and any other technology currently at play in the world. As the technology pours blessings in the form of efficiencies and cost-savings on every entity that scopes its potential, no contest appears with legacy protocols. Even a casual glance at the three big arenas of AI, the IoT and Big Data demonstrates that there is a planet of benefits waiting to unfold in application, for all parties.

All three domains have fundamental aspects that can not just marry with but also vastly improve through the employment of blockchain technology. Talk of anything other than the benefits thus seems more like sour grapes than anything else. Most bigger players in all three arenas already have blockchain application squarely in sight to be at the very least investigated, if not currently in alpha phase testing.

With that said, there is sure to be some initial tussling for authority between blockchain and the three above-mentioned arenas, although this clash would appear to stem more from individual human interests than any innate mismatch between blockchain and other business pursuits.

If AI is to become the Hollywood version of sci-fi android reality, there is no more essential platform that needs to be accommodated than blockchain technology. If the IoT is to become a quality-first experience for the people of earth, blockchain technology has to logically inform and assist with its development.

And if Big Data wants to shed the dog work and finally move from sorting through a mess to extracting hitherto unavailable value from its endeavors, blockchain technology has also to become a major component of both input and storage in that arena as well.

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