P2P applications for the IoT

Status: 
ongoing
Period: 
November 2015 - November 2018
Funding: 
About 50,000 €
Funding organization: 

Politecnico di Torino

Person(s) in charge: 
Executive summary: 

Peer-to-peer applications for the Internet of Things is a Ph.D. research project started at the Nexa Center for Internet and Society. The main goal of this research is to foster a decentralized Internet where people's data are not entrusted to centralized companies, but they are stored in privacy-preserving distributed systems.

Background: 

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of billion of physical objects connected to the Internet. Such devices will be equipped with sensors and computational capabilities to acquire and process data from the surrounding environment. Through to the Internet connection, they will exchange data with other devices or software systems, thus enabling several new services.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) systems are distributed systems consisting of interconnected nodes, where services and resources are not provided by centralized servers, instead they are equally supplied and consumed by each node of the system – called peer.

The research especially focuses on P2P storage systems and on the blockchain.

P2P storage systems create a distributed storage medium where people's data are stored in a persistent and secure manner. Since data are distributed among peers, these systems do not suffer from single points of failure and guarantee data integrity and confidentiality, thus preserving privacy.

The blockchain is a P2P ledger first used in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency for registering economic transactions. Peers of the blockchain cooperate to check the validity of transactions and to ensure that, once stored in the blockchain, valid transactions cannot be tampered. The result is a system enabling secure economic transactions which, by virtue of its P2P nature, is not controlled by any centralized trusted entity (there is no bank issuing the currency) and does not feature single points of failure. The tamper-proof property, the validation of data inserted and the P2P nature of the blockchain enlarge the spectrum of applications of this technology, going far beyond cryptocurrencies and financial uses. Indeed, the blockchain can be seen as a secure log of events, since information is validated, stored in a precise order, timestamped and is difficult to be modified a posteriori.

Objectives: 

To avoid the risks of centralization of power which results when sensitive personal data are stored in servers of few Internet companies, the research objective is to foster a decentralized private-by-design Internet of Things. It consists of three main components:
1. A P2P storage system where sensitive data produced by IoT devices are stored. Peers of this system are the IoT devices themselves.
2. The blockchain, used as a secure log where to register IoT devices for authentication.
3. Access rules, that allow IoT devices owners to define which of their data to share and with whom.

Such architecture preserves the main benefit of the IoT - i.e., enabling useful services by processing data of new connected devices - and at the same time protects people's privacy, as sensitive data are securely stored in a P2P system.

Results: 

1. A short paper titled Blockchain for the Internet of Things: a Systematic Literature Review , with authors Marco Conoscenti, Antonio Vetrò and Juan Carlos De Martin, accepted for publication in the proceedings of The Third International Symposium on Internet of Things: Systems, Management and Security (IOTSMS 2016) . It is a Systematic Literature Review, i.e. a review of the literature conducted with a rigorous and auditable method and with precise goals and research questions. In particular, the goal was to gather knowledge on the current uses of the blockchain and to document its current degree of anonymity, integrity and scalability.

2. A short paper titled Peer to Peer for Privacy and Decentralization in the Internet of Things, with authors Marco Conoscenti, Antonio Vetrò and Juan Carlos De Martin, accepted for publication in the proceedings of the 39th International Conference of Software Engineering (ICSE 2017) . The paper is a two-page extended abstract describing the idea of leveraging P2P applications to foster a decentralized private-by-desing Internet of Things.

Currently a simulator of P2P applications is being developed to analyze whether it is possible to run P2P applications on IoT devices with limited hardware and software capabilities.