IBM's IoT blockchain service gets ready to set sail

The cloud-hosted blockchain creates tamper-proof ledgers of data about IoT events

A massive DDOS attack and weaknesses in critical systems have put security concerns front and center in the internet of things. IBM thinks a technology best known from the world of bitcoin could lock down at least one use of IoT.

The company is using blockchain technology to ensure that everything’s in order with IoT transactions. Just as a public blockchain makes bitcoin transactions traceable and verifiable, the private, cloud-based system that IBM will operate for enterprises will verify non-monetary interactions between some devices.

The blockchain offering, part of IBM’s Watson IoT Platform, was announced earlier this year. On Tuesday, the company is announcing general availability of professional services for enterprises to get ready to use the blockchain.

The news comes as IBM ratchets up its investment in IoT, spending US$200 million on a global Watson IoT headquarters in Munich. That’s part of its global investment of $3 billion to bring Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities to IoT. The company said it has 6,000 clients using Watson IoT solutions and services.

The main industry IBM is targeting with blockchain is logistics. When something in transit reaches its destination or goes through different facilities along the way, those transactions can automatically be logged in a tamper-proof blockchain ledger, said Bret Greenstein, vice president of IBM Watson IoT. Also, sensors on a shipped item can detect things like temperature and vibration and record those in the ledger.

Blockchains are secure because they’re distributed records of information. There’s no central repository of data that can be hacked or falsified. Each block in the record contains a computational "hash" of itself and of the previous block, like links in a chain. Any change to a block requires changes to all subsequent blocks, which makes it hard to fake data convincingly.

In this case, the ledger is private, unlike the one used for bitcoin, so each company has sole possession of the data in its ledger. However, partners can enter data into the ledger, and the company that owns the ledger can selectively share data from it, Greenstein said.

For example, a shipping company that’s tasked with delivering ice cream around the world could use sensors to measure the temperature of the product throughout the journey and share that information with the ice cream maker so they know the shipping company is fulfilling its contract. Because every entry in the ledger is verified, the maker knows that the shipper didn’t tamper with the readings.

Likewise, when a container gets handed off from ship to train to truck, IoT devices can automatically record those transactions in the verified ledger.

IBM hosts and manages the blockchain as part of its Watson IoT Platform. In most cases, enterprises will integrate the service with an application, something IBM is happy to help them do as part of its professional services.

The blockchain service itself will become generally available at a later date. Some IBM customers, including electricity providers, oil and gas companies, and cities automating logistics processes, are already using the blockchain service in early engagements, Greenstein said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?