How blockchain and edge computing can work together


Blockchain and edge computing can be a formidable combination in terms of power, scalability and versatility.

Blockchain hyperlink symbol with binary code in the background.
Image: Pavel_R, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Blockchain is sometimes perceived as cryptocurrency in general, but it’s a whole lot more. Cryptocurrency is the digital money itself whereby blockchain is the environment in which this digital money is exchanged. Blockchain represents a distributed cryptocurrency transactional system which is often referred to as distributed ledger technology.

Edge computing uses distributed cloud computing using resources at the network edge in order for optimized access to data sources with better, more tightly integrated security.

SEE: Don’t curb your enthusiasm: Trends and challenges in edge computing (TechRepublic)

In other words, devices placed in close proximity to the other devices or systems with which they will exchange data. This structure streamlines network efficiency and scalability to improve data processing and real-time applications such as machine learning and augmented/virtual reality.

Why combine the blockchain and the edge?

Since both blockchain and edge computing thrive on the concept of distributed networking, the two can be a formidable pair working in conjunction. Notably, edge computing often entails powerful graphical processing units which can help speed up the processing of blockchain transactions. IoT devices without sufficient resources for blockchain operations can offload these demands to the edge layer, thereby facilitating such operations.

STL Partners provides a handy graphic outlining the current situation of using blockchain both without and with edge computing. The first structure involves more complexity, delays and hurdles whereas the second structure is streamlined, quick and efficient.

Edinburgh Napier University conducted some research into the topic of blockchain for edge-enabled smart cities applications. This research sought to analyze “blockchain-based security and privacy provisioning in edge-enabled smart cities applications to keep the cities safer and a better place of livelihood.”

Specific examples of advantages to blockchain and edge computing included:

  • Industrial blockchain IoT applications can help energy management in smart cities using smart contracts — which can allow systems to automate transactions between any kind of end-user — in smart grids via dynamic pricing.
  • Mobile number operations via call routing mechanisms can be facilitated to conduct secured royalty contract transactions for faster results.
  • Frameworks for blockchain-enabled earlier diabetes detection can help patients via machine learning algorithms and also secure health information via wearable IoT devices.
  • Signcryption for IoT devices can help reduce communication complexity.
  • Blockchain mechanisms can help protect virtual circuit based drones via a cloud platform.

Top blockchain and edge computing collaborations

Providers are getting into the blockchain and edge computing combination as well. Edge.network, Hut 8 and Zenlayer, and Solana and Lumen are examples of such providers.

Edge.network

Edge.network uses blockchain in a no-fee environment whereby participants can contribute compute resources to profit and permit the company to profit from three unique concepts known as staking, value attribution and network governance.

  • Staking entails the requirement for users to put up 5,000 units of its own $EDGE cryptocurrency when offering spare resource capacity to ensure quality connections and reduce the risk of malicious actors.
  • Value attribution seeks to reward contributors for the resources they provide based on usage.
  • Network governance allows stakeholders to help run networks, offer ideas and vote on or veto decisions. It’s a way to ensure those who provide to the environment have a say in operations.

While Edge.network also provides storage, content delivery and DNS solutions, their edge compute and edge cache are the two products specifically related to edge computing.

Hut 8 and Zenlayer

Hut 8, a blockchain infrastructure provider, and edge computing solutions provider Zenlayer have partnered up to offer blockchain services over edge networks. Web 3.0, which is currently a conceptual work in progress, is intended to be a key ingredient in this mixture.

Web 3.0 will rely on decentralized architecture and distributed computing concepts to speed up data flow which is critical for data-heavy applications, as well as to make it more intelligent with better traffic shaping.

Decentralization is a key component of edge and distributed computing is a major element of blockchain, which is why Web 3.0 is a perfect fit for both. Web 3.0 is intended to give end users complete ownership over their data for a more personalized, secure and improved experience.

Solana and Lumen

A nonprofit blockchain called the Solana Foundation worked recently with Lumen to bring Lumen’s Edge Bare Metal platform to Solana blockchain developers and operators. This process enabled Solana to avoid hardware investments which can delay the application development process and delay the delivery of applications to market. This arrangement also allows a “pay-as-you-go” option via the activation and deactivation of bare metal servers as needed for resource usage.

Another advantage to this pairup is the reduction of supply chain deficiencies, which make it harder for decentralized networks to scale accessing available resources, resulting in the expansion and decentralization of the Solana network.

Latency and bandwidth usage reductions helped improve the speed and efficiency of decentralized transitions over the edge network. In fact, five milliseconds or less is the designed latency in the Lumen environment, which yields excellent application performance.

“Emerging technologies like blockchain demand what Lumen Edge Computing Solutions deliver — increased network security, performance and control,” said Bryn Norton, vice president of specialized sales at Lumen. “Edge computing and blockchain are complementary partner technologies.”



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