As you heard many times before, blockchain technology is going to change the whole IoT industry. What you have not heard is how this is going to happen. Here is the answer to three questions and how blockchain is a platform for IoT solutions.
- What is a blockchain?
- Which blockchain is a better choice for IoT solutions?
- How to design IoT based solutions?
Note that there are several fundamental problems with almost all the blockchains that you know, including BTC and Ethereum.
What is a blockchain
A blockchain is a distributed database that is accessible from anywhere, and there is no single point of failure. So, is that it? You might argue that all these things are achievable by current platforms and infrastructures.
But the cost is higher, and the availability of the system is lower. To understand it better, let me take you through the characteristics of blockchain technology.
A Public ledger
A public ledger means everyone can join the system. That is the major difference between a blockchain and other systems. Let’s clarify that any blockchain that is not public, is not a blockchain. So just drop any private blockchain without being impressed by the big names (e,g., Hyper ledger by IBM).
An immutable database or ledger records everything. So, it is a trail of evidence! It logs every action on the system. It doesn’t mean you can not update a record, you can! But you need to create a new record and refer it to the old one.
If you work with current databases like Oracle, you know how costly it is to distribute data. By using blockchain as a database, the data is already distributed with no single point of failure which leads to 100% service availability with global access.
Paying from a device to another device in the form of micropayments opens many opportunities for IoT solutions.
Imagine in the coming years and with the existence of driverless cars, you get to your workplace, your car goes away and works for you during working hours, and gets paid constantly per kilometer/meter/hour/minute.
In this instance, your car could also sell the current traffic data to other applications whenever they use the data.
All of these are possible only with micropayments on the blockchain, (not all of them) because micropayments are too expensive on any other system.
The nature of asymmetric cryptography allows you to authenticate and authorize devices. The feature is a perfect tool to trigger other devices without a direct connection. More on the later.
Choosing the right one.
Now we know why we should use blockchain in IoT. The next step would be how to evaluate a blockchain for IoT solutions. The followings are the basic requirements for a usable blockchain-based platform
- Global Accessibility
- Low and non-Volatile Cost
A successful IoT solution generates a massive set of actions(transactions). As a result that will put the platform in real test. A blockchain that doesn’t scale has no chance to be used for an IoT solution.
IoT devices vary in many ways, their OS, the application, usage, etc.. So it is necessary to use a platform that works perfectly with any device despite the differences.
How silly it sounds when someone tells you they have their own internet? The same rule applies if someone tells you they have their own IoT network. The nature of an IoT solution is to be accessible globally, the name “Internet” is in the IoT after all!
Low and non-Volatile Cost
In any solution, estimating the cost is part of the process. To do that, you need to make sure the platform you are using has a fair and steady cost. If the cost of using the platform decreases in the future, Great! But an increase in cost will kill the project easily.
Last but not least is the stability. For instance, you have installed a device to work for years, but the protocol of the platform changes constantly. Think about it, you are not changing anything, but any change on the platform affects you directly.
Imagine having an FTP server where the FTP protocol changes every six months, how painful that would be.
A blockchain is secure if it meets the following requirements:
- Having an immutable database where nobody can alter or delete the data. The major difference between a blockchain database and other databases is the immutability. This feature makes blockchain a perfect database to store activities of IoT devices.
- It is expected to continue running in the future. One of the existing problems of many blockchains is the uncertain future of these projects. This comes from things like regulations, business models, number of users, lack of incentive in miners and investors.
- Having incentivized and honest players. In bitcoin whitepaper, the word “honest” was written fifteen times which pretty much emphasizes the importance of honesty in blockchains. So, if a miner or a major player isn’t honest to the platform, nothing can make that network secure.
Not all the blockchains pass the requirements of being a proper platform for IoT solutions. Now we are going to learn how to distinguish a suitable blockchain from the rest.
How to Use Blockchain with IoT
A blockchain is a single distributed database (ledger) where data won’t be altered or lost. Now the main question is how to update this database? How do the transactions on Bitcoin work?
Transactions are a way of telling the network that you want to update the ledger. Generally, this update can be a request for actions like moving coins or inserting data.
Each transaction requires at least one input as the sender unless it is a Coinbase transaction and one output as the recipient.
When someone requests an update on the ledger, he needs to provide the proof for its request which is the signature of Unspent Transaction Outputs – UTXOs (the process is simplified). Only the person who has the private keys can provide those signatures.
As long as the private key(s) are safe and not compromised, nobody can update the ledger on behalf of the sender (the owner of UTXOs).
With the original version of Bitcoin, the transactions also can carry data, this data can be anything with any instructions. (Today you find some limitations on the BTC network regarding injecting data into the ledger.)
We have devices A and B with no direct connection, or through a specific server. Item A is a motion detection device. Whenever it detects any activity, it logs and encrypts the event in a transaction and sends it to the network.
If device A doesn’t detect anything in five minutes, it creates an “OK ” transaction and sends it to the network.
On the other part of the city, device B is monitoring the network(with no direct connection to the device B). Device B is ready to take some actions according to the following situations:
- Device B captures a transaction with the address of Device A as the sender, including the status of “OK.” As a result, it resets the timer to zero and does nothing.
- Device B detects a transaction with the status of the warning. It will make an automatic call to the Police station with a proper message.
- The timer on Device B passes five minutes with no transaction from Device A. Accordingly, Device B will make an automatic call to the Police station with a proper message.
In this scenario, there is no way to counterfeit Device A by an adversary unless he gets his hands on the keys. Also, there is no way to detect any server involved in the process or any relation between A and B.
Another simple example would be having two dogs in the yard and feeding them one by one. For example, you want to feed them only in times that one of them is in the yard, and the other one is resting.
You think about it and find out how we can manage two dogs with GPS devices and food gates that take actions according to the GPS data inside the transactions to the network. The above instances were only examples to grasp the concept of IoT on the blockchain better.
If you look at the keywords, you can think of thousands of other possibilities for creating complex algorithms.
Note that In Bitcoin you can have 2^256 (the real number is a bit lower) addresses. Each address can represent a device without requiring a public IP. The transactions cost less than $0.002. By using payment channels this amount will decrease even more considering the transactions transferred between parties.
Most of what you hear about blockchain technology is just hype but using blockchain technology improves security, transparency, and availability. Also, it lowers the cost of running projects.
At the moment of writing this article, the original Bitcoin is the best candidate for IoT solutions. It has all the elements an IoT solution requires.
In this article, I gave you the pieces of the puzzle. The rest is up to you to come up with countless secure IoT solutions.
Image Credit: Worldspectrum; Pexels
6 Ways to Perfect the Online Presence of Your Business in 2021 – ReadWrite
There are around 1.95 billion websites on the internet. This means there are 1.95 billion online businesses out there who want the same thing as you: the attention of their customers.
The competition might not be direct but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. At the end of the day, the more time they spend watching movies on Netflix, the more time they are not shopping on Amazon or interacting with people on Instagram or Facebook, or interacting with your brand.
Perfect Your Online Presence
To be their first preference, or be in the top-of-mind awareness for a specific industry or category, maintaining a consistent and engaging online presence of your business is essential. But occupying premium space in your target audiences’ minds doesn’t have to be expensive or hard.
The key to making your online presence more effective is to be human. This makes your brand relatable, giving your target audience a chance to connect with your brand.
In addition to that, let’s explore some other effective ways you can strengthen your online presence in 2021.
6 Ways to Strengthen Online Presence of Your Business
1. Optimize Website User Experience
Your website is your business’s first impression. And to make the right first impression, you will need to create an intuitive and rewarding experience for your visitors.
Start by removing unnecessary steps and elements that create friction in their overall experience. The simpler your website, the better the customer experience.
If you are still in the website designing and development phase, here’s an amazing website design cost estimator to help you create an appropriate budget.
Secondly, there’s nothing more boring and off-putting than a static website. So try adding interactive elements like videos, slides, quizzes, games, etc. But also make sure they are fun, add value to their experience, and create unnecessary friction for them. Such elements should complement your website’s main goal and shouldn’t drive your customers’ focus from the main goal.
Lastly, invest in tools that can help you create personalized experiences for your visitors. Netflix and Spotify are the kings of a personalized experience, as they recommend movies and songs, playlists to their viewers and listeners based on their past choices. This is a great way to make your customers feel special and heard.
Other simple and effective ways to optimize your website’s user experience:
- Providing easy-to-access customer support
- Optimizing CTAs based on past data
- Implement responsive web design
- Keep forms short and simple
2. Make the Most of Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool offered by Google to help business owners manage their branded online presence. Optimizing your Google My Business listing can boost your local rankings, improve search engine engagement, and convert more customers.
The first step is to claim your business on GMB and add in the basic information like your business’ name, address, working hours, website link, phone numbers, email address, etc.
Once you are done with the basic information, work on the following sections:
- Question and answers – you can add them based on the past customer questions and feedback
- Product and service listings
- Posts – based on your industry, specific category, and target keywords
- Reviews – ask your loyal customers to leave a review of their experience with your brand
One of the main sections of GMB is the Business section which is a brief description of your offerings. Make sure the description is engaging, friendly, and has the target keywords. Also, keep the content simple and concise.
Lastly, keep adding quality photos of your product or office space to increase customer engagement.
3. Data Protection
The more protection you provide, the stronger your customers’ trust becomes.
Data leaks, thefts, and hacks are happening quite frequently these days. As a result, businesses need to pay attention and prioritize making efforts to protect their customers’ data.
Here are a few ways you can get on top of protecting your customers’ data:
- Endpoint, email, and network protection to filter files containing spam and malware
- Conduct company-wide cybersecurity training sessions
- Secure the web gateway
- Have a data protection policy in effect
- Add encryption on servers to protect sensitive data
4. Create Useful and Engaging Content
When we say content, we mean content in every form and shape—blogs, infographics, videos, podcasts, ebooks, whitepapers, case studies, etc.
Creating value-adding and engaging content goes a long way in building a good rapport with your customers. However, the key to successfully utilize the true potential of content is to be consistent with it. And the key to being consistent is to have a content plan in place. But make sure your content plan aligns with your business’ main goals.
Here are a few ways you can create original, engaging, and value-adding content for your customers:
- Tell a story, but make sure it has some useful takeaways, because they are going to spend 10-12mins of their lives reading your content, so make it worthwhile.
- Invest in creating evergreen content and then reuse it into graphics, Twitter threads, Instagram stories.
- Enable your followers on social media to create branded content for you by giving them assets like meme templates, reels, giveaways, and use the user-generated content to build trust among your audience.
5. Engage in Real-time on Social Media
To engage with your followers on social media platforms, talk about what you know: your industry. Don’t just talk about your products/services; share your knowledge and expertise with your audience. For example, if you have a chain of gyms, then you can share your knowledge about nutrition, discipline, exercises, training, etc.
When you share your expertise, you are giving your audience a rock-solid reason to trust you. And for a cherry on top, you can showcase some of your best work through case studies, before/after posts, testimonials, etc.
After you’ve built a small group of loyal followers, you can host giveaways, making it easier for your loyal followers/promoters to promote your brand. You can also host Q&A sessions to answer FAQs and real-time questions about the products or your area of expertise.
One other great way of engaging with your target audience is to share/repost content from businesses with similar target audiences. Following the same example, a gym owner can repost content from dieticians, nutritionists, personal trainers, bodybuilders, etc. When you repost their content, they’ll mention your business which means their audience will engage with your account.
6. Spend Wisely on Advertisement
There’s no way around paid advertisement anymore. After all the efforts improving user experience, social media engagement, and content marketing, you’ll still need to invest in paid advertising to reach your target audience with the right message, at the right time, with the right call to action for better conversions.
Quick tips to start with the paid advertisement:
- Create a checklist for paid advertisement
- Have a properly analyzed advertising keywords list for campaigns
- Test, analyze, optimize, and repeat for the best results
Quick tips to start with social media paid advertisement:
- Experiment with different forms of content, time frames, and audience
- Fine-tune your copies, schedules, and budget
- Always go to social media analytics for new ideas for campaigns and to analyze which kind of content works for your business
Pro Tip: Always have a predefined budget before running any paid campaign, which should be according to what you are willing to pay to acquire leads/customers.
Lastly, Stay in Touch
After doing all this hard work, you don’t want your customers to visit/shop with you only once. So, make sure to have an after-sales communication plan in place to keep them engaged with your business. It could be through email newsletters, app notifications (if you have an app), social media campaigns, offline advertising, feedback loop, etc.
Image Credit: anna tarazevich; pexels; thank you!
5 Tips to Improve Your Digital Marketing Efforts – ReadWrite
Digital marketing is an ever-growing part of business success. According to Statista, in February 2020, U.S. marketing executives were devoting a whopping 13.2% of their company’s revenue toward marketing budgets. The allotted budget spend was up from an average of 7% to 10% in previous years. The statistics website also reiterated that digital marketing continues to increase while traditional channels shrink.
Even if a company has already invested in digital marketing in the past and present, facts like these continue to emphasize the need to maintain those online efforts in the future. It’s an ongoing phenomenon that Jason Hennessey is well aware of. The CEO of and founder of digital marketing agency Hennessey Digital knows that online marketing isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of deal. It requires patient and steady attention over time.
Digital Marketing Tips From Marketing Master Jason Hennessey
Truly successful digital marketing requires consistent improvement in multiple areas. With that in mind, here are a few tips that Jason Hennessey has found helpful as he’s reverse-engineered the Google algorithm and perpetually improves the ongoing digital marketing efforts of both his own enterprise and countless other companies.
1. Put Conversions First
Convert, convert, convert. That is the golden rule of online advertising, or any marketing, really. It doesn’t matter how much attention or traffic you generate if you aren’t converting it into sales or some other pre-set objective.
This is why conversion rate optimization is critical to consider, particularly once your digital marketing is up and running. But, of course, at that point, you’ve already created things like landing pages, long- and short-form content, and contact forms.
Now, it’s time to tinker with the formula to see what helps and what hinders your ongoing digital marketing efforts. This can optimize each aspect of your marketing collateral and ensure that it’s helping to generate action on the part of consumers.
A big part of this process involves tracking and analyzing data, something we’ll cover more thoroughly in a minute. The main takeaway here is to keep your eyes fixed on conversions at all costs.
2. Prioritize Continuity
Continuity is another part of digital marketing that’s easy to lose sight of — overtime. When you create an initial marketing strategy, it’s easy to have everything in place. Brand messages, vision, logos, and color schemes are all laid out and clearly understood.
As you create your online content across various marketing channels, though, it’s easy for things to begin to drift. The demands and focus of each platform can chip away at the continuity of your brand’s digital content.
If you’re trying to improve your digital marketing efforts, consider reviewing your continuity. Look for any areas where your branding has slipped over time, and then take steps to ameliorate the issue.
3. Follow the Data
Data is an important part of modern marketing. It can be particularly useful when you’re trying to improve ongoing digital marketing activity.
SEO is a great example of the value that data offers. As your digital marketing gains momentum, your SEO will begin to pick up speed, too. When this happens, you can begin to tailor your SEO efforts to enhance your results.
You can do this by using SEO and analytics tools to research industry-specific keywords that you should try to rank for in search results pages (SERPS.) You can also use analytics to track traffic and engagements, use heatmaps, set up A/B testing, and of course, make sure you’re converting in the right areas. Regardless of the specifics, data and analytics are excellent tools that can hone your digital marketing over time.
4. Focus on a Big Picture Strategy
Digital marketing can often be splashy and exciting in the short term. Pay per click (PPC) campaigns offer a quick and effective way to generate traffic. Social media interactions are intriguing yet fleeting. Emails can get a response, but they don’t last long.
If you want your digital marketing to last over the long haul, you have to both invest in and maintain a big-picture strategy. By all means, continue to plan short-term campaigns and promotions. However, make sure that they are part of a larger digital marketing plan.
This should revolve around your audience. Ensure to stay up to date on your customers’ pain points, interests, and other needs. Keep a fleshed-out and updated buyer persona to inform your digital marketing efforts, as well. Also, make sure to invest in long-term marketing activities like brand awareness, content, and SEO.
5. Create a Complete Customer Journey
Finally, make sure that your digital marketing doesn’t stop at the point of sale. If you want to get the most out of your digital marketing efforts, they should be part of a unified and comprehensive customer journey.
This doesn’t mean you have to spread yourself thin as you try to cater to your customers through every possible communication channel. When writing about his personally coined term harmonized retail, strategy and innovation consultant Steve Dennis explains that “the customer is the channel.” Dennis elaborates that “a great customer experience has never been about being everywhere and being all things for all people. What matters is showing up for the right customers, where it really matters, in remarkable ways.”
In other words, your digital marketing shouldn’t be a stand-alone effort to siphon traffic to your website or generate sales. Instead, it should be part of a larger, all-inclusive customer journey that starts with the first point of contact and continues past the point of sale and on throughout your customer service endeavors.
Digital marketing can be an overwhelming activity. As a result, it can feel scattered, disjointed, and expensive. That’s why companies mustn’t just set digital marketing efforts in motion and then leave them on their own.
Instead, take the time to revisit and improve your digital marketing efforts. Optimize conversions, analyze data, consider continuity, and create a big-picture strategy that keeps the whole customer journey in mind. If you can do that, your digital marketing efforts will continue to deliver maximum results both now and far into the future.
Image Credit: negative space; pexels; thank you!
What Does the Future of Telehealth Look Like? – ReadWrite
During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us got a glimpse of the potential future of telehealth. Telehealth, or telemedicine, is the ongoing delivery and execution of any health- or medicine-related services in a remote setting, using telecommunications and digital communication channels. That’s kind of a vague definition, but it includes things like doctor’s visits, check-ins, consultations, prescriptions, and more – all done remotely.
The pandemic forced the hand of technologists, healthcare providers, and other organizations. With people restricted by lockdown protocols and concerned about their own wellbeing, remote healthcare and medicine became the only real options – and it worked quite well.
But what does the future of telehealth look like? And will public acceptance continue?
The State of Telehealth Today
Let’s start by looking at the state of telehealth today.
Current telehealth incorporates a wide range of different technologies, including AI-based monitoring, high-tech wearable devices, consultations via video chat, and more. However, not everyone has made use of virtual appointments or digital communication, and many of the applications of telehealth are restricted to the following:
- Behavioral health. Behavioral health services, including therapy, are often easy to provide over video chat and other forms of digital communication.
- Chronic disease management. Patients with chronic diseases or chronic pain typically need some form of ongoing treatment and support – but going to appointments all the time can be exhausting. That’s why telemedicine is ideal for chronic disease management.
- Consultations. Simple consultations often require little physical interaction. Virtually, doctors can still meet with you, talk about your problems, and even look at your body and measure vitals to see what actions are appropriate next.
- Remote patient monitoring. Thanks to wearable devices and other tech, it’s possible to remotely monitor patients, paying attention to their heart rate, temperature, breathing rate, and other metrics.
The majority of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers agree that telehealth can be effective – and that it’s a preferable treatment alternative for many patients. However, regulatory support remains sluggish, and some people are reluctant to make use of telehealth services because of privacy concerns, skepticism of the benefits of the technology, or just ignorance of how the technology works.
The Benefits of Telehealth
There’s a lot at stake in the world of telehealth. Continuing to make advances and drive the industry forward will have benefits in the form of:
- Convenience. Providing medicine remotely is more convenient for everyone involved. Healthcare providers can provide consultations and some form of treatment anywhere. Patients can get care even if they’re at home. This completely eliminates the need to travel to a facility, eliminates wait times, and allows the patient to be more comfortable throughout the entire process. It’s more efficient and more comfortable, overall.
- Reduced costs. Thanks in part to the increased convenience, telehealth has the potential to reduce costs. Patients don’t have to pay for transportation, nor to they need to use the same facilities as they would with an in-person visit. Providing care remotely can also be faster and take up fewer resources, lowering bills for both insurance companies and end consumers.
- Better turnaround. When meeting with patients virtually and monitoring data streams remotely, doctors and healthcare professionals can typically see more people in a given period of time. This is an especially important benefit, considering our current doctor shortage.
- Higher responsiveness. With live data feeds and automatic alerts, doctors can often be faster and more responsive to the patients who need care the most. This can avert medical disasters and ultimately provide better care to the people who need it most.
- Improved outcomes. Overall, patients will enjoy improved outcomes. More available doctors, broader reach, lower costs, and more immediate treatment will save lives and make people more comfortable.
How Telehealth Will Evolve
So how will telehealth evolve in the future?
- Custom solutions. For starters, we’re going to see more demand for custom solutions – both for individuals and for healthcare providers. Every hospital and practice in the country is going to be hungry for their own proprietary apps, software, devices, and other technologies to provide their patients with the best possible care. Accordingly, there’s going to be a golden age of healthcare technology development – and thousands of new technologies that will push the limits of our medical knowledge.
- Inclusion in health policies. We’ll also see the inclusion of telehealth- and telemedicine-specific policies and outlines in health policies. Government departments, insurance companies, and other organizations will work to make specific rules and regulations for telehealth, legitimizing it in the eyes of the public and setting the stage for future developments.
- Wearable devices. Wearable devices are already a big part of telemedicine, but they’ll be an even bigger part of the industry in the future. Wristbands can currently detect and transmit your heart rate remotely, along with other metrics like body temperature. In the future, wearables will become more diverse, more discreet, and more sophisticated, capable of measuring a much wider range of data points while being hardly noticeable to the wearer.
- Data-based profiles. Big data and telemedicine go hand in hand. If you’re wearing devices 24/7 that collect information about your body and health habits, doctors will have access to enormous volumes of data about you as a person. With that, they’ll be able to make much more individualized plans for treatment – and give you exactly what you need to maximize your chances of improvement or recovery.
- AI bots. Though telehealth will have the potential to free up doctors’ time with faster appointments and greater convenience, we’re still likely to suffer from the ongoing labor shortage in the field. To make up for this, we’ll likely see the emergence of AI chatbots who can handle the majority of initial consultations – providing care to more people and saving time and money in the process.
- Virtual reality. Video chats are effective for most forms of communication, but sometimes, navigating a 3D environment together is even better. In the distant future, appointments may include interaction in a virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) space. It could be a way to preserve the “human connection” element of health or simply provide better care.
- Real-time care. Wearables and diagnostic tools will be capable of sending a constant stream of information to healthcare providers, resulting in a real-time feed of data from which providers can make important decisions. If someone is experiencing a life-threatening situation, a healthcare provider can respond immediately.
- The dissolution of “telehealth.” Eventually, “telehealth” will be a foreign concept because technology is so ubiquitous that it becomes the norm. Telehealth tech will just be a normal, accepted part of healthcare.
Collectively, these effects will lead to:
- Higher public acceptance. Better tech will lead to higher public acceptance. More people will be on board with remote health services – and demand will rise.
- Greater accessibility. Cheaper, more ubiquitous tech also has the potential to increase accessibility. It will be in the hands of more healthcare providers, more people will have new ways to get healthcare, and there will be more provisions in insurance policies to provide that care.
- Lower costs. Tech has been reducing healthcare costs for decades, and that trend is only going to accelerate.
- Better outcomes. Almost every aspect of our current system has the potential to be better, and yield better results, with better, more embedded tech.
When people see these benefits, it’s going to inspire even more ingenuity, investment, and acceptance – resulting in a positive feedback loop that keeps the industry growing.
It’s all but a certainty that telehealth and telemedicine will continue to progress over the next several years and decades – but it’s not certain how or when it will become the new normal. It’s an industry that’s young, with a lot of potential, so it’s an important one to watch whether you’re a doctor, and investor, or just someone interested in better health outcomes.