In this episode of the IoT For All podcast, IoTeX’s Larry Pang joins us to talk about blockchain’s impact on the IoT industry. Larry shares what blockchain is and how it’s currently being implemented in IoT, as well as what the industry might look like moving forward as the market continues to become more educated.
Larry Pang is the Head of Business Development at IoTeX, a Silicon Valley-based technology platform that is applying blockchain to secure and evolve the Internet of Things (IoT). Larry graduated from MIT and began his professional career at Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm, where he led large-scale digital transformation projects for Fortune 500 clients. After five years in consulting, Larry joined IoTeX and currently leads the company’s business development and ecosystem growth initiatives.
Interested in connecting with Larry? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About IoTeX: IoTeX was founded in 2017 as an open-source platform with a vision for the Internet of Trusted Things — a borderless ecosystem where humans and machines can interact with guaranteed trust, agency, and privacy. Backed by a global team of 25+ top-tier engineers and ecosystem builders, the IoTeX platform combines innovations in blockchain, secure hardware, and decentralized identity to empower decentralized IoT solutions.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(00:42) Intro to Larry
(03:27) Intro to IOTeX
(05:31) What is blockchain exactly?
(09:52) What role does blockchain play in IoT?
(11:43) What industries are most positively affected by blockchain in IoT? Or are there any industries that will be less affected?
(19:17) What do you think is needed to educate the market on these new technologies? Where do you think we are now on that front?
(24:00) As a consumer, what questions should I be asking when I’m looking for IoT devices to add to my smart home?
– [Narrator] You are listening to the IoT For All media network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of the IoT For All podcast on the IoT For All media network. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon one of the Co-creators of IoT For All. Now, before we jump into this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or join our newsletter at IoTforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All podcast. Welcome Larry to the IoT For All show. Thanks for being here today.
– [Larry] Thank you so much for having me Ryan.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s great to have you. I’m excited about this conversation. It’s a topic that we do not cover very often. So I’m really looking forward to getting our audience some more information around blockchain and all those exciting things going on in that side of the world. I wanted to start off by just having you kind of take us through your background, maybe a little bit. Tell us a little bit more about you as a person, kind of your experience in just the tech space, how you ended up at IoTeX and you know, just kind of go from there and then we’ll jump into more about the company itself.
– [Larry] Absolutely, my name is Larry born and raised in Los Angeles, California and was educated at MIT in Boston. And there I studied economics and finance. They say, when you don’t know what to do after college you go into consulting. So that’s exactly what I did. I joined Oliver Wyman which is a strategy consulting firm based out of New York and spent five years there which is a dinosaur a really long time in the consulting space. But the concept of doing projects every three months and working with brand new teams brand new clients was just really attractive to me. And through that was kind of like a grad school in a way but more of a professional flavor to it. My focus was on digital transformation. So at that time between 2013 and 2018 was really about moving clients from data centers to the cloud. A lot of things about data analytics and through that really got to see a lot of the mess that enterprises deal with from an infrastructure perspective, as well as how third party vendors play in to fill the gaps and did a lot of buy versus build assessments. So got to sit at the intersection of operations front office and technology and learn how to speak all the languages across those functions. So I never envisioned going into tech out of college. I thought it was gonna go more specifically into finance but then I found out about blockchain which is a very interesting marriage of technology and economics. It’s kind of a open, decentralized vision for the future but with predefined incentives that really make the flow of value and flow of information around the network, more viable, right? And that definitely started with Bitcoin, my interest in it just seeing the applications in border less payments and just you know, a lot of people talk about replacement as gold, but you know it’s really important to think about it as a brand new way of doing things. And that’s exactly the reaction I got when I heard about IoTeX as well. We’re really approaching the IoT space but from a brand new perspective, focused on empowering users and empowering everyday people and businesses to not only own and control their devices machines, but also to benefit from the data and value that those machines generate. And we call this vision, the internet of trusted things. Happy to dive in more into the blockchain world and how we view its application in IoT.
– [Ryan] Yeah, before we get into the blockchain let’s talk a little bit more about the company itself and kind of what you all do. And then a vision you just mentioned by the, you know the internet of trusted things and how that kind of relates to kind of what you all do. So we will talk a little bit more about just the company itself to give our audience some insights there.
– [Larry] Absolutely, so I would say it started in 2017 as an open source project. We launched our production platform in 2019 and since then have started to now power the first really user owned user-centric devices that go long to that theme that I mentioned before around consumers and everyday businesses can own their information and you know, really spark new economies on top of it. In addition to that, you know IoTeX has taken leadership roles in a lot of professional enterprise organizations like the industrial internet consortium. Tripoli confidential computing consortium just to name a few. And that’s really to introduce blockchain to the global enterprise space. Our real focus at IoTeX is all about combining blockchain which is a tamper-proof software and secure hardware which is more of like a tamper-proof hardware in order to empower end to end trusted solutions that are verifiable by anyone. Going into the concept of blockchain of bit. You know, it’s a very transparent and in my opinion, it’s a, it’s a great proactive technology. If you get people to, you know, kind of operate under the same operating rules and the same standards then you can have multi-stakeholder collaboration, even across people that don’t trust each other due to the transparency and the verifiability that IoTeX provides. So when we think about this blockchain and IoT intersection we’re not only thinking about how blockchain can help solve many of the issues of traditional IoT. That’s currently plagued by security and transparency but also about how IoT can help blockchain to bring verifiable data to feed different applications that run in a decentralized fashion as well. So that’s a little bit just about IoTeX.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s great. So let’s, let’s dive into blockchain a little bit more. It’s a term and a technology people have probably heard tons and tons about over the years recently, especially but probably don’t understand it very well. I know personally, it’s a very confusing topic to understand or wrap your head around. So I wanted to dive into this a bit further and have you just start off first by explaining what blockchain is in the simplest form possible. And then we can get into kind of how it works how it connects and adds value to IoT. And what are those issues that you just mentioned that blockchain can come in and solve?
– [Larry] Absolutely, you know before we talk about what blockchain is I think is important to say what blockchain isn’t, you know a lot of people think about blockchain as synonymous with Bitcoin, but it’s not blockchain is the technology that underpins Bitcoin as kind of this decentralized model for a store of value in the future, but just breaking down blockchain as a, at a very high level, you know, it’s it’s similar to the concept of edge computing where rather than bringing all the data into one centralized source you’re kind of decentralizing the responsibilities of compute maintenance and just, you know upholding the network to a a group of decentralized nodes, right? These decentralized nodes are all in consensus at all times. And that’s kind of why blockchain is a little slower than traditional technologies is that you sacrifice a little bit of the real time nature for unbreakable trust, right? So it’s important to know that blockchain is not a panacea. It’s not a silver bullet that’s gonna solve everything, but for the processes especially multi-stakeholder processes where trust is broken or rather trust has to be reestablished at every single point down the value chain, starting with a single version of the truth that everyone can operate on and can collectively verify as true. This is gonna spark a lot of disintermediation in the IoT space. So that’s what we’re really looking forward to. It’s not just, you know, using blockchain to fix issues in the traditional IoT space, but this is really going to spark a lot of, you know, user centric, user owned micro economies that will grow and grow and grow as the machine economy kind of becomes a reality
– [Ryan] Right to take that one step further, how does it how does it work or how would you explain how to how it works to somebody who’s maybe not technical?
– [Larry] Right, some blockchains the network itself is collectively maintained. There’s this concept called mining people that are familiar with Bitcoin, understand that mining in the Bitcoin network is actually a very energy intensive process. The way that they do mining and consensus is every time there’s a new block. Every block holds a certain set of transactions and is added to a blockchain. There’s the longer chain. And basically because all the transactions are sequenced and added and collectively hosted by a group of decentralized nodes, anyone can verify the history of the chain, which is why people consider it to be a great ledger technology. But what other, the evolution of blockchain has now reached the point where it’s not only being used as a ledger, but it’s also used as a shared computing platform where it’s not only these nodes are collectively storing the history of the ledger, but they’re also collectively executing all the processes on the platform. And this makes it again, verifiable by anyone. So when we think about this concept and we apply it to the internet of things the really big opportunities are the ones where again trust is lacking today and that exists across many different flavors right between corporations and users, between users and other users between businesses and other businesses. And eventually as machines become more intelligent and more smart machines will need to trust other machines before transacting with each other. So blockchain is really a bridging technology to build trust across all of these stakeholders that don’t necessarily trust each other based on the fact that everything in the network is verifiable.
– [Ryan] So basically how does, I guess, to expand on this little bit further, how does blockchain, you know play an active role in IoT? Like what problems is it helping solve and how is it potentially in the future going to kind of play a larger role versus how it’s kind of contributing and playing a role now?
– [Larry] Absolutely, you know, we talked a little bit about how blockchain can help IoT, but you know we’ve talked a little bit too about how IoT can help blockchain, right? So envision a few, we all envision a future. That’s powered by, you know autonomous and intelligent machines. Today these machines are owned by corporations and people that use these machines are definitely the products, right? In the future when we have more machines powered by secure hardware things like vending machines, robotaxis, 3D printers even solar panels things that can really autonomously generate data and value. We need to make sure that this value doesn’t flow to these omnipotent institutions but rather flows to the everyday people in businesses that are owners of these devices. And going back to the single version of the truth that blockchain enables it’s really about you know, making sure that all of the activities of a machine, including the data generates the value it generates is persistent on a blockchain, so that that’s transparent and understood. There’s no black boxes in the blockchain world, right? So it’s really adding transparency into a lot of these business models and really going to introduced brand new business models that dis intermediate some companies there. So, you know, when we think about a future where, you know we can have trusted robots that deliver verifiable data and verifiable services, blockchain is really gonna be the tool that transparently ensures users and all corporations have the benefit of these new solutions.
– [Ryan] Well, let me ask you, before we get into some Applications here are there any particular industries, or kind of, I guess segments of industries that are most likely to be more positively impacted by blockchain technology when it comes to IoT or an ad saying the same breath are there any industries that may be will not be as effected by blockchain or maybe not need blockchain, I guess is the way to ask that?
– [Larry] Yeah, I think would to answer this question I always think about two things, right? Where the money is and where the headlines are, right? These two kinds of things really exemplify areas where trust is really, really needed, right? When you’re dealing with high value Applications. For example, if you had a supply chain Applications being powered by blockchain, if you’re trying to secure and verify that, you know, diamonds or you know having machinery that’s worth millions of dollars is transported in a trusted way using blockchain as the technology that can add trust to that process is more important than if you’re dealing with something like, you know, shipping fruits, right? Of course there’s a lot of trust issues with shipping fruit but the value that we’re talking about is, you know it’s very different orders of magnitude off, but the other place I think an important intersection to look at is, you know, where the high value Applications are but also where trust is absent today, right? When we think about, especially in the consumer space the most sensitive types of data today are definitely things that have to do with our homes and our bodies. So our health data and our smart home data all of these devices we use on a daily basis really have the question, you know first of all, do we trust the claims of the companies that are issuing these devices? And if they aren’t verifiable, you know how can we really be sure? And then finally, you know all of the data and value, you know, it’s no secret that big tech has benefited a lot from the data of users in the social media space for the past years. And now as their footprint extends into our smart homes and our offices and our smart cities we also have the question, why is that data owned by corporations and not us? You know, I think there’s a really interesting stat that I always look back at it’s, you know, the IoT by 2025 is gonna be generating 80 zettabytes of data. What zettaabyte is 1 trillion gigabytes. And, you know, why is that data not owned or even fractionally owned by the users that generated, especially because it kind of derivatives of our daily activities.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I’d love to kind of get your thoughts on some of the, kind of the more Applications or product side pieces that you just kind of alluded to. So, you know, we’re talking about how data is obviously super important security of the data is just as if not more important. But it often seems to be a relatively overlooked piece of the equation when it comes to IoT. And oftentimes it is masked by the functionality and the features that we see with, with with these devices that get put out in the market, especially where the consumers enterprise might be a little bit different, but, you know enter consumers are easily distracted by the benefits it provides them or the cool technology, you know what it allows them to do that they couldn’t do before. And security is oftentimes and security of their data is oftentimes an afterthought or just not well enough understood. So how do you see this helping play a role in that? I guess, I don’t want to say confusing, but lack of understanding education on behalf of the consumer. And do you have any kind of, I guess products in-house or anything that you guys have worked on developed that’s worth kind of talking about how it compares to maybe something else in the market with blockchain being used?
– [Larry] Absolutely, you know, I think as far as the consumer perspective goes, you know consumers today are not really well versed in IoT even don’t even know what the acronym means necessarily right? So there’s a common saying here in Silicon Valley that you know a product has to be 10 times better than the incumbent to replace it as an alternative but that’s extremely objective, right? So for people that are thinking about a better product as ones that, you know, maybe a flying camera or you know the newest bells and whistles, you know that kind of audience is very hard to have focused on the security and privacy that’s kind of lacking in their devices. But there’s a growing faction of people, especially in the consumer space that are recognizing the importance of privacy and the importance of security today. And those are really the people that we’re trying to target really as early adopters into this, right? I think that a lot of these services that we’re talking about maybe a little bit inconvenient and maybe a little slower now in the blockchain space but eventually, you know, the scalability and the flexibility of this technology will grow right. And that’s really what we’re banking on is as the desire for privacy in the consumer space grows the demand for infrastructure that can empower devices that have this kind of user centric and privacy feel to them will become much, much higher in demand. And this is something that we’ve already started. So a great product to kind of capture what we’re talking about today is the first product we ever launched on our platform is called new camp. It was developed in partnership with a security camera manufacturer named Tenvis. Who’s been around since 2005 and they came to us looking not for, you know, a flying camera or the newest bells and whistles, but they looked they came to us looking for security and privacy as the next big feature. So what we did is we replaced alongside Tenvis, we worked with them to replace the traditional email password login mechanism and replace it with this concept of a decentralized identity. And the real important part of this is that this decentralized identity is something that only the owner has only the camera owner will have access to as the platform IoTeX never has access to what’s called the user’s private key. And as the hardware provider Tenvis also never has access to that private key. So this is really the key to self sovereignty as far as the device is concerned, but we didn’t stop there, right? We did not only gave users a brand new logging mechanism but we also take that user’s private key which is one of one. And again, exclusively owned by the user and use it to enter and encrypt all the videos that come from Ucam. All the processing is done on the edge meaning on the camera itself or the user’s mobile device. So we completely removed the concept of centralized processing with it. And what the result is, you know, this combination of blockchain end to end encryption and edge computing. It really enables us to make claims like no one can see your videos except you whereas other security camera manufacturers in the industry can only say things like we care about your security and privacy. So it’s more of the absolute solution to a big problem today
– [Ryan] Sure.
– [Larry] That you know security cameras are being breached left and right. And no one really knows what’s being done with their data behind the scenes with you cam you can be sure that this device works exclusively for you and you are the only one that owns and controls the videos that come from it.
– [Ryan] How do you see the education piece playing into this? Because it takes, these will take a decent amount of effort to shift the narrative over to kind of that conversation around the security of data because people just get so easily influenced and distracted and swayed into spending money on the cool new tech and features. And they’re kind of like ask security. I kind of just trust that they’ll take care of it but in reality, oftentimes it’s not the case. So what do you think needs to be done going forward to help educate the market as to why this is an important piece of technology that you need to be looking into before you’re buying a product that you’re going to put your home or a solution in general, in the IoT space? I’m just kind of curious to get your thoughts on what’s needed and where you kind of see this all going?
– [Larry] Absolutely, I’m a really big believer in the concept that opportunity is when timing meets preparation, right? A funny story is, you know, we brought you Ucam to CES 2020 last year when it was still live in Las Vegas. And we actually won the CES Innovation Award for cybersecurity and personal privacy for Ucam.
– [Ryan] Okay.
– [Larry] And this was at a time when the headlines were flooded. I mean, flooded with people being hacked and, you know people pretending to be Santa Claus and talking to people through different types of security cameras in the market right? But, and we thought we were going to CES and we’re gonna you know, sell out. And it was going to be the biggest product there but the acknowledgement to your point of security and privacy as something important, even though the headlines are flooded with these kinds of things it really required a tipping point. As far as consumer acknowledgement that, you know, when WhatsApp for example says they have end to end encryption it actually means something different than when signal or telegram say that they have end to end encryption, right? And going back to the point about timing I think right now in 2021 we’re starting to see the tipping point not necessarily in privacy, protecting smart devices but we’re seeing it in privacy protecting messengers like WhatsApp. There’s a huge migration going on between WhatsApp to private messengers that are more decentralized in nature, such as signal and telegram. I think something to the tune of 30 million users migrated from WhatsApp to telegram. And this is really starting to, you know, show that the consumer awareness of real privacy and you know not trusting the claims that you hear in the headlines all the time. I’m really doing the research to understand, you know just kind of like before you put some food in your body you’re going to read the nutrition facts. People are starting to acknowledge the inner workings of these devices or of these messengers, right? And going back to that point where I was talking about earlier people will gravitate towards solutions where it’s managing the most sensitive parts of their daily lives, right? So messenger is the things that you talk about with your friends behind closed doors is a natural first step, right? Very quickly starting with the devices that manage the most sensitive data about our daily lives which are things like security devices such as our cameras and our locks, the wearables that we put on that track our biometric information and other things that you know are considered to be very, very sensitive by the masses. I think we’re gonna see a wave of acknowledgement that just like we’re privatizing our messengers. We should also think about where our security feeds are going and what people are potentially doing with them behind the scenes, right? I think there’s been another inflow of you know horror stories about you know, ADT employees man in the middle attacking and, you know watching people in their most private intimate settings. And you know, it only takes, you know you never know where the tipping point is but we’re definitely building up towards it. There’s gonna be a point where people understand that there’s an alternative that doesn’t treat their data like this and we’re just looking forward to that day and preparing for it.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I totally agree. I think it would be a really interesting kind of progression to see us overcome that it’s not really overcoming. I think it’s more of just better balancing the promotion of the features and benefits that a device provides as well as the security. And I think as these devices become more, more popular and are kind of installed in more people’s homes you’re gonna get a, I think that the user base is going to naturally get smarter and better understand what to look for. And I think a conversation like this goes a long way in helping educate people on what they should be looking for. So the last question I have before we wrap up here is just if I’m a consumer, when I’m going to look for devices you know, smart home devices, you know, whatever it may be what questions either should I be asking or have in my head and what things should I be looking for when I’m reading through different products to decide which to purchase once I’ve kind of narrowed it down on the feature set that I’m looking for what what’s should I be really focusing on on the data side and security side?
– [Larry] Absolutely, I mean a great place to start is the certifications that it has. You know, I think that we’re so hard to starting to see a lot of this in the, in the application space, right? Apple has announced new privacy labels for their applications. We have new GDPR and CCPA requirements that are really requiring disclosure from different websites about what data that they do collect and how it’s being used. But in reality, these are not enough to stop the problem. You know, privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA are great reactive mechanisms that allow people to seek financial remediation after the fact that their privacy has been breached. But I think that looking towards ways that customers can proactively protect their privacy meaning not give their data up to companies that don’t disclose exactly how they’re gonna use it. You know, these things are starting to become more of a norm, especially in Europe with GDPR, starting with CCPA in California and probably expanding into the the rest of the United States very soon. I’m personally really curious to see how the regulators address these kinds of issues. There’s also, you know different types of IoT security regulations blooming, but with the introduction of brand new frontier technologies it’s really gonna be an evolving kind of landscape from here on out. So I would just suggest, you know consumers not only to look for specific keywords like end-to-end encryption but also to reevaluate what exactly that means and to validate those claims, right? There’s a big fiasco with zoom early this year where they claimed end to end encryption but it was still client and server encryption, right? So being able to do the research, listen to the right sources of information and just understand what device you are putting in your homes is really the key to protecting yourselves in the future.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I totally agree. That’s fantastic advice. I appreciate it all the insights you’ve shared today and kind of just, you know, explaining how blockchain works the value of it, you know how it relates to the IoT space, where we see it going the trends we’re seeing all that kind of stuff that’s been, this has been fantastic. Something our audience doesn’t get to hear that much about. So I think they’ll appreciate it a ton. If our audience is interested in kind of learning more speaking with you or the team or just kind of getting a better sense of what IO Tech does what’s the best way that they can kind of reach out and engage?
– [Larry] Absolutely, you know, we would love for people to check out the IO website is @IoTechs.io, and also check out some of the products that are launching on our platform. Today we talked about Ucam, which is already in the market but we’re working on a lot of other different types of devices, including asset trackers and also some different types of mining machines. So if you’re interested in this intersection of secure hardware and blockchain definitely reach out we would love to chat and you can reach out to us at hello @IoTechs.io.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, well, Larry, this has been a great conversation. I really appreciate your time and look forward to getting this out to our audience, to educate them on kind of what’s going on in the blockchain IoT space. And we’ll make sure we link up all that information so that people can check out not just the company but also the products you have that you’re working with and everything kind of in-between. So thanks for your time and appreciate it.
– [Larry] Thank you so much, Ryan.
– [Ryan] Right, everyone thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT For All podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you did please leave us a rating or review and be sure to subscribe to our podcasts on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show please drop us a note @ryanIoTforall.com and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a future guest. On that thanks again for listening. And we’ll see you next time.