What is IOTA?
IOTA sounds small, but its ambitions are huge. The Internet of Things(IoT)—a term encompassing all internet-connected devices—transacts massive amounts of data and resources every day, and this blockchain-alternative project aims to make machine-to-machine transactions into their own economy, trading data and resources between themselves.
Ultimately, they hope to become “The Ledger of Everything,” creating a currency used between smart technologies. Your solar panels could sell excess energy to your neighbor; your phone could gather weather data and sell it to meteorological computers–the possibilities are almost infinite.
How does IOTA work?
You’re probably used to hearing about cryptocurrencies and blockchains as almost the same thing. IOTA, however, does not operate using a blockchain. Instead, the developers created a platform called the Tangle, which requires participants in the network to validate two previous transactions for every transaction that they want to execute.
When you make a bitcoin transaction you are charged a fee, which incentivizes others to spend computing power validating your transaction. However, if you send a coin on the Tangle the only fee is that your device has to donate some computing power to the network. This means that devices making nanopayments at computer-speed won’t constantly be paying fees, and that the speed of the network will grow with its size—both vital considerations for an IoT application.
As the technology is still in development, there are a few kinks. Eventually it will be a decentralized network, but for now there is a centralized “coordinator” that ensures nobody can take over and exploit the currency. This is probably good, as MIT’s cryptocurrency lab found a security flaw in the cryptography in August 2017. It was quickly corrected, but raised some doubts.
Recent major developments
Despite possible concerns, major companies involved in the IoT sector have recently made large (up to seven figures) investments. Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Samsung ARTIK, Volkswagen, Fujitsu, and Bosch are all partners. Bosch have even officially bought significant amounts of the currency.
The developers intentionally chose a name that implies multiple things, but gave no official definition. Therefore, it can be read as “Internet of Things Application” (their goal), “very small amount” (referring to their small transaction sizes), “lightweight,” or even “Internet of Things Apocalypse” (in the sense that “apocalypse” in Greek means “an uncovering of knowledge”).
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