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There has been significant buzz about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it will greatly transform how things are done and how appliances function – even though many are yet to fully grasp the idea. Costs and privacy issues are two of the major concerns that have been identified as standing in the path of the concept’s successful implementation and adoption. Now, IBM and Samsung are teaming up to develop a technology that will help to overcome these challenges.

The two tech companies are working on a concept called ADEPT, which will make use of the blockchain technology that currently powers Bitcoin and other crypto currencies. The proposed system, which aims at decentralized Internet of Things, will use blockchains to serve as ledgers for billions of Internet of Things transactions that would be carried out by devices.

Efficiency of the blockchain technology has been proven, having produced consistent results when used for cryptocurrency transactions. The use of cryptography helps to verify information while keeping all information private.

What is ADEPT?

The abbreviation stands for Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry. The IBM concept makes significant use of the blockchain technology to ensure solid protection of all transactions. To help make Internet of Things more appealing, ADEPT utilizes three protocols, namely: Ethereum, BitTorrent and Telehash.

Ethereum – This is the blockchain technology that the ADEPT system will be based on. Ethereum is compatible with different programming languages and boasts great decentralization capability. Its smart contracts capacity will be greatly used in the system. The blockchain technology is known for its ability to track relationship between parties and IBM mobile and Internet chief Paul Brody believes this would help devices understand the functions of other devices.

Telehash – Created by Jeremie Miller, Telehash is a secure messaging protocol. When devices understand other devices’ capabilities, they need to have a medium of communication. This is where Telehash comes in. The protocol, built using JSON, helps to facilitate these communications, securely.

BitTorrent – This popular file sharing protocol is used to transmit data in the Internet of Things arrangement. BitTorrent is particularly helpful in that not all data connections are the same – some could be rather slow.

One thing to note is that the proposed ADEPT system will not be compatible with low-end devices, according to GIGAOM’s Stacey Higginbotham. This is because the system’s architecture will not be able to support devices powered by 8-bit processors.

Why ADEPT?

For the Internet of Things to succeed there are several issues that need to be addressed. One of these is high cost. The idea of running numerous devices on the cloud is not quite economic. It takes significant financial investment to operate a cloud platform. This is especially more so when devices and appliances designed to last for 10 years or more are involved.

In addition, IBM thinks the IoT is not doing enough at the moment to make it appealing to consumers. A report from the tech company cited the case of cars. Addition of internet connectivity to a car makes no difference if it does not make driving more efficient, say, by making it a car swifter and more secure. There is also the problem of some companies such as Facebook compromising users’ privacy through the sale of their information for revenue.

It is believed that ADEPT could help deal with some of the present issues confronting the IoT. The system offers cost savings, especially given the use of the same blockchain technology that powers low-cost cryptocurrency transactions. Furthermore, devices using the ADEPT system will also be able to share bandwidth and power, making for efficiency.

ADEPT in action

The IBM report on the ADEPT concept, which cited Uber and Airbnb as innovations showing how very helpful the peer-to-peer network revolution could be, stated devices that will work in the proposed system will be registered to a universal block chain by their manufacturers from the very time their assemblies are completed to signify the beginning of life. Such products can also be registered to a regional blockchain by dealers or end users when they are sold.

When it comes to the application of the ADEPT concept in the home, the tech giants used the example of a washing machine. In the draft paper released after the formal unveiling of ADEPT at CES 2015 in Las Vegas, the authors talked about how – through ADEPT – a washing machine “can become a semi autonomous device capable of managing its own consumables supply, performing self-service and maintenance, and even negotiating with other peer devices both in the home and outside to optimize its environment.”

As an example, a Samsung W9000 washer that has been set up to work with ADEPT can use smart contracts capability of Ethereum to send requests for new supplies to a detergent retailer when detergent is running low in the machine. Both the machine owner and the retailer will be able to view the order made on a smartphone or tablet as well as send messages to each other and make payment for order.

Potential issues

The ADEPT concept is not without issues, though, and the authors of its draft papers are already aware of some of these challenges, which include network scalability and Ethereum design issues.

The authors admitted that it will be problematic scaling the system in its current state to incorporate billions of devices in the Internet of Things context. However, it was noted in the paper that efforts are being made to address the issues revolving around scalability.

“Multiple efforts like sidechains, treechains, and mini-blockchains are ongoing to address the problem,” the draft paper read. “While each approach has its merits and demerits we are yet to see consensus on a common approach across the board.”

The paper authors pointed out that the issues bordering on the current design of Ethereum were been addressed. They also noted that ADEPT will also benefit from current efforts focused on anonymizing technology for cryptocurrency.