Trying to avoid writing about blockchain and cryptocurrencies these days is basically futile. It’s simply impossible, and this article is proof.
There have been so many developments in the blockchain and cryptocurrency market in the past few years that we at this website receive several press releases every day about how they relate to robotics and automation.
While we tend to concentrate on hardware, especially machines that move, it’s probably somewhat churlish to ignore all of the stories about the strange world of blockchain.
Blockchain is an online, open ledger system which works on the basis that each user keeps a record of transactions that are theoretically available for all to check and verify.
These transactions do not have to involve money, but blockchain is said to be highly secure and has, consequently, been chosen by many developers of what are called cryptocurrencies.
The most famous examples of cryptocurrencies, or digital currencies, include bitcoin, the first one to have been launched, and ethereum, launched soon after. Others are launched at a rate of one a week, so there are literally hundreds of cryptocurrencies on the market now.
Numerous developers have been bringing blockchain technology into the robotics, automation and manufacturing industry in general.
The latest example is Airalab, which is backed by $1 million of investment to develop blockchain-based technologies for smart cities as well as industrial machinery including robots.
The Russian scientists and engineers who created the platform, which they call “Robonomics Network”, have built it on Ethereum.
Robonomics Network by Airalab aims to create smart cities, lights-out factories and solve the environmental issues at a global scale, say the scientists.
Robonomics Network enables the purchase of goods and services directly from autonomous robots and robotic factories.
Robonomics developers define the project as “an Ethereum infrastructure for cyber-physical systems” integration into smart cities and Industry 4.0.
Simply put, this is a toolkit for developers enabling them to organize the cooperation of autonomous robots that fulfill an order received directly from a user – a human.
This may be food delivery to the smart kitchen with the help of drones or collecting information about air pollution using installed sensors.
The advantage of Ethereum contracts is the ability to add technical details to financial transactions, as well as the possibility to issue just one “consumer → robot” transaction instead of two: “consumer → operator” and “operator → robot”.
In other words, the transaction between customer and contractor takes place without any intermediary, be it a person or IoT-platform.
How it works
In addition to the executor – the cyber-physical system – and the customer, the system includes an observation network and so-called “lighthouses”.
The lighthouses’ function is to find the correspondent supply and demand, send a transaction to create a contract liability, and then, after the CPS has completed the task, place the transaction in the Ethereum blockchain and thereby finalize the contract.
As a result of the finalization, the lighthouses and the observing network receive their rewards.
Bounty for miners
In June 2018, the alpha version of Robonomics smart contract infrastructure was launched in Ethereum mainnet.
Any ETH holder can become its provider and test the XRT token emission mechanism, which enables the decentralized network operation.
An instruction manual for creating a lighthouse is available for download on the Robonomics’ website.
The project creators say, the tokens mined during the test period are not the original XRT tokens, however, a bounty program that allows XRT alpha to be transferred into the “original” ones, is currently being prepared.
Together with Microsoft
Aside from consumer services, the platform is applicable to solving global issues. In 2017, on the basis of Robonomics, with the technical participation of Microsoft, the world’s first international transaction for the transfer of carbon units through the blockchain was held.
According to the Kyoto Protocol, a carbon unit is the equivalent of one tonne of CO2 emitted by enterprises into the atmosphere.
These units are traded on exchanges, and their main buyers are energy-generating companies using fossil fuels.
In addition to the joint case study, in 2017 Airalab and Microsoft established an educational project for training in how to make use of the Ethereum network.
Other environmental projects
In the late summer of 2018, Airalab successfully tested an autonomous sensor platform collecting data on water pollution in Tolyatti, a Russian city where the development team is based.
The information was collected by a self-managed floating drone and recorded in a public blockchain.
The research method proposed by Airalab turned out to be superior in efficiency to those measurements carried out by municipalities with the help of expensive servicing vessels.
Also in September 2018, it became known the administration of Tolyatti was going to use Airalab technology to monitor forest fires and illegal excavations at city landfill sites.
In May 2017, Airalab completed the first ICO round with a total investment of 5,000 ETH ($820,000). In less than three days, 95 investors managed to invest in the project, having bought out about 600,000 tokens.
On the eve of the ICO, the Airalab team received $ 220,000 from the Satoshi Fund. Cybernator, the company’s pre-seed fund, acquired 165,000 Air tokens for 1,100 ETH.
Interested developers can find out more on Github.