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Blockchains for Scalable IoT Management, Access and Accountability

Blockchains have emerged as a key technology for decentralizing the management and recordkeeping of digital currency transactions by allowing cryptocurrency users to transfer funds, validate transactions and record information in a fully distributed manner. Cryptocurrency (e.g., Bitcoin) users typically communicate among each other by means of a peer-to-peer network infrastructure, with the use of public keys as identities to provide anonymity and privacy among users. For instance, in Bitcoin, any user in the network can serve as a miner, when solving a computation-intensive puzzle, called proof-of-work (POW), by broadcasting the newly added block to all users for verification and validation purposes. Although blockchain technology has conventionally been adopted for managing cryptocurrency transactions, due to its distributed nature and its great potential in simplifying recordkeeping operations, it is attracting many other applications, including smart contracts, voting systems, vehicle registrations, IoT applications, and others.

This Special Issue (SI) focuses on the use of blockchain technology for supporting IoTs. Specifically, it calls for innovative architectures, protocols, and algorithms that leverage blockchain technology to support and enable scalable management, access and accountability of the massive numbers of emerging IoT devices. Adopting blockchain as used in cryptocurrency to support IoTs is not, however, straightforward, and presents major challenges that researchers need to overcome. These challenges arise mainly from limitations and features that are inherent to IoT devices, such as their limited resource (storage, energy and computation) capabilities, the bandwidth/traffic bottlenecks at network edges, scalability challenges due to the large numbers of IoT devices at hand, device mobility challenges, and privacy and security. For instance, the POW approach, imposed in Bitcoin to secure and ensure robustness of the blockchain against malicious behaviors, requires powerful computation and incurs long delays, which makes it unsuitable for IoTs. Scalability presents another key challenge, as most existing IoT architectures are centralized, a challenge that can potentially be overcome using blockchain technology. Also, security/privacy and device mobility pose legitimate concerns that present bottlenecks for the development and adoption of many IoT applications, which can be addressed through the blockchain technology. Depending on the type of application, the no longer need for a trusted third party raises a privacy/security threat that can be exploited to compromise sensitive IoT data, and the low-latency requirement of some IoT applications puts new constraints on the time allowed to validate and add blocks to the chain. These must be carefully accounted for when designing blockchains for IoTs.

This SI targets to address challenges related to developing blockchain architectures, algorithms, and techniques to support and enable management of and access to the massive numbers of IoT devices. The issue targets theoretical/analytic as well as experimental works, and solicits previously unpublished papers that cover broad topics of interest that include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Protocols for scalable IoT management and access using blockchains
  • Blockchain architectures tailored for domain-specific IoT applications
  • Consensus and mining algorithms suited for resource-limited IoTs
  • Secure and private blockchains for IoTs
  • IoT blockchain robustness against maliciousness
  • IoT mobility management through blockchains
  • Lightweight blockchain designs for resource-constrained IoTs
  • Performance metric design, modeling and evaluation of IoT blockchains
  • Performance analysis tradeoffs of IoT blockchains
  • Blockchain architectures and algorithms for heterogeneous IoTs
  • Network and computing optimization in blockchains for IoTs
  • Security and privacy attack models in blockchains for IoTs
  • Proof-of-concept blockchains for IoTs: experimental prototyping and testbeds


Bechir Hamdaoui
School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon, USA

Ammar Rayes
Cisco Systems, San Jose, California, USA

Nizar Zorba
Department of Electrical Engineering
Qatar University, Doha, Qatar

Lingyang Song
School of Electronics Engineering and Computer Science
Peking University, Beijing, China

Christos Verikoukis
Telecommunications Technological Centre of Catalonia
Castelldefels, Spain