Flowchain: Leveraging Blockchain to Enable an IoT Revolution
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Jollen Chen, Founder & CEO
Security, assurance of authenticity, and decentralization are the three prongs of blockchain, whose game-changing possibilities the world continues to witness and embrace. With the potential to de-clutter transactions—not just financial or monetary ones—while rendering them tamperproof, blockchain has positively impacted several industries. Using this power of blockchain to augment IoT applications is a promising idea. But is that practically feasible? Will it address the ever-growing requirements of computing power, real-time data transfer, and security demanded by the burgeoning IoT ecosystem?
Jollen Chen has the answer. A researcher and a former system architect, Jollen’s relentless commitment to find answers to the above questions spurred the conception of Flowchain Foundation, an establishment that is set to revolutionize IoT deployments in a secure, affordable, and decentralized fashion.
Now, the question is, how?
Today's IoT applications are often powered by “centralized” infrastructures that make data transfer and inter-device communications complex. As data processing requires immense memory capacities, IoT developers find it expensive and difficult to acquire resources in tune to demand. In addition, the lack of a standard “foundational” ground for building IoT applications makes application interoperability a complicated affair. It is estimated that by 2025, more than 150 billion IoT devices will be in use and yet, there is not a cost-effective, readily deployable infrastructure that can enable real-time data transfer and processing. Flowchain solutions are built to overcome this technology shortcoming.
"Flowchain's novelty lies on the promising estimation that miners scattered around the world can provide at least 88,000 T of computing power"
Flowchain is simply the smart ecosystem that provides on-demand processing power for IoT applications in a truly decentralized manner. The concept is simple, it is all about tapping the abundant memory resources that are, “right in front of our eyes.” Excess storage space and idle computing power are scattered across the globe in multitudes of devices and servers. So why not pool them and create a mechanism to verify the availability and authenticity, and keep track of usage while introducing a ledger-based tokenization system to pay for it? This will provide the much-needed foundation to run IoT applications seamlessly with data security and privacy.
A Universal Standard for Easy IoT Deployments
Flowchain in itself is a novel distributed ledger for peer-to-peer IoT networks and real-time data transactions. The Flowchain ecosystem gives developers the freedom and tools to build their IoT products and services with the infrastructure of a hybrid blockchain. They can procure idle computing power on the go and be assured that their applications and data transactions are streamlined and secured.
Flowchain is the only IoT blockchain project to employ WoTconcept in IoT
As such, the Flowchain framework can run on microcontrollers, microprocessors, and cloud servers, thereby realizing the notion of “heterogeneous” hardware that enables IoT applications' portability to the fullest—“Write Once, Run Anywhere.” To date, Flowchain is the only IoT blockchain project to employ Web of Things, which, as the name suggests, is the application layer of IoT in web technology. “It is thus an ecosystem that has been built out, considering the practicality,” says Jollen Chen, Founder and CEO of the Flowchain Foundation.
FLC—Democratizing Compute and Power Resources for IoT
The FlowchainCoin (FLC) is the digital currency (incentive), the face of the tokenomics that the Flowchain ecosystem spurs. In the light of the “miner” trend and terminology that blockchain has popularized, Flowchain attributes the term to contributors and computing power, for, they stand to gain FLC in exchange. Flowchain's novelty lies on the promising estimation that miners scattered around the world can provide at least 88,000 T of computing power. “The cost of building a mere 10 percent of this computing power amounts to $3.3 billion. As such, why should significant capital be invested in building and operating a centralized computing power center? Companies can pay as they use—with affordable FLCs,” says Angelina Huang, PR & Marketing Lead at Flowchain.
FLC knits miners, Flowchain developers, IoT application vendors, private blockchain builders, and hardware and Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMC) vendors. Like traditional currencies that are based on futures, stocks or even gold, FLC sets its base on hardware, that takes into account tangible assets such as chipsets, PCBs, and sensors, along with “memory” assets. In a digitally enhanced world where data is the new gold, IoT networks can metaphorically be regarded as the new gold mines. FLC then, is the digital equivalent of the real-world currency, the token of a robust blockchain that is purpose-built from the ground up and is not a derivative of any prominent blockchain. FLC can be purchased with ether and can be distributed as block rewards by public mining (providing compute power from idle GPUs).
The EMC & hardware vendors can purchase FLC from Flowchain and embed in the hardware products which become the tokenized hardware. In this scenario, the FLC is a token that permits the edge device to access Flowchain network. The EMC manufacturers can further build their private computing centers and provide the idle computing power to the system via the FLC.
A Blockchain Purpose-built for IoT Applications
Two distinctive aspects that enable Flowchain to be capable enough to scale with ever-growing IoT deployment and networking requirements posed by AI, 5G, and network security are Pseudonymous Public Key Infrastructure (PPKI), and the concept of Virtual Blocks. PPKI authenticates IoT devices and ensures data security and data privacy. It provides a secure and fast authenticity system compared to the traditional PKI technology, which is expensive and consumes tremendous computing power and energy that can even cause IoT system paralysis.
Virtual Blocks in Flowchain provide a new blockchain data structure designed to ensure real-time data transactions. The average waiting time for verifying a transaction could be 15 minutes on Bitcoin blockchain. Moreover, various types of IoT hardware frame different levels of computing power.
Although memory-bound functions have been proposed to deal with the heterogeneous hardware of IoT industries to avoid “mining competition” and denial-of-service attacks, it cannot be employed in IoT devices. It is because a resource-constrained device has limited computing power and memory resource. Memory-bound hash functions cannot perform well with this type of IoT devices. Virtual Blocks technology proposed by Flowchain is designed to solve these challenges in a snap.
As such, Flowchain is inherently different from the blockchains out there. In a nutshell, it offers a cost-effective solution for IoT developers to seamlessly deploy their IoT solutions within a hybrid blockchain infrastructure that consists of the public blockchain for allocating and keeping track of shared computing pool and power, and the private variant for secure, networked data transference and device communications. Flowchain's infrastructures facilitate a seamless transfer of data and computing resources between the public and private blockchains, all marked and streamlined by the transactional prowess of FLC. Flowchain network supports the integration of software and hardware, which benefits the developers to conduct a comprehensive plan for their IoT projects. The developers pay FLC as the service fee.
The Man and the Mission
Jollen started the Flowchain project in 2015, which has since published several peer-reviewed papers to support its technology and methodology. On December 23, 2016, he committed to the initial working prototype of Flowchain, with an aim to meet the growing needs of real-time data communication from machine to machine. Jollen officially established The Flowchain Foundation in 2018, in Singapore. Flowchain aims to build a research center in cooperation with a research university to promote the FLC ecosystem and design a healthy economic model. “Flowchain will not only protect the Flowchain community but also will contribute to the development of blockchain economics,” says Jollen. With the tokenomics of FLC, Flowchain aims to build a network of networks.
The Flowchain Foundation will soon launch Flowchain USB Dongle, which will work as a Network Co-processor (NCP) of the border router to connect Thread Network with Internet (such as Wi-Fi or Ethernet). By connecting with a PC with Flowchain OS installed, Flowchain USB Dongle can also activate the PPKI in the Flowchain OS to audit the data collected by the full end devices. Further, with the upcoming 5G technology, the Flowchain USB Dongle will be able to act as a gateway, allowing the users to control the end devices remotely. This technology can be applied to a smart home, smart city infrastructure, industrial mesh network, smart agriculture, advanced surveillance system, connected health, wearables with wireless payment and other IoT scenarios for real-time data transaction and data security.
The company plans to grow its developer community by inviting the best players to improve and leverage the Flowchain network. “We have joined Hyperledger and the Linux Foundation—two of the biggest open source communities in the world—to achieve this goal. The development of Flowchain open source projects would be one of the major plans in the second half of this year,” adds Jollen. In addition, the entity is cooperating with a research university in Taiwan, National Tsing-hua University to foster evidence-based research on tokenomics, and have established a lab in the campus for its study. The use of technology is open ended, as Flowchain is building partnerships with Taiwan's hardware supplychain companies to deliver solutions with hardware-software integration of IoT Blockchain for enterprises.