We drew inspiration for DataX from a variety of sources. Most notably the acclaimed documentary The Social Dilemma, which highlighted many of the dangers of social media and its capacity to reinforce addictive behaviours. This is no thanks to surveillance capitalism and the impacts of revenue models focused on big data, it is important for end users to be in control of how data mining directly affects them. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Scandal was also quite notorious for breaching the user privacy and obtaining the personal data of millions of users. We realised that transparency is absolutely essential. As such, we designed DataX with three principles in mind: autonomy, transparency, and connectivity.
What it does
In an age defined by rapid technological growth and the rise of big data, it is important to take a step back from the chaos and realize the reality of the modern human condition. Many of the technologies which supposedly empower us may in fact be ridding us of our autonomy. The power of big data is undeniable, and with the advent of the internet of things, even more so. But our information is a strictly personal thing. At DataX, we strongly believe in the human spirit and free will. We believe that we should not only have individual control over who our data is sent to, but also be rewarded for sharing such a valuable commodity. This is exactly what DataX has set out to accomplish. As opposed to a middle-man ominously collecting your data, you have full control over your IoT devices. Only you are in charge of who receives your data. Through DataX, big data is decentralized and can be sold directly to third parties via cryptocurrency microtransactions. Via our mobile app, you can view real time data statistics, manage who your data is sent to, in addition to your crypto wallet balance and connected devices.
How we built it
Several working parts needed to be pieced together in order to truly let DataX shine. Figma was used early on in order to create a low-fidelity prototype which helped us think with a systems design approach. For front end development, we used React Native. Our design team also used Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro.
Concept: An external provider or company can only have access to your private data which is collected by an IoT device you own after a payment is made (to your cryptocurrency wallet). The system. The workflow is this:
1. The IoT device measures ambient temperature, humidity, fridge/internal temperature, motion/movement, blood spo2, pulse/heart rate and other such personal data and this data is stored locally.
2. An external provider or company can request this data by sending a request message along with a payment on the Bitcoin blockchain, along with the provider’s public key.
3. Upon receipt, the user’s device or the user encrypts the requested data with the provider’s public key and sends a smaller amount back to the provider on the Bitcoin blockchain, the data is encrypted and stored on the message field of the transaction.
4. The encrypted data from the blockchain is stored on a google cloud hosted mongodb instance
5. The system can be run from google cloud app engine
The system is comprised of a number of hardware components which emulate common and well known IoT devices available today:
DHT11 - measures temperature and humidity - emulates NEST thermostat
Max30102 Pulse Oximeter and Heartrate sensor - emulates Apple Watch and Fitbit
DS18b20 Analog Temperature probe - emulates smart fridge internal temperature monitor
MPU 6050 Accelerometer/Gyroscope - emulates fitbit/Apple watch step counter, also shock/movement monitors
Esp32 - microcontroller board for collecting data and logic control/communications
The data collected is transmitted wirelessly to the MongoDB database hosted on google cloud located at cluster0-jnzul.gcp.mongodb.net
Challenges we ran into
As with any event of this sort, we ran into some major challenges. First and foremost, while a virtual hackathon may have its benefits, it also possessed some significant disadvantages in comparison to an in-person hackathon. Communication was probably our greatest obstacle as some of us were in different time zones. In addition, not having the ability to communicate instantly, face-to-face, was a great loss, one which we definitely took for granted prior to the pandemic. In addition, there were a couple of awkward (nonetheless memorable) moments towards the beginning of the hackathon as our group was composed of strangers from varying backgrounds. In terms of the technical difficulties we experienced, a lot of us were sailing uncharted waters as we tried to learn new frameworks and languages which we weren’t very familiar with beforehand. For example, ReactJS was completely new to our front end team, developing a custom API on a blockchain was also quite the experience. Furthermore, we cannot disregard the age old problem that is time. Now matter how much time we have, there unfortunately never seems to be enough of it. Regardless, at least we ended this year’s hackathon with new skills, refined problem-solving skills, and new friends!
Accomplishments that we are proud of
Accomplishments that we’re proud of include the final product itself of course, but most importantly, the fact that we were able to come together in order to build such a successful end product, in spite of the many challenges this year may have brought. We are also very proud of how we pushed through many of the challenges we had described above, such as adjusting to new languages or redesigning our project due to time constraints. Moreover, we take pride in the fact that our project was centered around humanity, and protecting individual freedoms and rights while simultaneously continuing to support the visionary and exciting technologies which will superpower our futures. Last but not least, we are proud of the dedication we have shown to this project, but also to each other as a team.
What we learned
The word “learning” does not accurately describe the many trials and tribulations we overcame at Hack the North this year! We learned about the significance of communication, the importance of gratitude, new languages and libraries, how to build smart contracts, systems design thinking and much more. There was far too much we learned this weekend to keep track of.
What's next for DataX
As we approach the future, it is important to ensure that DataX remains scalable. The use of a directed acyclic graph as opposed to a blockchain would probably be our most important move forward within the realm of scalability. Cryptocurrencies such as IOTA have already taken advantage of this data structure. The implementation of zero-knowledge proofs will also ensure the privacy of users connected to the network. Proxy re-encryption for identity based encryption, in combination with secure multi-party computation and/or homomorphic encryption will also help secure the blockchain.