Merging two of the most hyped technologies sounds promising, doesn’t it? But are there actual benefits of combining artificial intelligence (AI) and the blockchain? Will this combination be an efficient business decision or just an exciting experiment? Let’s find out.
Blockchain vs artificial intelligence: What’s the top trend these days?
Last year’s hype over cryptocurrency made the blockchain a buzzword. But disruptors have been experimenting with the technology for several years already. So far in 2018, 942 ICOs have raised a total of $21,717,148,705. And that’s not to mention the hundreds of blockchain-based projects that didn’t raise money via an ICO.
Size of the blockchain technology market worldwide from 2016 to 2021 (in million US dollars)
Source: Statista – Blockchain technology market size worldwide 2016–2021
The top industries that use blockchain technology are finance, communications, and trading. Distributed ledger technology has entered the Forbes Global 2000 list: at least 50 companies have started to explore the blockchain, the biggest names being the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), JPMorgan, Berkshire Hathaway, and Apple.
Whereas most technologies tend to automate workers on the periphery doing menial tasks, blockchains automate away the center. Instead of putting the taxi driver out of a job, blockchain puts Uber out of a job and lets the taxi drivers work with the customer directly.
As for AI, it’s been around for a while, and new ways of using and improving it are coming out each month. Recent inventions use AI to help patients with neurological disorders, transform data into insightful narratives, and predict financial market movements.
Revenues from the artificial intelligence for enterprise applications market worldwide, from 2016 to 2025 (in million US dollars)
Source: Statista – Enterprise artificial intelligence market revenue worldwide 2016–2025
Adobe states that 47% of digitally mature organizations have a defined AI strategy. Whereas the blockchain can still be considered a newcomer in the tech world, AI is definitely a full-fledged member of modern business processes. There’s a long way to go for both technologies, but experts agree that combining AI and blockchain is a good idea.
The benefits of combining AI and blockchain
In the next five to ten years, these two technologies are going to be heavily implemented in business. Even now, innovative and tech-savvy industry leaders see significant value in using blockchains with artificial intelligence.
When put together, the two complement and enhance each other, and it is up to entrepreneurs to explore ways to implement the two, to gain the benefits of deeper insights, greater efficiency, and accountability.
Let’s have a look at ways you can use the combination of AI and blockchain to your company’s benefit.
Information in a blockchain is well-protected thanks to inherent encryption. A blockchain is perfect for storing highly sensitive personal data like medical notes or personalized recommendations. Data is what artificial intelligence needs continuously and in high volumes. Currently, experts are busy building algorithms that will allow AI to work with encrypted information without exposing it.
There’s also another angle to security improvements, however. While the blockchain is secure at its base, additional layers and applications are vulnerable (consider breaches of DAO, Bitfinex, etc.). Machine learning will help to improve the deployment of blockchain apps and predict possible system breaches.
Untangling the way AI thinks
Regardless of how great AI is, people won’t use it if they don’t trust it. One of the issues that has put the brakes on broader adoption of AI is the impossibility to explain decisions made by the computer. With the possibility to record the decision-making process, AI can gain public trust much sooner.
By using the blockchain for artificial intelligence, we can make the way computers think more transparent. A distributed ledger can store every decision made by AI, data point by data point, and make them available for analysis. With a blockchain, you can also be sure that the information is tamper-resistant from recording to examination.
Accessing and managing the data market
This point is tightly connected to enhanced security. Since a distributed ledger can store large amounts of encrypted data and artificial intelligence is able to manage it effectively, new use cases emerge. You can securely store your personal data in the blockchain and sell access to it. As a result, data, model, and AI marketplaces arise.
Big players like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have access to large volumes of data that can be useful for AI processes, but all of that information is unavailable to others. With a blockchain, smaller companies and startups can challenge the tech giants by accessing the same pool of information and even the same AI potential (we’ll talk about the AI marketplace SingularityNET later on).
Another perk of using artificial intelligence with the blockchain is improving the way we work with data. Computers process encrypted information by going through multiple combinations of characters in search of the correct one to verify a transaction. Similarly to a human hacker, AI learns and sharpens its skills with every successful code crack. But unlike a person, artificial intelligence won’t need a lifetime to become an expert. With the right training data, it can happen almost instantly.
Optimizing energy consumption
Data mining is a very energy-consuming process. This is one of the major struggles of the modern world, and Google has proven that machine learning can deal with the issue. Google has managed to reduce energy consumption used for cooling their data centers by 40% by training the DeepMind AI on historical data from thousands of sensors within a data center. The same principle can be used for mining, leading to lower prices for mining hardware.
Improving smart contracts
There are certain technical flaws in the blockchain that can be exploited by hackers. This was proven not so long ago. Put simply, smart contracts aren’t smart enough. Yet. They’re programmed to release and transfer funds automatically when certain conditions are met. To do that, network consensus must be reached on the blockchain. Smart contract code is public and can be reviewed, so anyone can patiently and thoroughly go through every line of code in search of loopholes. AI helps to verify smart contracts and predict vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
Formal verification of smart contracts
Source: Bill Li, Matrix AI Network via Medium, Intelligent Contracts —The AI Solution for the Issue of Security and Smart Contracts
Plus, artificial intelligence can deal with contracts itself by reviewing conditions and generating and dynamically adjusting smart contracts.
What fields leverage the combination of artificial intelligence and the blockchain?
All of the above are theoretical benefits of combining a blockchain and AI. Now, let’s move to real-life cases. Different industries are already testing the waters of using blockchain and AI together in one project. It’s still too early to pop the champagne, but the first tries look really promising.
Porsche is officially the first automaker to test the blockchain in vehicles. It partnered with the German startup XAIN to implement blockchain technology in its brand-new sports car. Using their smartphones, drivers will be able to record traffic data, which has been received from connected vehicles, on a blockchain. The solution will also allow owners to grant temporary access to a car and receive notifications about who accesses it, where, and when. And let’s not forget about the increased security and auditable and usable data for predictive maintenance and autonomous driving.
Several startups are trying to crack the crypto market using AI. Due to its highly speculative nature, traders and brokers need innovative tools to deal with market predictions and forecasting, and NeuroBot, Senno, and Augur are meeting that demand.
And of course we can’t but mention AI marketplaces, the most hyped one being the Amsterdam-based SingularityNET. This is a marketplace where developers and AI vendors can offer their hardware and software in exchange for other AI services or cryptocurrency. It means that smaller companies and startups can have access to large-scale AI services like language processing, training datasets, and image and video processing services. Other great examples of AI and blockchain in marketplaces are DeepBrain Chain and Numerai.
Artificial intelligence is here to stay, and the blockchain seems like a natural companion for its future expansion. Right now, some countries are working toward the concept of smart cities by combining IoT, AI, and distributed ledgers. AI needs the blockchain to explain the way it works to humans and to manage and protect data. The blockchain, in turn, benefits from faster transaction verification, optimized energy consumption, and “smarter” smart contracts. In a year or two, we’ll see more use cases of AI and blockchain combinations for sure.