Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Monday, November 19, 2018
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IoT, Blockchain Merge in USB Device 

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Just when you figured out blockchain technology, another layer of abstraction and utility is being added: a plug-and-play hardware connection that allows Internet of Things devices to handle blockchain transactions.

Filament, a developer of blockchain hardware and software for enterprises and the industrial IoT, rolled out a USB device this week designed to enable existing devices equipped with a USB port to securely execute transactions on a blockchain. The approach seeks to take advantage of the ubiquitous connections to bring blockchain technology to an installed base of equipment.

“Many organizations have machines, devices, and equipment in the field today that are built to last a decade or more,” said Filament CEO Allison Clift-Jennings. The Blocklet USB device “provides a much faster starting point, enabling those existing devices to become more valuable by allowing them to communicate and transact with each other, and with automated smart contract-based systems.”

The distributed blockchain capability is designed to allow industrial IoT devices to independently process and record transactions. Along with moving blockchain technology to the mainstream, the USB drive is aimed at applications such as maintaining a chain of custody across multiple supply networks.

Filament’s distributed blockchain chip and USB device use open protocols for processing transactions. Hence, the Blocklet chip can communicate natively with multiple blockchain ledgers.

Filament, Reno, Nevada, said Monday (May 14) its blockchain USB device is based on its “Blocklet” chip released earlier this year. The USB device incorporates a microcontroller, flash memory and 72-bit key encryption.

Filament said the Blocklet USB device would be available for beta testing and pilot projects in June.

The IoT blockchain interface is among a small but growing list of platforms designed to integrate digital ledgers with sprawling industrial IoT deployments. IBM (NYSE: IBM) also has merged the technologies via a platform that links IoT device data to private blockchain ledgers. The company’s Watson implementation is designed to allow partners to access IoT data without centralized management.

Along with supply chain management, IBM is targeting enterprise applications such as decentralized edge computing and tracking parts under warranty for scheduled maintenance.

Last year, IBM and transport and logistics partner Maersk (CPH: MAERSK-B) claimed the first “cross-border” supply chain platform based on blockchain.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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