Amid the rise of cutting-edge technologies, enterprises have looked to dismantle legacy processes and dated infrastructure. The implementation of digital transformation initiatives have climbed throughout the years and in 2019 alone, such efforts rose by 25 percent from $11 million to $13.6 million. In spite of the obvious benefits of optimization, these initiatives largely went unnoticed by the everyday user, suggesting a mismatch between enterprise aspirations and consumer expectations.
Instead, today’s data-rich environment and a growing track record of prolific data breaches have redirected conversations toward privacy. And yet, consumers appear to perceive privacy as an exchange of value: from penny-wise students who willingly disclose their friends’ emails for pizza to users happily sacrificing their privacy in return for the benefits of ‘free’ technology. Privacy appears to take precedence more so in theory than in practice, as users, contradictorily, continue to harbor ever-stricter privacy expectations for companies, expecting them to address the existing loopholes of data ownership. Managing the distance between consumer expectations and enterprise behavior is part of the digital labyrinth that companies need to navigate in order for digitalization to realize its strategic business value.
Safety in numbers
Digital netizens create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, and if such a figure is difficult to envision, picture this: physically, 2.5 quintillion pennies laid flat would be able to cover the earth five times. This information trail is only expected to grow, further spurred on by the rise of data-intensive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT). Headlined as an enabler of a more intelligent, seamless human experience, IoT is seemingly compatible with the digital psyche of the 21st century.
Despite the conveniences offered by smart devices and interconnected systems, 80% of users express a lack of confidence when it comes to security, with a significant uptick in related breaches as companies admit a lack of accountability arising from the centralized network infrastructures of IoT systems. Within the IoT system, where the flow of information is embedded across touchpoints of everyday life, innocuous parcels of data can be a victim to the somewhat hostile intentions of malicious actors, whether in data fraud, stolen information or ransom attacks. With multiple points of failure exploited across unsecured devices and applications, the climbing stakes of consumer trust have in turn led industry players to consider blockchain. As a decentralized network, the absence of a central, single point of failure can be quietly powerful in securing the ongoing flow of information.
Where art thou, privacy
Despite its evident utility in IoT systems, sharp critics are quick to point to blockchain’s overt transparency as a fatal flaw. After all, within a distributed ledger of transactions, viewable to all involved parties, the need for privacy compliance is overlooked. In data sharing systems, however, especially in scenarios involving sensitive or confidential information, be it in the case of financial transactions or patient records, full transparency is far from ideal. Once demonstrative of the disruptive potential of blockchain, transparency subsequently appears to be a double-edged sword.
In order to overcome this privacy dilemma, privacy-preserving enhancements can lend a sense of acuity to a somewhat mired situation. The application of established cryptographic algorithms such as multi-party computation, for instance, allows for the computation of functions across untrusted parties, enabling a collaborative model of trustless computation that only reveals the most relevant data pieces while at the same time withholding the entirety of the data set in full. By marrying these technological branches, projects are in the position to develop solutions that can address practical quandaries both old and new.
The ringing response
Far from being viewed as the definitive solution to IoT’s shortcomings, blockchain’s integration demonstrates the required gumption from companies as they deploy increasingly sophisticated solutions. Indeed, while the transparency ascribed to blockchain should not be easily put aside, neither should it be the roadblock in realizing the imaginative possibilities of the decentralized technology. To that end, rather than sitting on its laurels, the brightest minds of the industry are looking towards far bolder and better ideas, leaning on technical infrastructure that proposes support, collaboration, and longevity of the technology in the real-world context. What is possible and what is practical has now become one and the same, and blockchain will be the one technology for those daring to power it all.
About the Author
Leo Lin is the Chief Innovation Officer of PlatON, bringing almost 20 years of cross-industry experience in the telecommunication, semiconductor, IoT, FinTech, and digital security sectors, and serving as one of the company’s leading technology experts. Prior to joining PlatON, Leo co-founded aitos.io, where he continues to serve as CEO, focusing on building identity authentication and privacy-preserving data computation AIoT solutions. He has also previously held senior management positions at leading security firm Gemalto, as well as Huawei Technologies, Future Electronics, and Enea.