Integrating Blockchain (BC) and AI
Blockchain is a groundbreaking technology permitting the safe and reliable storage and transmission of data, among its other advantages. AI, on the other hand, is a revolutionary technology that can learn on its own by analyzing and discovering patterns in massive amounts of (big) data. There is, therefore, a natural complementarity between the two, as blockchain safely stores/transmits trustworthy data while AI requires huge amounts of reliable data to discover patterns and learn (Figure 1). The potential benefits of marrying AI and BC are expected to be in many areas, including medicine, AV (Autonomous Vehicles), IoT (Internet of Things), smart contracts, DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) and in many additional applications, most of them not yet conceived.
The benefits of integrating AI and BC in three specific areas are explained below showing the urgent need to marry these two technologies:
Autonomous Vehicles (AVs): AVs is probably the most advanced AI application so far. Whatever, the difficulties, it is mind blowing that vehicles, including big trucks, can drive on their own causing, according to some reports, less than 90% accidents than people. Waymo, Google’s driverless car company, is now running its autonomous minivans around Phoenix with no human inside to grab the wheel if things go bad. It took Google eight years to go from its experimental AVs to “a fully driverless car interacting with the world, all of the other human-driven cars, pedestrians and cyclists and other things that are on the road at the same time”, according to Waymo’s CEO Krafcik. The added advantages of integrating BC to AVs could be in three directions; first, towards improved security, second, assuring rich network interconnections among AVs on the road and third, permitting their autonomous operations.
Security is an issue for all network applications. For AVs, it can mean stealing them or sabotaging their operations, or even gaining control of cars/trucks to be used for terrorist attacks against pedestrians. Utilizing blockchain technology minimizes the possibility of hacking and will eventually eliminate the dangers of malicious usage, as BC technologies will further improve safety. Each AV will be eventually issued a unique number recording its position over time and allowing it to communicate with other AVs on the road, with immense possibilities for reducing or avoiding traffic jams and innovative ways to maximize ride sharing. Finally, once AVs are equipped with smart BC contracts, they can operate on their own, receiving payments, disbursing for the charging of their batteries, garages, eventual repairs and whatever other expenses being incurred, while also distributing their extra contribution to their owners. There will be no reason that AVs cannot be organized and operate as a DAO, minimizing expenses and reducing considerably the costs of their usage. Thus, revolutionizing transportation, car ownership, energy costs as well as pollution.
Internet of Things (IoT): On the other side of AVs based entirely on AI, IoT uses almost exclusively blockchain in its operations to interconnect, via the Internet, computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data automatically and frequently, being the eyes and ears of computers for sensing the environment. However, such massive amounts of available data is useless unless it can be utilized to learn which would require optimize the inputs received from the IoT devices. This optimization can be done using “big” data and machine learning. The possibilities are endless although there are not many concrete applications available yet, with the notable exception of Walmart that uses IoT extensively (Reference). The future will see, however, plenty of IoT applications as considerable VC financing to develop them exists.
Supply Chain (SC): Supply chain applications use both blockchain and AI. At present, their usage is limited but it is expected that it would increase in the future and their integration broaden. BC is currently used to reduced paperwork, eliminate bureaucracy, speed-up inspections, saving money and effort. In addition, using BC does not require letters of credit as the physical reality of goods is assured by BC. AI is utilized for optimizing the scheduling and improving the planning of the supply chain activities. New AI applications are envisioned to allow the automatic ordering of raw material and parts as well as their authentication and tracking within the supply chain. Finally, the utilization of smart contracts can further extent BC’s value by specifying how things should be implemented once certain conditions have been satisfied, including when payments should be made while also augmenting AI contribution by enacting changes to the smart contracts when permanent changes in the environment have been confirmed. Similarly, there are significant improvements that can be made using AI in optimizing scheduling, reducing transportation costs and minimizing inventory levels.