In 2019, a robot-artist Gaka-Chu first sold its drawing for cryptocurrency. Having received an order directly from a customer via a mobile app, it (or he/she then?) generated a picture for a reward in crypto to pay for electricity and paints. That is what we deserve: the robot took money from us to spend them. Market relations have attracted robots, finally taking over the world. No matter how you imagine the fourth industrial revolution, this is how it looks like.
The journey, though, is just beginning! Up to one million IoT devices with their own crypto accounts to be deployed parachain-based on the now-developing Polkadot ecosystem in the next two years. This means a huge new market for smart devices fueled by financial transactions is going to be unfolded very soon.
Before this happened, a series of technical benchmarks showed up over the past 6 years, without which the idea of a robot as an independent economic agent was considered sort of a fantasy.
Сontracts with machines
To be exact, the clear harbinger of the 4th revolution came in 1983, when the concept of digital money was introduced. Several implementations, though – the first electronic cash company in Amsterdam, followed by e-gold rush and Coca-Cola's vending machines accepting mobile payments – did not stay afloat for long. To all effects and purposes, these were the first attempts of communication between human and machine on a market basis.
The next step on that front was suggested by a computer scientist and cryptographer Nick Szabo in the early 90s. He coined the term ‘smart-contracts’ referring to promises in digital form, where the parties perform within protocols. Later, in 1998, the scientist designed a mechanism, which is now considered the Bitcoin’s ancestor, ‘bit gold’.
11 years later, the first BTC transactions followed. Yet the idea of contracts with machines became apparent only after the emergence of Ethereum smart-contracts. But not for everyone, rather for some techno-optimists focused on the intersection of robotics, AI and then-gaining-pace blockchain technology.
The idea itself is that a robot (broadly, a cyber-physical system) can act as an independent economic actor. They, robots, are able to communicate with each other on a market basis. The life-oriented point is to make smart devices literally smart, and authorized to contract with each other, excluding a human from this process.
The problem is that no matter how many IoT devices you have in your home, you still push buttons, pay bills manually, and download dozens of apps. The reason is the machines’ inability to transmit and process technical and economic information simultaneously.
Self-driving car giving you way
To untie this knot, we need smart-contracts. Since 2015, when they were implemented, robots, whatever this word means, have been able to solve a huge range of issues in production, logistics, security, banking.
An autonomous drone, which takes water samples from Eurasia’s largest water reservoir, transmits the data on water pollution to the Ethereum blockchain, making it accessible to be further analysed. Hundreds of such cryptocurrency-powered unmanned aircrafts floating on and over a river could have been providers of a continuous data stream to prevent water from being contaminated and marine life exterminated.
A swarm of unmanned vessels equipped with compact sensors showed up monitoring rivers and reservoirs and taking water samples. Economic transactions, which are needed for making the fleet move, and the guarantee that any third party can not alter the samples taken by them, are enabled by the platform providing market mechanisms for multi-vendor machines.
Drivers and unmanned vehicles can pay other road users for making a lane on a congested road. Imagine they are all connected to a decentralized system for road space negotiation, allowing them to share data, coordinate behavior when parking, refuelling or recharging, and thereby improving urban mobility.
Since Ethereum, various cryptocurrencies support scripting languages allowing for more advanced smart contracts between untrusted parties. Yet progress is slowed down by Ethereum's low bandwidth and the incompatibility of different blockchains, so engineers had to find a common language for them to speak. The Polkadot project came up with an elegant solution of a network, which scales by spreading transactions across multiple parallel blockchain shards named parachains.
One of the strongest performers among these parachains turned out to be Kusama with its August’s $300 market cap and $34 million day's trade volume. A wild cousin Polkadot is now associated with the platform Robonomics, which have been pioneered in building blockchain-based ecosystems for autonomous robots over the last 5 years.
Apart from a completely insane idea to build an interplanetary architecture to relay data between Mars and Earth, the team aims to connect up to 1 million digital twins of IoT systems in 2 years, based on Polkadot. All of them are going to accept various tokens in exchange for getting us rid of routine work.