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Approaching the Communication Constraints of Ethereum-Based Decentralized Applications

Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, Tržaška 25, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
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Sensors 2019, 19(11), 2647; https://doi.org/10.3390/s19112647
Received: 10 April 2019 / Revised: 30 May 2019 / Accepted: 6 June 2019 / Published: 11 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Smart Monitoring and Control in the Future Internet of Things)
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Abstract

Those working on Blockchain technologies have described several new innovative directions and novel services in the Internet of things (IoT), including decentralized trust, trusted and verifiable execution of smart contracts, and machine-to-machine communications and automation that reach beyond the mere exchange of data. However, applying blockchain principles in the IoT is a challenge due to the constraints of the end devices. Because of fierce cost pressure, the hardware resources in these devices are usually reduced to the minimum necessary for operation. To achieve the high coverage needed, low bitrate mobile or wireless technologies are frequently applied, so the communication is often constrained, too. These constraints make the implementation of blockchain nodes for IoT as standalone end-devices impractical or even impossible. We therefore investigated possible design approaches to decentralized applications based on the Ethereum blockchain for the IoT. We proposed and evaluated three application architectures differing in communication, computation, storage, and security requirements. In a pilot setup we measured and analyzed the data traffic needed to run the blockchain clients and their applications. We found out that with the appropriate designs and the remote server architecture we can strongly reduce the storage and communication requirements imposed on devices, with predictable security implications. Periodic device traffic is reduced to 2400 B/s (HTTP) and 170 B/s (Websocket) from about 18 kB/s in the standalone-device full client architecture. A notification about a captured blockchain event and the corresponding verification resulted in about 2000 B of data. A transaction sent from the application to the client resulted in an about 500 B (HTTP) and 300 B message (Websocket). The key store location, which affects the serialization of a transaction, only had a small influence on the transaction-related data. Raw transaction messages were 45 B larger than when passing the JSON transaction objects. These findings provide directions for fog/cloud IoT application designers to avoid unrealistic expectations imposed upon their IoT devices and blockchain technologies, and enable them to select the appropriate system design according to the intended use case and system constraints. However, for very low bit-rate communication networks, new communication protocols for device to blockchain-client need to be considered. View Full-Text
Keywords: architecture; blockchain; communication constraints; decentralized application; Ethereum; Internet of things architecture; blockchain; communication constraints; decentralized application; Ethereum; Internet of things
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Pustišek, M.; Umek, A.; Kos, A. Approaching the Communication Constraints of Ethereum-Based Decentralized Applications. Sensors 2019, 19, 2647.

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