Industrial automation could perform more efficiently if the risks associated with centralization could be eliminated. This is particularly true for “lights-out” factories, the first appearance of which we are seeing in Japan and the Netherlands. Processes using industrial robots would be able to scale a network of enterprises or industrial zones if they were built on a peer-to-peer, or P2P network where machines act as autonomous agents.
Eliminating a single point of risk with a P2P network
The current model of integrating robots into an enterprise’s economy includes passing data via centralized platforms and accumulating information that may end up in the wrong hands. Imagine a smart factory where robot controller, robot manufacturer, and logistics manager interact with one another. The current state of technology allows these devices to be interconnected.
They are programmed to make and deliver products, consequently sending signals to one another: The assembly is completed, the painting is done, the product is ready for packaging, the logistics service is ready, or the product can be shipped and delivered.
In this setup, the robot controller does not communicate with robot manufacturer directly. All the devices send data to a single Internet of Things (IoT) platform. There is a centralized point of risk where a third party stores data and takes responsibility for the programming of devices’ behavior.
The bottleneck – namely the IoT platform – can be eliminated by the creation of a P2P network and global decentralized marketplace for robot liabilities, where machines communicate with one another directly.
Airalab, a team of Russian engineers, came up with an infrastructure for cyber-physical systems’ collaboration. The company said its Robonomics Network allows designers of smart factories and cities to build a marketplace without a centralized party.
A factory built on a such a P2P network infrastructure would allow appliances to receive signals directly from one another, without any IoT platform. In this case, objects are able to interact directly with one another and the outside world, as well as create and exchange values.
All the data is collected and can be traded in a decentralized marketplace, instead of being owned and used solely by the IoT platform.
“Eliminating centralized third-party intermediaries could improve the utilization of robots, minimize ‘single point of failure’ risks, strengthen privacy protections, and incentivize multiple technological, legal, social, and cultural innovations,” said Sergey Lonshakov, Robonomics platform architect.
The machines engaged in the process gain the capability to adapt to ever-changing consumer needs. In other words, robots become independent economic units capable of adjusting processes based on recent changes to data.
Using blockchain in manufacturing
The P2P network enables direct robot-to-robot and robot-to-human communication by creating a marketplace of robot liability contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. These contracts combine economic and technical parts into one transaction.
The current capacity of the Ethereum network is able to enforce over 1,000 contractual obligations per day. That is enough for the organization of daily direct orders by car buyers on the sites of several auto groups. Therefore, the Ethereum network is sufficient enough to satisfy an entire factory’s requirements.
The algorithm of interaction between the customer (human) and the contractor (robotics factory) and among smart factories looks as follows:
- A robotics factory publishes an offer of its service including price, estimated execution time and ETH address
- A user publishes a request for a service or good
- The offer and request are matched with the aid of so-called lighthouses
- The lighthouse sends a transaction, thereby creating a robot liability
- A robot performs the task
- The observing network verifies whether the service has been performed
- If the service has been performed, the lighthouse sends the transaction to Ethereum
- The liability contract is fulfilled and all the participants are rewarded
This algorithm makes supply chains trackable and transparent, thereby fostering consumer trust in smart factories. The technological process is placed within a decentralized P2P network, thus heightening consumer confidence in the product’s origin, since its history cannot be changed.
“This scenario creates an honest product history. As a consumer of raw materials, the manufacturer of the final product can check materials’ history of origin to select the best suppliers” said Alisher Khassanov, a chief engineer at the team behind the project. “Moreover, this will be of interest to the end user. For my family, I would rather buy those goods whose authenticity I’m sure of.”
The use cases of applying such a mechanism include developing a control system for the production of a chemical product where an autonomous cyber-physical system checks the concentration of chlorine dioxide, or establishing a system which allows a large industrial company to track data regarding the use of its equipment by a small local company.
Such a P2P platform can expand the capabilities of the Ethereum network infrastructure for use in such areas as Industry 4.0, IoT and smart cities. In the long run, this may well to solve the social and economic tasks of total robotization of mass production, city life, and logistics.
Airalab is an open-source community of engineers, blockchain developers, and specialists in machine learning, intellectual technologies in robotics, and related areas. Its flagship product is Robonomics Network. It’s an Ethereum P2P network infrastructure for cyber-physical systems’ integration into smart cities and Industry 4.0 that allows for the provision of direct access for ordering products from robots and autonomous factories.
The Airalab team believes that distribution, control, and provision of services by cyber-physical systems adaptable to human needs can be created on the basis of P2P technologies. The Robonomics platform has attracted over $1 million in investment and has been applied to managing unmanned drone flights, measuring water pollution, protecting forests from fires, and providing international transactions for the transfer of carbon units via blockchain.