The European Union Blockchain Observatory and Forum, on 21 April, published a report examining how blockchain can be combined with two other important emerging technologies – the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) – to complement each other and build new kinds of platforms, products, and services.

The report first looks at the interplay of blockchain with the IoT, addressing how blockchain can aid its functioning by providing a decentralised platform to the otherwise centralised approach of the IoT. This centralisation poses a number of challenges while monitoring, controlling, and facilitating communication between the millions of heterogeneous devices. The report highlights how blockchain can provide a more robust, more scalable, and more direct platform to overcome these challenges.

The report similarly delves into the potential relationship between blockchain and AI. It explains some concerns surrounding AI, like how it is currently concentrated in the hands of a few large companies due to the high cost of gathering, storing, and processing the large amounts of data, as well as engaging AI experts. It then illustrates how blockchain can mitigate such concerns so that access to AI models is more readily available to individuals and small companies.

The report explores how blockchain could be used in conjunction with the IoT and AI in a smart city, on an infrastructure level, to manage critical systems that cities depend upon, as well as to improve quality of life for residents through safer and better designed urban environments. The report acknowledges that there may be issues to overcome to realise these benefits, including cybersecurity challenges as well as legal and regulatory concerns related to liability for autonomous or semi-autonomous agents and the safe and ethical use of data and the General Data Protection Regulation. For this, the report offers a number of recommendations so as to reap the benefits that the convergence of these technologies can potentially bring, including not regulating too early so that a balance is struck between protection and promotion.

This policy report can be a helpful tool when considering the use of blockchain and related new technologies like AI and IOT. While not necessarily providing a road map, it provides food for thought whether the use is for smart cities or other products and services.