Networks of robots and blockchains: here's how they will transform our lives

The Spanish engineer Eduardo Castelló has combined two of the top, current technological trends: robotics and blockchains. Castelló studies how robots could work with each other and, most of all, how they can benefit mankind. His objective is to make it possible for millions of simple machines to interact and resolve complex problems, exchange information without encroaching on user privacy, and contribute to generating knowledge.  

Everything started when Castelló moved to robotics paradise: Japan. There, at the University of Osaka, he specialized in robotics and distributed intelligence. Later, he moved on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; US) and now works as a postdoctoral researcher at the  MIT Media Lab. In the US, his career has focused on swarm robotics: the combination and collaborative working of large groups of computers capable of collaborating with each other in order to complete a particular task. One example of this is food computers – robotic greenhouses which can generate different climates to allow any product to be planted anywhere in the world.

By combining the computers which form the "swarm" with a blockchain, Castelló has been able to resolve two of the main challenges facing swarm robotics: promoting the level of security required by a connected system and allowing multiple robots to act in a consensual manner. The blockchain technology acts as an enormous, virtual ledger which records all of the transactions performed within the chain and cannot be modified. This database boasts the best anti-theft security around and allows users to perform operations without the need for a trusted intermediary. With this technology, one can glean more value from the information generated by robot networks, cross reference the results and accelerate execution of the task at hand.

These robotic systems can optimize all of our habits, from the way we buy to the way we get around and communicate. Speaking at the EmTech France 2017 conference, Castelló provided the example the possibility that different research teams could make stable use of the same robots stationed in the Artic for each of their independent investigations.

Castelló - who has worked with gurus like Hiroshi Ishiguro, Alan Winfield and Caleb Harper – aims to contribute to creating a more open, connected and transparent society for citizens. "Blockchain is a kind of paved road which allows society to benefit from a team of robots, swarms of robots," he points out. "I think we are leaving the era of communication and beginning to enter the era of connectivity."

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