IoTeX Founder Raullen Chai on the Internet of Things (IoT) and Privacy

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According to a report by IOT Analytics, there were over 17 billion connected devices around the world, and 7 billion of them were specifically Internet of Things (IoT) devices in August 2018. To put that into perspective, the world’s population currently hovers at around 7.53 billion people.

The number of IoT devices is forecast to grow to 18 billion devices in 2022, which means that numerically, we’re outnumbered. This prediction means that a majority of homes in the United States will have some sort of smart, connected device, collecting diagnostic feedback and analyzing usage patterns.

As the late and great Uncle Ben once said to Spiderman, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

The rapid scale of IoT devices provides creators and data aggregators a data goldmine to work with, and checking this great power with responsibility isn’t in their commercial best interests.

Privacy concerns circling the IoT industry have given many decentralized, blockchain, and cryptocurrency startups like IOTA and IoTeX some steam.

Projects like IoTeX, in particular, are placing a heavy emphasis on building a decentralized trust fabric for the new era of collaboration and data exchange between IoT devices, applications, and humans.

The IoTeX team includes members with backgrounds in the likes of Uber, Google, Facebook,  Bosch Research, Intel. The project has attracted investments from NEO Global Capital, Draper Dragon, Kenetic Capital, Coefficient Ventures, and many more.

We got a chance to connect with IoTeX Founder Raullen Chai. Prior to IoTeX, Chai was the Lead of Cryptography R&D and Engineering Security at Uber and was a Senior Software Engineer and Tech Lead at Google. Enjoy!

How does your solution compare to IOTA and other IoT offerings on market?

The IoTeX blockchain is dedicatedly designed by considering the key characteristics of typical IoT systems such as constrained resources, machine-to-machine communications, security, and privacy concerns, etc., thereby achieving a good trade-off among scalability, safety and security when compared to IOTA and other IoT offerings on market.

Can you touch on the importance of privacy, particularly in the IoT space?

Considering the data collection nature of IoT devices, privacy is one of the major concerns for the deployment of IoT systems. Depending on the industry sectors and real-world applications, the data collected by IoT devices might contain sensitive enterprise and personal information, which poses security and privacy concerns in the IoT space.

What are your thoughts on the concerns (fears) many people have about their Alexa or Google Home spying on them?

Alexa and Google Home follow the general communication paradigm of a typical IoT system, which collects the data from users, conduct data analysis and processing on the cloud, and offer useful feedback to the users.

While those IoT devices provide valuable information for users, privacy is also a valid concern in these use cases. The collected data by Alexa or Google Home might contain a huge amount of sensitive information, which could be analyzed by the advanced machine learning algorithms to derive an individual’s behavior and choices.   

Could you tell us a bit about what you worked on as the Lead of Cryptography R&D at Uber? What were the biggest challenges you faced working on a crypto offshoot at a massive company?

I was leading a team to build cryptographic tools for internal uses and security systems to improve drivers and riders’ experience. The biggest challenge for me was to educate people (even engineers) how important security and privacy are to a massive company like Uber. Moving fast and breaking things is the essence of Silicon Valley culture, but once we are dealing with the real world and real people, we have to be careful about how to process users’ data.

This is a topic that will be very interesting to everyone from general startup nerds like me and entrepreneurs looking to get involved in cryptocurrency and blockchain at established companies. What advice would you give them on pursuing their goal?

Blockchain and cryptocurrency are still at the infant stage, so there is lots of uncertainty. Uncertainty sometimes means excitement and opportunity but sometimes it means directionless and fruitfulness with even lots of resource put into. That being said I personally believe blockchain and cryptocurrency is the greatest revolutionary in the entire human history.

Your team’s qualifications are impressive. Uber, Google, Facebook, Intel, Ph. Ds, venture capital. Could you tell us a bit about how and why you guys assembled to tackle the IoT space? What makes this team THE winning team for the challenge you want to conquer?

It is predicted that more than 20 billion IoT devices will be deployed worldwide by 2020 and these devices form the critical infrastructure to support a wide range of applications such as smart city, smart grid and the industrial Internet. The potential application scenarios and use cases of IoT systems are endless.

Our team contains highly-qualified personnel with deep domain knowledge in cryptography, distributed system, and machine learning as well as complementary software and hardware development skills, which are crucial to addressing the challenging issues in the IoT space and enable us to develop innovative solutions for IoT applications.

How would you counter the Bitcoin maximalist argument that one day, Bitcoin and its second layer solutions would make virtually every application-specific token obsolete?

Bitcoin is a great innovation which unleashed the power of blockchain for the first time. As the first generation of blockchain platform, the design methodology of Bitcoin provides valuable insight for the development of other blockchain platforms.

However, real-world applications have quite different requirements in terms of scalability, safety and security. While Bitcoin and its second layer solutions make significant improvements compared to the original design, these solutions are not able to cover all the application scenarios and application-specific platforms still have great advantages for certain use cases.      

What are the next steps your team must take to push your project forward?

Our team is working closely with the industry partners to bring their applications on the IoTeX platform, which are significant steps towards the deployment of real-world IoT use case on the application-specific blockchain platform and for demonstrating the great benefits of using our platform.

Our mission is to build a decentralized trust fabric for collaboration and information exchange among devices, applications, and people.

How can anyone reading this contribute to the success of you and your team?

We are highly encouraging our community to participate in this exciting journey with us and contribute to the project in various ways, including building the infrastructure, DApps, developing the new features, contributing new ideas, etc.

Thank you!

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