The Internet of Things (IoT) is the theme du jour. Seemingly every vendor, technology conference and self-appointed futurist is talking up how those billions of connected devices will do everything from creating a flying car to finding a cure for cancer.
And where heady talk exists, venture money is soon to follow. And so it is with the IoT space, where we have seen a bewildering array of companies formed in recent months to tackle the problem of building solutions on top of all those dumb sensors.
Today's example is Filament, a company that is jumping on not one, but two, buzzwords and delivering an IoT platform that is secured by, you guessed it, blockchain technology. Before we look at the product, the funding news first. Filament has raised $5 million from a plethora of different investors. Bullpen Capital is leading the round and is joined by Verizon Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Samsung Ventures, Digital Currency Group, Haystack, Working Lab Capital, TechStars, and existing investors.
In terms of what Filament is doing, there's a lot to pick apart here, so let's dive in and take a look. Filament is taking a broad look at the IoT problem. First up, the issue with the protocols used to distribute messages, data and controls across the network. Filament's offering actually includes a new protocol, Telehash. Telehash is a distributed peer-to-peer protocol that is seen as a successor to the XMPP instant messaging protocol — itself a well-proven approach with a billion or more people using it every day.
In addition to Telehash for private communications, Filament is leveraging other open protocols, JOSE for contracting, TMesh for mesh networking and BitTorrent for over-the-air management updates. It is also built upon the blockchain and, therefore, is inherently able to process payments and contracts within the network itself rather than relying on an overlay approach.
Benefits of Filament's approach are varied. By embedding the blockchain into the solution, all devices on Filament provide inherently secure storage and communications. Filament also offers a surface-mounted module, named Patch, that can be embedded in custom hardware. Objects with a Tap or Patch can connect over long distances (up to 10 miles) without existing Wi-Fi, wired, or cellular connection, making industrial-scale networks easy to deploy and manage from a single interface.
Filament looks really interesting. It would be possible to dismiss this fledgling business as a hodgepodge of buzzwords, but the credibility of its investor pool, the novel approach it seems to be taking to the problem, and the very real opportunity that exists for IoT networks all combine to make this an interesting play.