Chronicled, a tech company out of San Francisco, released a new open registry for Internet of Things (IoT) devices on Wednesday. The registry, which is built on the Ethereum blockchain, could improve interoperability among connected devices and make it easier for businesses to monetize their IoT deployments.

In a press release announcing the registry, Chronicled CEO Ryan Orr said that the registry could allow brands or chip manufacturers to register their Bluetooth low energy (BLE) and near field communication (NFC) chips on a public blockchain.

For those who are unfamiliar, blockchain is the foundational technology behind the digital currency known as Bitcoin. It acts as a master ledger, or database, to help track interaction among the assets stored in it. For Bitcoin, it shows every time that a certain Bitcoin changed hands, but for IoT devices it could help improve their interoperability and open up the ecosystem.

“One of the main problems holding back growth in the consumer IoT market is interoperability,” Daniel Cooley, of Silicon Labs, wrote in a press release. “By putting IoT chip registrations into private databases, today every brand is creating the equivalent of its own private cellular phone network or its own private email system that is not interoperable with any other network.”

SEE: Microsoft blockchain-as-a-service gains momentum with banking partnership

In addition to registering chips to the blockchain, Chronicled CTO Maurizio Greco, said the registry would allow developers to “associate chips with physical products and build apps with smartphone scan and authentication functionalities.”

Chronicled is partnering with companies such as Ambisafe, Blue Bite, Cellotape, Identiv, Origin Labs, Silicon Labs, SmartTrac, and Viper Design on the registry. Johann Barbie, CTO of Ambisafe, believes that the use case could be huge, stating in the press release that “this could become one of the largest non-monetary use cases of blockchain developed to date. Billions of IoT chips will be shipped over the next 5 years.”

In addition to authentication and interoperability potential, the registry could also help businesses engage more deeply with users of IoT-connected devices. By leveraging features like identity and proximity verification of a device, a business could serve up custom content or a special users experience, the press release said. Another example given was that an artist could sign his or her work with a registered chip, which could be used to prove authenticity.

“Brands, chip companies and developers utilizing the registry cannot be locked in, monetized or forced to cede control over business critical data and customer relationships,” said Samantha Radocchia, Chronicled’s Chief Product Officer, in the press release.

In some circles–especially the enterprise–it seems that blockchain has supplanted Bitcoin as the technology du jour. Companies like Microsoft are IBM are building out blockchain services, and governments in countries like Australia and the UK are leveraging the technology for voting and social services.

Despite its lauding, some have argued that blockchain is simply another infrastructure tool that is gaining its footing. It still remains to be seen how the blockchain will formally fit into enterprise IT.

The outlook seems to be more clear for the IoT market, though. Recent predictions from Research and Markets have forecasted that the global OEM IoT software market will grow to $329 billion by 2021.

What do you think?

Is blockchain a revolutionary technology, or simply the latest trend? Tell us in the comments.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Chronicled launched an open registry for IoT-connected devices that is built on blockchain technology, which could increase interoperability and improve business prospects for IoT.
  2. The registry is open source under the Apache license, and will allow developers to register a chip to a physical device with a unique identity.
  3. Despite the unsure future of blockchain, the IoT software market is expected to grow to $329 billion by the year 2021.