The Internet of Things (IoT) hasn’t been turned on yet, so to speak. There are myriad devices that connect to the internet and/or emit data. Phones we know about, but from cars to thermostats to smart fridges, there are many other things. And then there are the things that are not internet-aware but could be, like traffic lights and buildings. You sometimes inadvertently come across these connected devices, such as when a neighbor’s device pops up on your smart TV.
And IoT is at the center of a future world of smart cities where traffic lights, street lightings, rubbish bins and much more all acquire connectivity.
Getting all these devices and other objects to share their data is essential to making them more ‘intelligent’ and the value opportunity means that major corporations are lining up to get in on the action. But if we want devices to communicate with each other, and with us, intelligently, we need to build platforms that facilitate and incentivize their secure interaction.
In the clearest sign of the corporate world waking up to the promise of IoT, the tokenised blockchain architecture offering from IOTA has in recent days leapt in market capitalisation to $12 billion, partly in response to news of it signing partnerships with the likes of Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers, although it has now transpired that Microsoft is not a partner but a “participant”.
But IOTA has serious competition in the shape of overlooked Streamr, currently valued at just $97 million.
Arguably, Streamr should really be rated much more highly than IOTA when its technology and design decisions are taken into account.
It is a post-ICO business that is making rapid progress. As with IOTA, but not reflected in its valuation, Streamr too has corporate partners that are leaders in their respective fields: engineering giant Rolls-Royce, the king of outdoor advertising JCDecaux, Finnish media and business services company Alma Talent, and Sweden’s Uplause, the leader in fan engagement and interactive event advertising. It is actively working with other enterprise partners but is unable to reveal who they are at this stage because of non-disclosure agreements.
A marketplace for data
On the face of it, Streamr and IOTA are doing the same thing in the same way – creating a peer-to-peer tokenized platform that facilitates IoT interactions, with those interactions captured and recorded on a blockchain. Look a little closer though and there are important differences, and those differences turn out to have immense implications.
IOTA has chosen to reinvent the wheel. It has created its own blockchain when a perfectly adequate one already exists – Ethereum. With resource allocated to building and running that blockchain, it means time and labor wasted when compared to Streamr and the direction it has taken, which is to use the Ethereum blockchain for its record-keeping.
Importantly, Streamr’s approach does not involve storing IoT data on the blockchain but instead uses it as the foundation for a real-time data marketplace.
Ready for real-time – advertising
This makes perfect sense when you think about it. What is the point of storing massive quantities of data on a blockchain that has passed its use-by date? Typically, data is most useful to us in real-time. For example, you want to know when the next train is arriving not when the last one left. Or take an interactive advert at a bus stop that has scan a QR code passers-by can scan to unlock a free service on the advertiser’s website.
It would certainly be useful for, say, a clothing company to store information on how many people interact with its street adverts, but it would be even more valuable from a customer-acquisition perspective to be able to communicate directly with each individual potential customer in real-time by, for example, playing an audio message selected by a camera that can detect items of clothing and their colour and make purchase recommendations.
If the person is already a customer with an online account and has scanned the QR code the purchase suggestion could be streamed live to the customer’s online account and an item “picked” for their shopping basket.
Unlike IOTA, Streamr has been designed from the bottom up to handle data in real-time. It turns out that’s a crucial oversight by IOTA.
Ready for real-time – self-driving cars
Here’s another example. When a self-driving car approaches a junction, its sensors pick up the traffic light signals and start broadcasting this information. The lights are green and the car continues through the junction and the sensor stops sending data about the traffic lights it has now past.
If that data was captured in real-time it could be relayed to the cars behind it via the Streamr protocol which already knows the off/on frequency of the lights from a historical dataset and can, therefore, predict when the next green, red or amber light will show. This would allow the cars behind to know exactly what to expect ahead without even having to rely on their own sensors, although they could, of course, use those too.
So, with the data from the car (or cars) that have already been through the lights and the data from its own sensors, the car approaching the lights has greater clarity and confidence about what to expect when it reaches the traffic light.
Monetization brings incentive to share
Uniquely then, Streamr’s protocol and DATAcoin token provide a marketplace to seamlessly and easily share data in a real-time environment, enabling data owners to control access and achieve monetization.
And there’s more. Streamr has created an editor that visualizes data in an easy-to-use graphical user interface, where modules representing, for example, the data of a public transport system, can be dragged on to the canvas and connected to other data modules and logic incorporated, all through dragging and clicking to link up inputs and outlets. It’s impressive software and you can have a play with it by simply signing up on the Streamr website.
This is a company that is moving fast to make the promised future world of IoT a present-day reality.