With the rapid change in the technology landscape, it makes one wonder that which technology will take the lead. Though it is challenging to predict, experts feel that technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and blockchain would be the leaders and influence the ecosystem. It is also anticipated that the robots will play an essential role in changing many industrial applications and with their heterogeneous characteristics, it seems that they will be ideal for many future applications. And when a ground-breaking technology like blockchain gets combined with robotics, it will make the robotic operations more secure, flexible, autonomous, and even profitable.
The blockchain is a relatively new technology as compared to robotics. The networks are combined with cryptographic algorithms and the parties involved can reach an agreement on a particular transaction and even record that agreement without any centralized authority for control. This technology along with robotics has the potential to redesign the digital business altogether.
Robots are becoming smarter and cost-effective with time. Today a business may own only a single drone, but the day is not far when the significant parts of an industry would be managed by the new generation of robots. However, the question is how a group of robots work towards a common goal or accomplish a useful task like collecting data on crops grown in an area?
This is where experts suggest that blockchain would play a vital role in distributing information so that the group of robots can achieve the desired task or solve problems efficiently. The group of robots that work together to perform a task is called as swarm robotics.
What is Swarm Robotics?
Swarm robotics is an emerging field, which consists of a large group of simple physical robots. It is largely inspired by the biological studies of insects and birds that do swarming. Swarm behavior or swarming refers to the group of animals especially small in size gather together at a specific spot for migrating into a specific direction.
In swarm robotics, each robot follows some basic rules and draws inspiration from the environment. These basic rules when combined become collective behaviors that are the result of interaction between different robots. The advantage of swarm robotics is its scalability and robustness to failure. Both these advantages are due to the fact that there is a distributed yet simple nature of their coordination.
Role of Blockchain in Swarm robotics
The cost of robotics platforms is decreasing, and hence the number of applications involving swarm robotics is on the rise. These applications include precision farming, targeted material transportation, and entertainment systems. However, the main hindrance for deploying these robots on a large-scale for commercial applications is that they need to be secured. Experts say that including a swarm member that has malicious intents or is faulty can be a potential risk in security and also for achieving a single goal.
Security in swarm robotics fundamentally includes data integrity, data confidentiality, data origin authentication, and entity authentication. And the security topic was overlooked due to the complex characteristics of the swarm robotics which include decentralized control, robot autonomy, and due to collective behavior. However, the blockchain technology can be an answer to the security issue in swarm robotics as it provides a reliable and private network of communication for swarm agents, but also has ways to overcome vulnerabilities, potential threats, and attacks.
In the blockchain technology, the use of encrypted techniques such as digital signature cryptography and public key cryptography is not only the acknowledged means to prove the identity of a specific agent in a network but for making transactions that use unsafe and shared channels. A pair of private, public and a corresponding key are made for each agent to enable them for such transactions.
In the blockchain network, public keys are publicly available and are the foremost available information for an agent. These keys are like a unique account number for the agent. Whereas, private keys are regarded as agent’s covert information just like passwords in a traditional system. The private keys are used exclusively only to validate the identity of an agent and the operations that it may perform.
Under swarm robotics, the public keys can be shared under public key cryptography between robots who want to communicate. Therefore, in the network, any robot can send information to a specific robot and only a robot that possesses a matching private key will be able to read the message. Hence, there is no risk involved even it falls into the wrong hands since the message cannot be decrypted using a public key. Moreover, it prevents the risk of decryption of information by third-party robots even though they might share the same channel of communication.
Similarly, under the digital signature cryptography, the robots are allowed to use their private key for encrypting a message. The other robots can then decrypt the message by using the public key of the sender. As sender’s public key is accessible to any robot, the contents of the message will not be secret but since the message was encrypted using the private key of the sender which ensures that the message would not have been sent by anyone else thus ensuring its authorship.
The public key cryptography, on one hand, ensures that the content of the message which has been encapsulated in a transaction based on blockchain technology can be read only by the robot who owns a specific address. On the other hand, the digital signature cryptography ensures data origin authentication, entity authentication between different robots.
Thus, the implementation of the blockchain technology will enable the robots to operate in different and changing environments. This will be possible when various blockchain ledgers that use different parameters are in sync with their operation and without making any modification to their basic control algorithms.
In a nutshell, the power of blockchain technology can boost the flexibility of robots without increasing complexity in swarm robotics. This technology provides an innovative infrastructure to swarm robotics to ensure that it complies with safety as well as legal regulations since swarm robotics is increasingly being integrated into various fields across industries.