Blockchain and IoT are both foundational technologies. Like the Internet they both have the capacity to completely change the way businesses operate in any sector and also have a significant impact on our daily lives from a social perspective – says Mike Taylor, Marketing and Communications at Modum.io in Bithub.pl’s #SundayInterview.
Let’s start with the basics: what is IoT and how far does it (want to) go into our daily lives?
Mike Taylor: The Internet of Things is the network between physical devices embedded with network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data. For most people, we imagine IoT technology in our daily lives as being limited to our engagement with consumer electronics and their ability to interface with processes, routines, and chores. We imagine analog technologies – our refrigerator, our air-conditioner, our car – becoming connected to our smart phones, providing us with usage data, automating to our preferences, and operating more effectively.
The idea that the individual is central to this network between devices is palatable but it’s only the entry point for understanding how IoT will impact our daily lives. We need to take the idea of our car collecting our data to perform better for us and scale it up. IoT technology yields an incredible amount of data regarding processes and routines at a social scale.
For individuals this means that by carrying a smart phone most of us are in effect enabling helpful data to be generated about them. This can be very helpful, because it call allow the systems we interact with to better serve us. As an example, it can streamline and maximize the impact of transportation services or garbage collection in the case of smart cities. However, while the amount of data that we are generating can allow us to be served more effectively it can also make us easy to market to, for better or worse.
How dependent on blockchain is IoT? In other words: would IoT be feasible without blockchain?
MT: Blockchain and IoT are both foundational technologies. Like the Internet they both have the capacity to completely change the way businesses operate in any sector and also have a significant impact on our daily lives from a social perspective.
In modum’s case, our system allows our pharmaceutical clients to benefit from a blockchain backend, which can store the data collected from an IoT sensor device in an immutable, auditable, and trusted way. For our pharmaceutical customers, data integrity is non-negotiable because of regulatory requirements. However, the blockchain is simply a data structure. The IoT technology could still do its job if we were collecting the data into a centralized database or another form of distributed ledger. The benefit of combining blockchain and IoT technology is that the data from IoT sensors can be stored in a trusted and auditable way, and immediately prompt actions to be carried out by smart contracts in the blockchain.
How does blockchain influence supply chain management? Let’s explain this on the example of your system which focuses on pharmaceuticals.
MT: The modum system aims to provide data integrity within a supply chain using four key ingredients: an IoT sensor device, a dashboard, a smart phone app, and a smart contract in the blockchain. Our first use case targets pharmaceutical distributors in Europe who, under recent regulations, are now required to keep an auditable record of all of the temperatures that drugs for human use have been subject to. The way it works is simple: A quality assurance team creates product-based temperature thresholds using the dashboard; logistics personnel would then activate and connect a sensor with a product using the smart phone app and pack them together for delivery; upon receipt, an immediate readout from the sensor device allows the package to be accepted or rejected; using Bluetooth technology the sensor data is sent, via the smart phone app, to the backend where it is stored on the blockchain and can prompt any number of smart contract notifications.
The modum system, understood this way, illustrates two of the most valuable influences that the blockchain will have on supply chains: first, smart contracts enable the blockchain to verify compliance requirements directly and without a trusted third party; and then, further actions can be automated. For modum, this means pharma distributors and dispensaries of the medicines can immediately verify whether or not the medicine is suitable for sale without the oversight of a third party, because conditions are set in the smart contract. This smart contract can then automate a payment process if the product is accepted or a return to sender if conditions have not been met.
You’re using Ethereum blockchain in your solutions, aren’t you? Why have you chosen this particular platform?
MT: Ethereum is an original developer of smart contract technology. These are a key component of the modum system and we are proud to be an early use case for the technology. But, we have stated on our website that we are blockchain agnostic. Ideally, the modum system will deploy the best technology to serve our client’s needs. Smart contract requirements, transaction fees, and confirmation times, among other factors, could lead us to choose a different blockchain technology in order to deliver the best results.
Is your system easily modified and applicable to other supply chain areas?
MT: The modum system is, at present, customizable for a variety of requirements within the pharma industry. By entering the market with pharma requirements, the modum team believes that the quality and security standards in other verticals can be easily met when later applications are developed.
The modum system will grow to include a breadth of IoT capabilities, enabling us to provide data integrity for supply chains in any sector. We have had interest from logistics providers in various sectors concerned with anything from humidity and moisture to vibration and acceleration.
The reason modum is currently focused on the pharma distribution application is because here exists a real, market-driven need imposed by new regulatory requirements in Europe. modum’s solution improves upon the variety of last-mile logistics solutions currently available. So, we believe that pharma will be one of the first industries to use blockchain solutions in its supply chain.
Interviewed by Przemyslaw Cwik