Researchers at Accenture have developed a Blockchain-powered ‘smart’ plug, which they claim can help cut your electricity bills.
Blockchain is the automated ledger that underpins the digital currency Bitcoin, tracking where digital coins are spent and swapped, whilst also ensuring a level of authenticity and security over who actually exchanges these items.
However, in this instance, researchers have developed a ‘smart’ plug which modifies Blockchain technology so that, instead of simply resolving and confirming transaction records, it can instead negotiate deals on behalf of the customer, in order to find cheaper tariffs.
Accenture believes that the plug, which is currently just a proof-of-concept (POC), could ultimately help those on lower incomes who pay directly for power. Indeed, the firm’s own research indicates that doing so could save this group more than £660 million annually.
“It’s about how we put more business behaviour or logic into the Blockchain,” Emmanuel Viale, head of the Accenture team at the firm’s French research lab, told the BBC, adding that this essentially embeds a “smart contract” into the digital ledger.
The smart plug prototype works with other connected gadgets in the house that monitor power use. When demand is high or low it searches for energy prices and then uses the modified Blockchain to switch suppliers if it finds a cheaper source.
Blockchain and the IoT
Viale says that a Blockchain-based system, which can act on behalf of the customer, could prove useful as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more ubiquitous. Martin Garner, a mobile services expert at analyst firm CCS Insight, told the Beeb that Blockchains are starting to appear in numerous different business areas, including share trading, fishing rights databases and land registry claims.
He said that Blockchain technology could well help “avoid dependence on any one supplier or ecosystem” with the IoT.
“Some users have concerns about the potential dominance of key internet players creating, for example, the Google-of-Things or the Amazon-of-Things,” he said.
“The second attraction is as a way of enabling autonomous trading between things, such as the appliances in your house being set up to re-order supplies from a pre-approved list of suppliers,” he added.
Speaking to Internet of Business earlier today, futurist Theo Priestley – the former chief technology evangelist at Software AG, said that Blockchain could well become the ‘backbone’ for all things IoT.
“Blockchain, the infrastructure behind Bitcoin will become the backbone for the connected economy and the Internet of Things,” said Priestley.
“Any type of document, any type of transaction or record can be made a part of Blockchain technology. The fact Accenture has taken Blockchain in a direction outside of financial services shows just how versatile the technology will be, and how it can benefit everyone not just those with the means to afford it.”