New Blockchains for Industry Spinning Gold out of Data Straw

Henri Pihkala, CEO of Streamr (left): "We are building a complementary network to existing blockchains to organize and license the data streams that Smart Contracts use for most security-critical processes. This creates a marketplace for trading data."

Many regard a large part of their data regarded as worthless straw. But with the blockchain in the background, profits can be made from it.

The startup Streamr shows how to set up a marketplace for data trading. A second startup called Bloxcs wants to use the "Blockchain Integrator" to enable third parties to set up their own business models. Blocxs divides the data of the owner, who of course knows them all, into individual channels that are relevant for these companies. Those who deal with maintenance receive only this data. At all times, the owner of the data knows exactly where which of his data is located and what it is used for.

Today, the situation is usually quite different. "The data is usually trapped in silos for some reason; different companies can't share it with each other, although they'd like to," explains Henri Pihkala, co-founder and CEO of Streamr. Even though all companies basically agree, it is not so easy to set up such a system. Who should bear how much of the costs? On the basis of which technology should it work? Usually nobody wants to take the lead and nothing happens. If someone takes the lead, it is not right either: then the suspicion immediately arises that he wants to control the system.

It is precisely this agony that Streamr wants to break through with a blockchain-based open source network in order to overcome the boundaries that exist between silos in companies and between companies. Every participant in the network has the same rights, no one can control it from a central position. "On this basis, a marketplace is created where everyone can sell their own data and buy data from others," explains Pihkala. The focus is on a fundamental insight: "We have to distinguish between the internal value of data for one company and the external value of data for other companies. We take care of the external value of the data with the blockchain technique". That is why Streamr is in contact with IoT platform providers and companies that process data. Streamr has entered into a partnership with OSIsoft because the company has set itself the goal of collecting data from a wide variety of sources and storing it on its own PI system across silo boundaries. Higher-level IoT platforms from various manufacturers can access this data.

For this reason, the company is following developments in the field of distributed ledgers with great interest. "However, we don't want to get involved in blockchain technology ourselves, but instead are working with partners to investigate how the technology can be used for applications outside of crypto currencies," said Michael van der Veeken of OSIsoft Research at the OSI PI World conference recently held in Barcelona. Henri Pikhala sees this division of labor as ideal. While OSIsoft takes care of the internal data, on the basis of that, Streamr can implement its own idea: to make the data streams between the companies tradable. "For this purpose, we have developed an accompanying network for blockchains. The data itself never enters the blockchain, it only runs in the background without the user having to worry about it. The accompanying network is not the blockchain itself, but only uses it. We didn't want to invent the wheel for the second time," says Pihkala. For example, Streamr can perform real-time data delivery and payment with the cryptographic token $Data via a single interface. A machine can then sell the data that the owner considers suitable and buy back information created by others. All this happens fully automatically in the background.

Henri Pihkala: "We have connected our network to the PI system in such a way that a marketplace is created in which the participants can trade the data via Smart Contracts. Streamr is therefore not limited in terms of speed and scalability. This is also a decisive difference to Iota, which specializes in micropayments, but not in the transmission of real-time data. Basically, the system can work with all distributed ledger techniques. Streamr initially opted for integration with Etherium. An example of what Streamr can add value to: For example, data generated by robots is often relatively worthless for users, but machine learning processes can be carried out on the basis of this data.

Another example would be cold chains: Using blockchain-based techniques, containers can not only be tracked very effectively on their journey on trucks, ships, and trains, but it can also be determined whether the prescribed temperatures have been adhered to. If not, it is possible to determine when, where and who is responsible. In all these cases, it is very important that the data cannot be changed or falsified afterwards. Because the ledger is distributed decentrally across many nodes, even catastrophes can have little effect on the function. In addition, there are no intermediaries - costly and time-consuming procedures can be dispensed of and none of the participants enjoy special privileges.

With Blocxs, founded in Amsterdam in 2017, OSIsoft has found another start-up partner who is intensively involved with the blockchain. The company has developed the blockchain integrator, which will be at the center of various areas such as the supply chain, maintenance, end-of-life management, and production. This will enable Blocxs, for example, to make the entire supply chain transparent and traceable, from materials through production and the delivery route to machine maintenance, and end-of-life management. The PI system from OSIsoft already plays an important role here. "It is already possible to exchange data on this, which is a good start. Now we're trying out what else we can do with the data, especially how we can monetize it and exactly where the added value of blockchain technology lies," says John Mulder, co-founder and CEO of Blocxs. The blockchain integrator is based on Hyperledger, backed by IBM, Intel, and the Linux Foundation. "Anyone can use the open system," says John Mulder. "We can monitor access to it well."

At the 2nd "Markt &Technik Blockchain Summit" in cooperation with NürnbergMesse, experts from established companies, from institutes and universities to startups, will come together on the 8th of May to present how blockchain and distributed ledger technologies can be applied in industry. This is about everything that is relevant in the Industry 4.0 environment. If you want to get involved: The Call for Papers runs until the 31st of November.