The Stack Archive

Verizon sees central role for blockchain in IoT – but not Bitcoin

Mon 21 Sep 2015

After a year of cautious study of the Bitcoin/blockchain phenomenon, Verizon Wireless has begun to deepen its interest in and commitment to the central architecture underpinning the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, as a means of auditable transaction for data exchange. Speaking to Coin Exchange Verizon Ventures director Ed Ruth said “I think IoT is a means by which we can transform ourselves.”

However the new wave of enthusiasm for the blockchain public ledger system has not translated into equal interest for the revolutionary Bitcoin currency itself, and Verizon agree that it is the blockchain that has caught the attention of its visionaries. Ruth allows that Bitcoin itself could have a valid future in emerging economies that lack a stable currency, or that lack infrastructure to energise currency transactions as a central pillar of business. But because Verizon retains a U.S. focus, and because Bitcoin has less to offer the far more established western economies, Bitcoin itself is seen essentially as collateral by-product.

Ruth observed: “For emerging markets, [Bitcoin is a] bigger value than in stable markets with stable currencies…Our initial thinking was that it didn’t solve a large enough problem domestically.”

He continued: “As we started looking at the protocol, it became apparent that blockchain had a bigger potential than the specific bitcoin or cryptocurrency use case. We started to see some convergence around Internet of Things, and we started to seek out companies leveraging the technology.”

Ruth describes Verizon’s interest in the blockchain as a “living and breathing” ongoing interest, and observes that the company is watching its development with interest, despite some scepticism that the market is currently “incredibly nascent”.

Verizon Ventures’ made their initial foray into the IoT blockchain sector this summer with its Nevada-based Filament project, a service operating in distributed environments and constituting an open platform for Distributed Sensor Transactions [DIST]. The project’s ambit is to retrofit legacy technology layers with sensor-enabled mesh networks, using wireless devices called Taps. The networks created in this way operate independently of the cloud or of wireless or mobile networks, providing ‘sensor-as-a-service’ coverage on demand. It is envisioned that the technologies and configurations being developed in Filament can be used to automate and regulate data centre climate control; provide meteorological and soil data in agricultural areas; network sensor-enabled buoys in maritime operations; provide analysable retail data on department store configuration (footfall); and help to prevent vehicle collisions in remote work locations, among other applications.

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