TU Wien Informatics

Opening of CD Laboratory “Blockchain Technologies for the Internet of Things”

  • By Florian Aigner / Claudia Vitt (edt.)
  • 2020-11-26
  • Christian Doppler Labor

Our new Christian Doppler Laboratory deals with the question of how to use blockchains for the Internet of Things.

Picture: Gerd Altmann

The Internet of Things is a collective term for an extensive network of small, useful technologies that will undoubtedly change our lives in the coming years: Technical devices, sensors and control elements will no longer wait idly for a person to come along and give them commands—they will be combined into intelligent, autonomously operating networks in an Internet of Things. In factories, different machines can communicate directly and thus become more efficient; whole smart cities could emerge.

Stefan Schulte from our Research Unit Distributed Systems leads the new CD Lab Blockchain Technologies for the Internet of Things and researches novel methods, concepts and technologies for the cross-system application of blockchains and other Distributed-Ledger-Technologies (DLTs) in the Internet of Things. The Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs, Margarete Schramböck officially opened the laboratory in a digital ceremony on 26 November 2020. The laboratory is supported by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW) and the company partners Pantos/Bitpanda (Austria) and IOTA Foundation (Germany).

Blockchains: Decentralized and Secure

Our daily banking operations work because the bank exists—a central organization that stores all data. Blockchains are something completely different: they are, so to speak, accounting without a central book. The information is nowhere centrally available. It is shared by everyone—in a sophisticated way so that everyone can trust the data. Special cryptographic procedures are used for this.

“At first glance, you might think that this fits the Internet of Things perfectly,” says Stefan Schulte. “Because even with the Internet of Things, the important basic idea is that there is no control center, but rather many small components interacting with each other on an equal footing”. But there is a problem that makes it challenging to combine these two worlds: blockchains require a lot of computing power, a lot of energy and a lot of memory. And this is exactly what the Internet of Things wants to avoid.

“In the Internet of Things, we think of small, simple components,” says Stefan Schulte. “Maybe a temperature sensor that sticks somewhere, is powered by a battery and sends data wirelessly. Or small processors that are built into everyday objects without us noticing much of them”. It is with such components that the use of resource-intensive blockchains is problematic. The new CD lab will, therefore investigate how blockchains can be designed in a more resource-efficient and straightforward way.

A second primary research focus of the new laboratory is the interoperability between different blockchains, as they are located in a highly fragmented technology landscape. “The blockchain technology can be implemented in very different ways. But different protocols are not compatible with each other,” explains Stefan Schulte. Many applications can, therefore only be executed within the limits of a specific blockchain, which is a massive obstacle to the use of blockchain technologies in IoT, where heterogeneous technologies have to interact with each other. “We want to investigate how to define connections and interfaces between different blockchains”.

About Christian Doppler Laboratories

In Christian Doppler Laboratories application-oriented basic research is carried out at a high level. Outstanding scientists cooperate with innovative companies. The Christian Doppler Research Society is internationally regarded as a best-practice example for the promotion of this cooperation.

Christian Doppler Laboratories are jointly financed by the public sector and the participating companies. The most important public funding body is the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW).