As the internet of things evolves, it will eventually become what Steen Rasmussen calls “the internet of everything”. It will be a super infrastructure that is connected to every aspect of our lives and thus a way to gather personal information on a scale, we have never seen before. One way of preparing us for a future with more personal data being collected, could be RAIN.
It is easy to find free data storage in the form of cloud solutions made available online, but as internet services are becoming increasingly more centralized, it consequently results in fewer companies being in control of managing our data. We freely surrender, not only our data, but also the power that comes with the data, and thus trust big companies to handle this power in a conscientious way. But data collection, and the sales of data, is already being misused. We have seen this in profiling of consumers, elections that have been influenced and entire populations being regulated, as we are seeing in China right now.
With the internet of things, our infrastructures are being connected to the internet, including our transportation, our utilities, the devices we use and even the clothes, we wear. Through new technologies, it will be possible to collect more data that is connected to time, space and the activities people are doing, and thereby it will be easier to manipulate and control individuals. We need to think about how to store all this data, whom to trust this power with and how it should be governed.
What if a system existed that did not only allow better data privacy, data autonomy and decentralization, but also could be sustainable, faster and more reliable than the solutions we use today? Sounds too good to be true? This is nonetheless the preliminary promises of RAIN, a project made by Matteo Monti and Steen Rasmussen. The solution was presented at European Data Ethics Forum 2018 by Steen Rasmussen:
“Our network architecture offers a distributed file storage service that is faster, is more efficient and reliable, is more secure, offers privacy by design as well as community ownership, and is open source, scalable, and more sustainable and less expensive than the current, centralized paradigm.”
The idea is to have a device put up at home to make an internet neighborhood with approximately 35 people, thus creating a local network for storing data. The data is encrypted, shared and duplicated, among the people or business in the network (and thus it is distributed and more safe than a single hard disk) and when the data is needed, it can be retrieved back from the neighborhood and it will be faster and have higher performance compared to using current cloud solutions.
RAIN also allows for a long lifetime of data, since the system can be designed to sustain a data lifetime that is comparable to the age of the earth itself. Last but not at least, having data stored locally on small devices, will emit less CO2. Right now, big data centers are producing more CO2 than the global air traffic. The solution could be an answer to the question, of how to store data with the internet of things expanding to include every aspect of our lives.
The necessary hardware for this solution costs about 100 euro per unit with about one terabite (TB) of storage, so it will be cheaper than current cloud solutions, where you pay a monthly fee, says Steen Rasmussen. However, to have this solution widely spread, individuals will have to take a stance and be responsible for the storage of their data. Users will rely on a small network of storage devices in their local internet neighborhood, instead of relying on tech giants, and the solution guaranties trust in the network through a blockchain style way of communication. RAIN is for critical users, who see the bother of having a device put up in their home or business and paying up front for data storage, a small price to pay when the result is being in control of your personal data.
No matter what solution you might chose, it is important that we start the debate of how data storage architecture should look like, especially in a future with more personal data being collected through the expansion of what Steen Rasmussen calls “the internet of everything.”
Signe Agerskov is a member of the European Group on Blockchain Ethics (EGBE) and is researching blockchain ethics at the European Blockchain Center