Today, one of the world's largest Internet companies, Alibaba, together with a compelling array of other providers, vendors, and government bodies for the first time called for a visionary multilateral technical and operational "framework for a Blockchain of Things." The exceptionally thorough and comprehensive 23-page document, SG20-C.008, was submitted into the upcoming ITU-T SG20 Internet of Things (IoT) Study Group meeting at Dubai, 13–23 March — the first group gathering in the organization's new 2017-2020 study period.
The action was a welcome step of strategic leadership at the global multilateral level to help accelerate a potentially far-reaching new platform for trusted, distributed identity management to make it a reality and apply it to the Internet of Things ecosystem. As the document's history section notes, scattered related developments have occurred in several other venues and industries. However, the time to scale up the worldwide collaboration was at hand. The Dubai venue was also significant given the UAE's recent actions to establish itself as a global leader in the sector — establishing the Global Blockchain Council and related international conferences.
The very thorough document begins by providing: background information, an answer to why IoT needs blockchain, what is blockchain, the challenges, benefits, a gap analysis for blockchain-related standards, and the valuable role for ITU-T. It also underscores that "blockchain is not bitcoin." It then proposes a new work item — "Framework of blockchain of things as decentralized service platform." The proposal has a well-structured, limited scope and outline that includes common characteristics and requirements, a general framework as a decentralized service platform, and finally, an IoT reference model that notably addresses security concerns. Two extensive appendices review other blockchain-related platforms and use cases. Additional supporters are being solicited for the ground-breaking work.
This well done contribution — with Alibaba and the supporting parties leading the activity combining collaboration with other venues — should significantly help "in bringing about great promises across a wide range of business applications in many fields, such as finance, banking, healthcare, government, manufacturing, insurance, retail, legal, media and entertainment, supply chain and logistics, finance and accounting, etc." The benefits are compelling.
Blockchain offers new ways for [Internet of Things / Smart Cities & Communities] IoT/SC&C data to automate business processes among partners without setting up a complex and expensive centralized IT infrastructure. Data protection of blockchain fosters stronger working relationships with partners and greater efficiency as partners take advantage of the information provided. Making IoT/SC&C and blockchain together enables IoT devices to participate in blockchain transactions. Specifically, IoT devices can send data to public/consortium/private blockchain ledgers for inclusion in shared transactions with distributed records, maintained by consensus, and cryptographically hashed. The distributed replication in blockchain allows business partners to access and supply IoT/SC&C data without the need for central control and management. Additionally, the distributed ledger in a blockchain makes it easier to create cost-efficient business networks where virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded, without requiring a central point of control. Blockchain with IoT/SC&C together becomes a potential game changer by opening the door to invent new styles of digital interactions, enabling IoT devices to participate in blockchain transactions, as well as creating opportunities to reduce the cost and complexity of operating and sustaining business.
There is a small IPR bump in the road. It appears that a small New York company called RightClick LLC DBA Blockchain of Things LLC, asserted it began using the work mark "blockchain of things" in commerce on 1/1/2015 and attempted to register it as a service mark. The registration, however, is currently suspended.
The innovative, new-changing blockchain activity in ITU-T is also occurring in other ITU Study Groups, including notably a SG17 related workshop just after the Dubai meeting on Security Aspects of Blockchain, 21 March, at Geneva. The workshop significantly scaled a presentation at an ITU workshop last June on using blockchain to combat counterfeit products. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute is also advancing a new synergistic Technical Specification in its Cyber Security Technical Committee, TS103486, Identity Management and naming schema protection mechanisms, including potential use to mitigate spoofed phone calls.
All of these great new innovative actions are welcome examples of responsible global leadership that stands in stark contrast to the Trump Administration "global exit" to pursue its own inward looking deconstruction and withdrawal from the global community behind a national wall. Welcome to the Year of the Trump Rooster — destroying everything in its path as it struts around the national chicken coop dropping alt-facts! Meanwhile, the rest of the world is experiencing a new renaissance led by others with vision.
By Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC
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