Getting the myriad of devices involved in the industrial internet of things provisioned and communicating with one another in a secure way will be one of the great technological challenges facing companies in the coming years. Xage (prounounced Zage) emerged from stealth today with a blockchain-based security solution that could help simplify this.
The company also announced that Duncan Greatwood has joined the company as CEO. Greatwood is an experienced entrepreneur, who sold Topsy to Apple in 2013 and PostPath to Cisco in 2008. These exits have given him the freedom to pick and choose the projects he wants to work on, and he liked what he saw at Xage from a technology perspective.
“This is an area where a wave of change is sweeping through the industry. Security is a foundational element of this innovation,” Greatwood told TechCrunch.
He said that Xage is building a security fabric for IoT, which takes blockchain and synthesizes it with other capabilities to create a secure environment for devices to operate. If the blockchain is at its core a trust mechanism, then it can give companies confidence that their IoT devices can’t be compromised. Xage thinks that the blockchain is the perfect solution to this problem.
They do this by building a trusted network of people, machines and applications on the blockchain, which creates an irrefutable connection among these different entities and prevents anyone who has not been given explicit permission from gaining access.
“The blockchain is operating like a distributed, redundant tamper-proof data store. It connects with policies pushed from the cloud or configured locally. The [security] fabric enables the devices and AI and people to communicate with each other and controls the flow of information,” he explained.
Greatwood says this is helping solve a huge IoT security challenge because of the tremendous risk that’s inherent when everything can talk to everything. “Any to any communication at the edge with many devices is the worst case scenario for security because you are creating the maximum attack surface,” he said.
But, he says, Xage’s blockchain approach flips that because the more participation you have, the more secure it’s going to be. “The more participants you have, the more security you have, the more redundancy you have, the harder it is to attack the system and break the consensus the blockchain is there to establish,” he said.
What ends up getting deployed is a security fabric, a set of gateways and client devices on the industrial edge that form the blockchain among themselves,” he said. “ The company is working with IBM on the Hyperledger Fabric project to build their blockchain along with some of the Ethereum technology.
The product is generally available today. The company is located in Palo Alto and currently has 20 employees. Among their early customers are ABB and Itron, which is using the technology to provision smart electricity meters.