by Evan Sixtin
Robert Bosch Venture Capital (RBVC), the corporate venture capital company of the Bosch Group, has taken its first step into the crypto world with a large investment in IOTA, a DAG-based, zero-fee distributed ledger network being developed to accommodate micro-transactions for the Internet of Things (IoT).
Robert Bosch GmbH, a giant among multinational industrial companies with headquarters in Germany, produces household appliances, automotive parts, and other specialized technologies. It is the world’s largest supplier of automotive components. Bosch is now one of the first multinational firms to openly invest in cryptocurrencies. Specifically, the company has purchased a significant amount of MIOTA tokens, the cryptocurrency of the IOTA distributed ledger network.
Why IOTA? Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, IOTA is DAG-based (Directed Acyclic Graph), and does not have the same scaling issues that blockchains tend to have. At present, IOTA can scale to accommodate about 100 times more transactions per second (TPS) than Bitcoin and Ethereum, and as the DAG grows, TPS will increase. At the same time, IOTA, also unlike Bitcoin and Ethereum, takes no fees from users for sending transactions, it is completely free. This is because DAG is a different technology from blockchain and miners and mining rewards are not part of IOTA’s distributed ledger (referred to as the Tangle).
What does Bosch hope to gain from this investment? Bosch is a leading manufacturer of specialized automotive and appliance components, the actual hardware, but now the company is seeking to market the data, or the software, that passes through their smart devices and sensors. An investment in IOTA in its infancy is a step into the game of IoT for Bosch. While they admit that IOTA is only one option, and investments in other DLTs might also follow, Bosch has been working with IOTA for several years and has expressed how much they are impressed with the IOTA network and its potential to advance the IoT.
Dr. Hongquan Jiang, a partner at RBVC, has also joined the IOTA Foundation’s advisory board. Dr. Jiang explains, “RBVC is, of course, also evaluating and working with other DLTs…IOTA has the potential to solve some fundamental problems in the DLT for IoT, namely the scalability and transaction cost issues. The IOTA technology is still at an early stage…RBVC will, as it always does for its portfolio companies, try to help the IOTA Foundation in the industrialization of this technology via our network. We will connect the development team of IOTA to industrial experts and decision makers. We will also give them advice in the domains where we have experience. Bosch is a pioneer in the industrialization of DLT. The deal is another proof of Bosch’s commitment to this field.”
IOTA has also recently partnered with several other big names in IoT, including CISCO, Volkswagen, Samsung, and even the city of Taipei in Taiwan. However, many researchers who have taken the time to examine IOTA’s network are not so confident in its ability to support the IoT. In December 2017, MIT published an article criticizing IOTA and the IOTA team. In the article, which was actually a critique of another article posted by Mike Orcutt in favor of IOTA, MIT claimed that Orcutt was stating mistruths and IOTA developers have given conflicting explanations for vulnerabilities and security flaws in IOTA software. IOTA developers responded to this with a lawsuit claiming academic fraud.
In fact, everywhere you look, you will see passionate claims for and against IOTA, it is truly a technology that has spurred intense controversy. But one thing is sure: if IOTA and its MIOTA token do become the crypto-fuel that run the IoT, and allow for machine to machine transactions – if it does evolve to be the gas for a new machine economy – early investors who set up large IOTA nodes will benefit greatly. They will have access to valuable data and a significant stake in the control of the network. This is certainly the motivation behind RBVC’s investment.
Despite all the criticism and the serious security bugs found in their software, IOTA is currently being used in several interesting real-world projects, including an intriguing DIY bank/payment solution called Carriota. Like Bitcoin and Ethereum, it is a beta technology still in its infancy, and it will take time to see how far it can go. The bickering and strife, along with the passion and potential, surrounding IOTA is reminiscent of Ethereum three or four years ago. At the least, it is a captivating asset to buy and hold for a while. Bosch is betting on it.