The evolution of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies has been fascinating to observe, particularly over the last five or six years. After the emergence of Bitcoin and copycat chains as payment networks, Vitalik Buterin and his fellow co-founders brought the ideas of smart contracts and decentralized applications to life when Ethereum launched in 2015. From this point, most discussions veer into the ICO boom that followed.
However, underneath the token sale hype, many innovators and entrepreneurs had already latched onto the idea of using cryptocurrency-based incentives to power infrastructural solutions designed to meet increasing consumer and enterprise demand for services. After spending several years in research and development, many of these projects are now delivering on their initial promise.
Consider projects such as Filecoin, which started life in 2014, went live on mainnet in 2020, and now hosts over ten exbibytes of decentralized file storage capacity, including the entire Wikipedia archive. Other examples are Bluzelle, which provides decentralized file and data storage, and Golem, which harnesses the computing power available through its distributed network.
One example of such a project that’s made significant headway in network and service adoption is Nodle. Nodle was founded in 2017 to establish a fully decentralized global wireless network capable of supporting the rapidly growing IoT device market. While governments are focused on upgrading public WiFi and establishing 5G connectivity, there’s still a considerable gap to fill for enterprises and public sector agencies to deploy IoT to its full effect.
Low Energy Network Dedicated to IoT
Nodle works using a network of interconnected smartphones relying on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connections. Many of us already use BLE on our smartphones to connect headphones, speakers, wearables, and more. However, with the Nodle Cash app, a user agrees to allow the Nodle network to tap into their smartphone’s BLE connection in return for Nodle token-based rewards.
When the user’s phone is within range of a Node-connected IoT device, the phone acts as a receiver and transmitter, taking any data from the device and uploading it to the Nodle network. Because it’s the BLE connection being used, Nodle can provide IoT connectivity even in areas with no other WiFi or cell service.
What’s perhaps surprising are the numbers and names that Nodle has managed to attract to its network. In 2020, it underwent a 38% growth in network nodes, reaching 5.8 million by the end of the year. At the same time, it increased the number of daily connected devices to 28.9 million. That means that Nodle, a network underpinned by cryptocurrencies and blockchain, is already supporting nearly 10% of the projected 30 billion IoT devices we can expect to see online by 2025.
How has it achieved such results in a short space of time and in a relatively low-key way? Well, Nodle has managed to exponentially level up its smartphone node network in part through its developer API. Many developers fund their apps using advertisements, which can be annoying and distracting for users.
However, the Nodle API allows developers to tap their users’ BLE connections to participate in Nodle, directing the rewards back to the developer in place of ad revenues. In this way, Nodle can reach a far higher number of smartphone users than relying on individual sign-ups.
A Growing Enterprise User Base
On the other side of the coin, the project also attracts significant interest from enterprises seeking to up their IoT game. One feature of the network is that every connected device can be easily located, making it attractive to companies who need better visibility of their assets.
As such, Nodle is partnering with Cisco Meraki to expand its own BLE network and track devices even outside its locations. The project has also teamed up with a European insurtech firm to track stolen vehicles and a European railway that used Nodle to track its pallets and tools.
The need for networks such as Nodle and others like Filecoin or Golem is becoming more pressing, in light of the need to do more with what we have. Centralized companies automatically default to creating more hardware such as base stations and servers, but this approach is unsustainable in the long term.
By using existing hardware already in use, there’s an opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of our increasing digital dependence on two fronts. Firstly, by eliminating the carbon footprint from the production of physical goods and the ongoing energy consumption of newly-manufactured devices. As such, distributed networks are demonstrating their effectiveness at meeting increasing demand, but without increasing emissions.