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The Blockchain of all Blockchains: how we’re preparing for the Economy of Things

28 Feb 2022

By Editorial Team

Analysts estimate that  are about 21.5 billion interconnected devices in the world and this is projected to increase to 30.9 billion by 2025[1]. But what happens to those devices once they are connected?

They can communicate, but what if they could trade money and data, too?

For our Head of IoT Technology, Jorge Bento and his team, this is an exciting possibility and one that has led to the creation of an entirely new platform. Bringing the power to you, as both a business and a consumer, our Digital Asset Broker (DAB) allows your device to be Economy of Things ready.

I caught up with Jorge to find out more and discuss what this means for our customers.

Q: We hear a lot about IoT adoption increasing, what do you think is driving this transformation?

JB: As individuals, the internet has given us the ability to search for the content we want, talk to each other on social media and socialise with people from around the globe using the power of digital communication. The Internet of Things is giving almost every single connected device out there that same capability.

Think about the quantity of goods containers crossing the Atlantic at any given time. You want to know what is inside the container, where the container is, what the humidity is like inside the container, so you know if your items are being kept in the right conditions – all automatically and all based on the exact condition of goods measured and recoded using IoT devices. That is an example of what IoT is providing.

As adoption continues, the cost to carry data become less expensive and devices are becoming more sophisticated, enabling large quantities of data to be processed at an affordable cost.

What is driving adoption is firstly the immediate process improvements that come with the Internet of Things and, therefore, this access to data. Secondly, the future opportunities to continually improve and digitalise business processes and optimise even further with the Economy of Things.

Q: Where does the Economy of Things come in?

JB: This is the cherry on top. The Economy of Things is created when new value is extracted from the Internet of Things, our connected devices.

If we go back to the parallel of you using the internet to learn about something, to communicate with others, and to buy and sell online; we can also imagine devices acting as an extension of human beings and doing this for us too.

Let’s use the example of the electric car. Today, I charge my car at public stations using my traditional payment of my phone or credit card. I do not know who the energy supplier is, whether they supply green energy, what tariff it’s on, whether its taxed for transportation usage, I simply take what is offered by the charging point.

Now imagine that my car can negotiate, on my behalf, the best tariff based on location and charge time and decide whether to pay a premium for green energy and conduct a zero-touch charging experience. I would simply drive to the location, plug in, charge, unplug and leave.

These devices would transact money between them, all within a safe, trusted ecosystem of the Internet of Things.

When you consider the number of devices you have in your life, think about the quantity of different use cases, the number of transactions devices could be instructed to do autonomously and, as a result, the many millions of monetary transactions that could be circulating. That is something we want to have an important role in.

Q: What role does Vodafone have in this ecosystem?

JB: Vodafone is founded on security and trust and this is the foundation of our Digital Asset Broker that underpins the secure authentication of IoT devices in the Economy of Things.

IoT systems today tend to operate in siloes, only communicating in the very brands that created them.

For example, if you wanted your connected car to talk with a car park, both businesses would need to come together with the creation and integration of some APIs and software to exchange the data.

This is very costly, takes a long time to develop and every time there is a variation you need to create more software and do more testing. This approach underpins the world of IoT today but the challenge is when the car needs to talk to many different systems like car park booking, vehicle charging, traffic controls in different locations with different service operations that are no pre-integrated together.

This is where our Digital Asset Broker platform can help. Incorporating Blockchain technology with IoT, we can make devices trusted allowing them to be authorised to transact across multiple different systems.

Connected cars with a DAB subscribed SIM becomes a trusted device to any other device that also has a DAB subscription. By securing their identity, devices can start communicating and transacting with each other, independently of who owns the device and the business they support. Devices become part of DAB ecosystem.

It is the Blockchain of all Blockchains. We enable all of these disparate “networks” of devices and ecosystems to talk and transact with each other in a secure and trusted way without the traditional challenges of API and B2B integration.

Q: Can you tell us more about how the Vodafone Digital Asset Broker platform works?

JB: There are already a couple of businesses jumping into the Economy of Things but all of them use specific hardware that needs to be built and embedded into the device and that costs money.

We can do exactly the same thing with the SIM card that is already in that device today, at no additional cost. How? Because our Digital Asset Broker platform is formed of three main components:

  1. A low-cost hardware manifestation of blockchain security in the form of a SIM card to standardise machine security – the DAB Passport.

    Patented technology deployed via a small piece of software, that we can either embed or download, transforms a “normal SIM” into a DAB SIM.

  2. A decentralised Digital Identity controls which devices are trusted and, therefore, able to interact between ecosystem players.

  3. The DAB platform then brings this together to create a transactional layer capable of co-ordinating all these micro transactions including payment in a highly efficient and low-cost way as well as providing the control to manage and oversee transactions.

Q: What does this mean for businesses?

JB: With DAB, the opportunities to develop and access new services at greater scale whilst avoiding the complexities of integration are truly endless.

EV car owners can take their home electricity tariffs with them, and roam into charging networks to enjoy the best cost and green energy choices.

Home appliances can be leased as a service model where coffee machines can autonomously order pods based on owner preferences and charge per cup, not for the appliance.

Streetlights can now sell their data to other players in the Smart Cities ecosystem to reduce costs on sensors and increase data quality.

To power these new monetisation models, DAB brings a new level of hardware trust and IoT security, making it cheaper and smarter than ever for machine manufacturers to extend their devices value beyond their initial business cases. Making it possible for them to trade and sell data in a new economy of things, creating new value propositions that previously could not exist.

But DAB not only supports the micro-economics layer but is fully geared for macro-business.

One use case is in trade finance. We are working with major players to reduce the huge amount of paperwork. By automating traditional workflows into smart contracts, we can ensure that all parties know that the asset being traded is secure, the goods are licit and the buying and selling parties are credible.

This is where we can begin to dramatically change how we live and shop, and how businesses and people interact with each other.

It’s a truly digital platform of the future. Discover more about the Internet of Things and how its changing the way we do business.

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