IoT federation based on distributed blockchain technologies

The deployment and adoption of IoT devices currently typically occurs in organizational siloes, without a common business driver. These boundaries slow or prevent the flow of information and thus obstruct the creation of new value chains and methods of doing business. The underlying problem is trust and control, both on national and organizational level, that prevent centralized approaches from becoming successful businesses.

The use of blockchain technologies offers a possibility of standardized, yet decentralized method of federating IoT device and information access across organizations while simultaneously allowing participating organizations to retain full control of their own infrastructure and information.


The number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is expected to be between 20 billion and 30 billion by the year 2020. Eventually almost every device will be Internet-connected, including many things we do not consider “smart.” The widespread use of IoT devices offers large societal and economic benefits, but also faces substantial challenges. While some challenges, such as security, are easy to understand, there are other hindrances such as fragmentation of IoT platforms, higher costs due to cross-organizational overheads, inefficiencies in flow of information, solutions being bound to organizational siloes and interoperability issues. These all limit the ease of implementation, growth of businesses using IoT and restrict adoption of new IoT-related business models.


The focus of the research is at furthering the use of blockchain technologies in IoT-related business cases, enabling new types of IoT data based businesses that are decentralized, interoperable, efficient and secure.

New approaches based on blockchain technologies have recently emerged that aim to provide a mechanism to establish a decentralized and federated IoT environment. This would allow different IoT vendors to retain their organizational boundaries and security policies while offering accessible IoT interoperability in the IoT market, enabling true data-driven business models and opportunities at scale. For example, by utilizing blockchain-based flexible smart contracts, transactions can be streamlined by cutting out counterparties and intermediaries. This means that trades and contracts can potentially be executed at a much faster rate and lower cost because the middlemen are replaced with technology.

However, the use of blockchains, especially for federation across organizational boundaries, is still in its infancy, and substantial questions remain on its theoretical and practical feasibility. These are the core topics for study in this Industrial Doctorate Program position, conducted in close collaboration with the industrial partner, Digital Infrastructure action line and other PhD students at the Industrial Doctorate program at EIT Digital.

Expected outcome

The PhD research is expected to identify the requirements for successful IoT federation based on distributed blockchain technologies and whether and under what conditions their use would be technically viable for business use based on aspects such as performance and reliability.

The research will show the feasibility of using distributed blockchain technologies in decentralized IoT federation and its disruptive impact on data-based businesses. This knowledge provides new insight into future avenues of research as well as into practical commercialization opportunities. The increased understanding is expected to be valuable to international organizations such as W3C or IETF on standardization work on IoT and blockchain technologies as well as to individual companies developing data-driven businesses.

These expected outcomes are aligned with the efforts of the Digital Infrastructure Innovation activities, specifically High Impact Initiative ACTIVE. As pointed out by Henrik Abramowicz, Digital Infrastructure Action Line Leader: “Internet of Things is one of core areas in the Digital Infrastructure Action Line together with Cyber security. An important aspect of IoT is to secure and safeguard data and connections. Also, preserving privacy is important part of this. The HII ACTIVE is developing an IoT platform that is generic but also ensures security for devices, sensors and actuators and we have a task focusing on security in the innovation activity. We are expecting the PhD candidate to be actively involved in exploring security domain to contribute to the HII’s IoT platform development.“


The position is based in the Doctoral School Training centre at EIT Digital in Espoo, Finland where a strong ecosystem for Digital Infrastructure exists.


  • Industrial partner: Ericsson, Finland
  • Academic/research partner: Aalto University
  • DTC location: Helsinki
  • Number of available PhD positions: 1
  • Duration: 4 years
  • This PhD will be funded by EIT Digital, Ericsson and Aalto University.


Send an open application in English to Application (max two pages) should include at least:

  • Motivation for applying for the position, including your scientific and personal motivations and interests
  • Related previous experience and studies
  • Summary of the Master’s Thesis
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Academic track record, including degree obtained and date, issuing University, and grades and credits obtained.

Selected candidates are invited to submit a research proposal, references, and proof of eligibility after the initial screening of the applicants. Please apply before November 24, 2017.

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