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Smart Cities: keeping the data real by borrowing Bitcoin's Blockchain

bitcoin

via Flickr by PerfectHue

Smart Cities no doubt face innumerable problems, but one of the fundamental ones is security. Not just the classic, “I have data I have to store, how do I make sure nobody can get at it?” security problem. A smart city might be reckoned to have an almost opposite problem. To make it work means drawing in increasingly ‘real-time’ data from all sorts of domains, locations and jurisdictions both within and outside the city. How can you ensure that nobody is tampering and altering it to serve their own advantage - misdirecting the traffic systems to steer customers to your shop, as a simple  instance. The scope for naughtiness is endless.

It’s early days but one answer to this one small part of the puzzle may be a technique called Block Chain. This is the ‘distributed ledger’ technology that provides the confidence that makes Bitcoin work.

So it’s interesting that one of prime movers behind smart cities in China (China being a big M2M/IoT hotspot) is a consulting firm called iSoftStone, which has been working on Smart City strategies around auditing, verification and data storage. It has just teamed up with Block Chain specialist Factom to see if the technology can be applied to Smart City development.

The block chain seems to be best described shared public ledger where - in the case of Bitcoin, for instance, all transactions can be verified back to the entry point, such that the receiver knows that the bitcoins due are actually owned by the spender - it’s a sort of virtual audit. The same principles and techniques can be applied to streams of data, so that inputs from one datapoint are referable back to their originating points.

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