Blockchain for Internet of Underwater Things: State-of-the-Art, Applications, Challenges, and Future Directions
- A first-of-its-kind survey is presented on applications of blockchain for the IoUT.
- An exhaustive review on the use of blockchain in IoUT applications is presented.
- A discussion on the challenges and future prospects of research relevant to the integration of blockchain in IoUT applications is presented.
- Immutability—Blockchain is a permanent and unalterable network that promises no chance of changing the nodes in the network. The blockchain network has several nodes chained to each other, and every node maintains a copy of the digital ledger in the network. Hence, any transaction initiated in the network is authenticated and verified to be included in the ledger. As a result, the data stored in any transaction are highly impossible to tamper with, as they are strictly protected by the nodes of the given network. This promotes the network to be highly transparent and secure, creating successful transactions with the consensus of all nodes in the network. Thus, it allows anyone to view the transactions, but does not give access to edit or modify the data in the transactions.
- Decentralization—The framework is not operated under a single authority; rather, a collection of nodes is involved in managing and maintaining the blockchain network. The network is deployed on a peer-to-peer network, enabling each node to have a copy of the digital ledger, unlike the conventional banking system. Hence, the cost to hack such a decentralized network is more expensive, making it one of the most important features of blockchain technology.
- Smart contracts—Blockchain executes the transactions in a faster way by applying the smart contract principle. Smart contracts are self-executing digital contracts that automatically execute the transactions when certain conditions and agreements are satisfied for the current transaction.
- Consensus protocol—The consensus mechanism is the fault-tolerance mechanism in which nodes in the peer-to-peer network accede a common agreement about the current state of transactions in the network. This ensures the data reliability and trustworthiness of transactions among the nodes of blockchain. The Proof-of-Work (PoW) is the robust consensus protocol used widely in banking services and other applications. The PoW ensures that the new block is created by solving extreme and computationally complex puzzles to avoid unreliable transactions [52,53].
- Transparency—The blockchain network renders unparalleled transparency, which ensures advanced data security solutions . Hence, every single transaction taking place within the decentralized network is confirmed by the majority of the nodes in the network. Thus, any updated transaction can be viewed by the user while managing the transparency within the network.
2.2. Internet of Underwater Things
- Different communication technologies;
- Different tracking methodologies;
- Difficulty in recharging the battery;
- Different energy harvesting technologies;
- Different network density;
- Different localization techniques.
2.3. Integration of Blockchain with the IoUT
- Improving security in underwater communication—The sensors capture the significant information and relay and send the data to the monitoring center present on the land surface. The information transmitted is highly sensitive, which brings several problems such as data stealing, network hacking, and breaking the communication systems . There is also a dire need to provide secured and trusted solutions for the processing and storage of the enormous amount of data being generated from the IoUT devices. The blockchain-based network architectures provide solutions to the aforementioned challenges by providing immutability and trustworthy data sharing and management and also enable efficient monitoring and tracking of the underwater devices, processes, and related resources. Blockchain  ensures secured and trusted data sharing in the underwater communications without interventions from humans or third parties. Furthermore, the need for autonomous decision-making in the hostile underwater environment with fickle network connectivity with base stations is supported by blockchain. The smart contract features of blockchain enable such dynamic and autonomous decision-making, ensuring secured data storage and the reliability of such frameworks.
- Trustworthiness of IoUT smart devices—With the substantial growth of IoT technology, more and more sensor devices are introduced, which are used for building the data communication network. Similar to the IoT, the IoUT also has several smart devices embedded with sensors, which are developed and utilized for data communication in the UWSN. The data generated from these UWSN devices may be very sensitive for critical applications such as defense . The consensus algorithm is the decision-making process for the group of active nodes in the communication network while building trustworthy transactions in blockchain.
- Availability of the data in the IoUT—Blockchain  uses the fault-tolerant mechanism, building an effective network for the availability of data transmitted through the IoUT devices. The decentralized and distributed structure of blockchain is a very important feature to confirm the availability of data perpetually. This property of blockchain is vital for making the data available to oceanographers to conduct their research analysis and investigations at their convenience . The decentralized system stores the information spread across the globe so that there is no single point of failure. This is achieved by storing the blockchain data over millions of devices on the distributed network of nodes; hence, the data and network are highly resistant to any malicious attack or technical failure in the network. Because of this, the availability of data in the blockchain-enabled IoUT communication network is possible.
- Privacy of the data in the IoUT—Attackers cannot misuse or obtain the data, as the users can control their data with the private and public keys in a blockchain transaction, thereby enabling data ownership. The data owners can control when, how, and to what extent a third party can access the data. The privacy of data generated from IoUT devices can thus be preserved with blockchain technology.
3.1. Environmental Monitoring
3.2. Disaster Management
3.5. Underwater Exploration
4. Challenges and Future Directions
4.1. Computing Power
4.2. Storage Capacity
4.4. Standardization and Governance
4.5. Migration from Legacy Systems
4.6. Energy Consumption
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|||-The role of the IoUT in preserving natural water resources is discussed.|
-The differences of the IoUT and IoT are highlighted.
-The architecture and applications of the IoUT are presented.
-The potential challenges and solutions are addressed.
|-The integration of the IoUT with other advanced technologies are not explored.|
-The security aspects of the IoUT applications are not explored.
|||-The concept of BMD is initiated considering the enormous size and variability of marine data collected from harsh and heterogeneous environments using the IoUT.|
-The traditional challenges of using BMD processing is explored.
-The use of ML in handling BMD is presented.
-The potential scope of future research in the IoUT and BMD is highlighted.
|-More emphasis is given to underwater communication and network protocols and BMD data handling.|
-Security and privacy aspects of handling BMD are not considered.
|||-Underwater Network Management Systems (U-NMS) using acoustic communication and the IoUT are discussed.|
-A prototype implementation of a U-NMS in a library environment is presented.
|-The viability of the prototype model in a real-world setup is not justified.|
|||-Emphasizes the security threats related to UWSNs in IoUT implementations.||-Risk mitigation activities include the use of network protocols.|
-Alternative advanced approaches such as blockchain are not explored.
|||-Presents a review of existing research relevant to signal processing and routing for developing efficient IoUT systems.|
-The challenges mostly emphasize exploring various forms of network attacks and possible solutions along with research testbeds.
|-The MAC protocol, QoS metrics, and related performance issues are discussed.|
-Solutions focus on secured transmission of data and not on the storage aspect of the same.
|||-The use of WSNs and the IoUT in developing underwater vehicles (ROUVs), untethered Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), Unmanned Autonomous Surface Vehicles (USVs/ASVs), and various other smart underwater technologies are explored.|
-Different UWSN-based IoUT implementations in the African region are analyzed.
|-The scope of review includes only the African region while missing the security aspect.|
|||-Different network frameworks used in IoUT applications are discussed.|
-The use of edge computing, data analytics, Optical Wireless Communications (OWCs), machine learning, and Intelligent Reflecting Surfaces (IRSs) in the IoUT is presented.
|-The role of a specific technology and its related contributions are not focused on, making the scope generic.|
|||-A survey on various unmanned water vehicles is presented.|
-The use of cognitive acoustic networks, fog computing, the IoUT, and next-generation underwater networks is discussed.
|-Primarily emphasizes the target detection and tracking scheme.|
-Security and privacy aspects of the collected data through the IoUT are not considered.
|||-Distinct forms of IoUT attacks in the form of black holes, routing, and Sybil are discussed.||-Focused primarily on IoUT network attacks and their prevention.|
-Security and privacy aspects of the collected data through the IoUT are not included.
|The present survey||-The first-of-its-kind survey on the application of blockchain for the IoUT.|
-Applications of blockchain in the IoUT are discussed.
-Challenges and future prospects of the integration of blockchain with the IoUT are highlighted.
|Application||Motivation for Using Blockchain for the IoUT||Challenges of Blockchain–IoUT Integration|
|Sl. No.||Challenge Type||Description||Possible Solutions|
|1||Computing Power||High computational power is required for the consensus algorithms to work||Lightweight mechanisms need to be introduced; devices with high computational power need to be used|
|2||Storage Capacity||To handle a larger number of transactions per second and to store ledgers, high storage capacity is required||Use cloud resources|
|3||Scalability||Scalable solutions are required to accommodate the huge number of transactions||Transactions to be carried out among subnetworks|
|4||Standardization and Governance||To avoid the over-exploitation of resources and non-equitable service distribution, proper standardization is required||Proper standards are to be formulated; ocean governance needs to be considered regionally, nationally, and globally|
|5||Migration from legacy systems||Migration from the traditional systems and technologies to adopt blockchain-enabled solutions is expensive and time-consuming||Rigorous training is essential|
|6||Energy consumption||Acoustic communication demands more energy. Underwater communication suffers high attenuation, long propagation delays, and high bit rates; in addition, the blockchain adaption consumes high energy for successful transactions.||A lightweight energy-efficient blockchain-based framework for IoUT acoustic communication can be used to solve this|
|7||Cost||Installing, managing, and maintaining the communication devices underwater is a challenging task. Frequent maintenance may be required such as battery change, sensor servicing, and so on||(1) Power-saving protocols can be used to reduce power use and also to avoid battery failures; (2) horizontal axis and vertical axis deployment strategies can be used to reduce the complexity of the network|
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Bhattacharya, S.; Victor, N.; Chengoden, R.; Ramalingam, M.; Selvi, G.C.; Maddikunta, P.K.R.; Donta, P.K.; Dustdar, S.; Jhaveri, R.H.; Gadekallu, T.R. Blockchain for Internet of Underwater Things: State-of-the-Art, Applications, Challenges, and Future Directions. Sustainability 2022, 14, 15659. https://doi.org/10.3390/su142315659
Bhattacharya S, Victor N, Chengoden R, Ramalingam M, Selvi GC, Maddikunta PKR, Donta PK, Dustdar S, Jhaveri RH, Gadekallu TR. Blockchain for Internet of Underwater Things: State-of-the-Art, Applications, Challenges, and Future Directions. Sustainability. 2022; 14(23):15659. https://doi.org/10.3390/su142315659Chicago/Turabian Style
Bhattacharya, Sweta, Nancy Victor, Rajeswari Chengoden, Murugan Ramalingam, Govardanan Chemmalar Selvi, Praveen Kumar Reddy Maddikunta, Praveen Kumar Donta, Schahram Dustdar, Rutvij H. Jhaveri, and Thippa Reddy Gadekallu. 2022. "Blockchain for Internet of Underwater Things: State-of-the-Art, Applications, Challenges, and Future Directions" Sustainability 14, no. 23: 15659. https://doi.org/10.3390/su142315659