DePINs (Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks) promise an alternate model of running connected infrastructure and data sharing, where individual participants, rather than centralized data centers, connect to form a network of information exchange. However, can the ‘De’ in DePIN be true to its promise if much of the data pipelines still rely on Web2 services to propagate their real-time information?
Live services need live data
In 2023, instant access to live data isn't just a luxury — it's an expectation. When you watch streams on platforms like Twitch or YouTube Live, you aren’t downloading the data and storing it on your device, it’s sent to you in real-time. This real-time transfer and processing of data is what we call 'streaming data.'
Major Web2 platforms rely on streaming data to optimize the online experiences — be it through navigation, content, personalized ads, search suggestions, or much else. In Web2, this is mostly powered by centralized data centers, which house an array of servers that store and send information to users upon request.
Imagine this as a massive pipeline. At one end, you have data sources (a ong library, a PC your favorite streamer plays Call of Duty on, or a camera at an event). This data travels through the pipes and goes through various stages of processing, optimization, and distribution to end-users. This system relies on several centralized entities working together to control and manage the flow of data within this pipeline.
While this centralized approach offers control and efficiency, it's not without its challenges, and is not in line with many of the promises of DePINs:
- Single Points of Failure: The centralized nature means that if a significant data center faces issues such as a DDoS attack — an attack where thousands or millions of infected devices all connect to the same service, overwhelming it — or a general outage, it can lead to disruptions for major platforms or services.
- Scalability: As user numbers surge with scaling or during high-demand events, these centralized systems can be overwhelmed, leading to lags or outages for services.
- Data Opaqueness: With data consolidated into a small number of trusted hands, there are growing questions about data privacy and the potential for misuse or breaches. Just look at all the Uber hacks.
- Limited Flexibility: Centralized systems can be rigid and less able to adapt to new technologies or demands.
- Overdependence on a few: Having critical systems privately controlled by a few individuals, who may lack oversight or accountability, could be a mistake if their intentions misalign with those of their users.
As the demand for real-time data interactions beyond media streaming grows, these challenges become even more pronounced, opening ground for experimentation with new models, such as DePIN.
Instead of data centers, DePINs leverage blockchain and its token economy to crowdsource the development and operation of infrastructure. Networks of individuals, communities, or enterprises set up various hardware, from weather stations to AI-powered cameras and electric vehicle charges, to provide peer-to-peer services. In return, they earn tokens. The result is an aligned network run by its participants.
In the DePIN model, data is not a side product, it is often the central component designed to offer tangible, real-world value, such as navigation devices sharing mobility data or mobile phones passively recording noise levels for environmental studies. If this crowd-sourced data is aggregated, processed, and acted upon in real-time, it will make all the difference for smart cities, connected mobility, and other sectors, resulting in nothing short of a paradigm shift.
DePINs are data-hungry
However, while technology such as peaq's eco-friendly blockchain can address the scalability costs on the blockchain side, the complexity and data requirements for DePINs are still immense, especially the real-time component. Consider, for example, an electric vehicle charging DePIN. Beyond just transactional data — how much energy each car consumed — the service also needs a constant influx of information from every available charging point. Is it available? How much does it charge? Is it functioning properly? Drivers need all this data in real-time, and managing it on a global scale, with thousands of charges across dozens of countries, is no easy feat.
In the centralized world, a singular entity will pull all this data into vast data centers. But with DePINs, where infrastructure is decentralized, the data sources are equally decentralized. This model essentially turns every device into a data source and subsequent node that contributes to the network.
The DePIN data challenge isn’t just about managing a torrent of data. It's about leveraging this data in real-time to derive insights, optimize operations, and deliver value,all while preserving the decentralized nature of the network.
DePINs thus face unique architectural challenges:
- Volume and velocity: The sheer volume of data from these physical devices is huge. Moreover, for it to be actionable, it needs to be processed and packaged at high speeds.
- Decentralization and integrity: With data coming from so many sources, maintaining its integrity and ensuring it hasn't been tampered with is crucial. Web2 structures will use centralized control checks. DePINs need to inherently build trust into their framework.
- Interoperability: Different devices on a DePIN might use different standards and formats. The data backbone must be adaptable and robust enough to seamlessly integrate this diverse data.
- Granular control and privacy: In a world increasingly concerned about privacy, DePINs must provide mechanisms where users can control who accesses their device data and for what purpose.
- Real-time processing: For many DePIN applications, old data is useless. Whether it's optimizing traffic flow, adjusting power grids, or automating supply chains, real-time data processing is key.
Streamr for Fully Decentralized Real-Time DePINs
At the crossroads of DePINs’ complicated data demands is Streamr. The Streamr Network is a next-generation P2P network for streaming live data. It features a serverless, secure, scalable, and, most importantly, decentralized architecture. Anyone can run a Streamr node and gain DATA tokens for contributing their bandwidth to the network.
Let’s dive into how this benefits DePINs:
- Decentralized & scalable by design: Streamr was conceptualized with decentralization at its core, making it a natural fit for DePINs. This means no centralized points of failure and more robust data security. Decentralization also means scalability, as more nodes can be incentivized to join the network to meet the rising demand.
- Plug-and-play: Streamr is designed to be easy for builders to connect to the pub/sub data architecture and essentially fire and forget, spawning their own private decentralized network to manage their data needs.
- Interoperability: The Streamr framework is being built to be adaptable to suit almost any data format in a DePIN. This is particularly important as DePINs can encompass a wide range of devices, from smart cameras to IoT sensors.
- Efficient data piping: The Streamr pub/sub data infrastructure is robust enough to handle the massive data influx from DePINs, process it in real-time, and channel it to where it's needed.
- Granular data control: Streamr offers data control to users with its peer-to-peer architecture and enables stream owners to decide who gets to access their data and for what purpose. Access control and verification are managed via the Polygon blockchain.
- Data crowdsourcing: Streamr has also developed tools such as Rail and the Data Union framework to allow data collection and monetisation, where information can be aggregated and traded by incentivised individual contributors.
- Real-time data access and trading: A standout feature is The Hub, a real-time data marketplace. With The Hub, DePINs can not only process their data in real-time but also monetize it. This opens up new reward opportunities for DePIN participants, fostering further network growth and participation.
- Ecosystem growth: Beyond data management, Streamr encourages the growth of the DePIN ecosystem with tools and resources for DePIN builders to create more sophisticated, data-driven applications that can enhance the network's capabilities.
Moreover, combining Streamr’s real-time data components with peaq's environmentally-friendly blockchain and toolset can open further new prospects for DePIN builders, boosting their data scalability, decentralized security, and new monetization potential. We’re excited to explore this potential in greater depth in the near future — especially with Streamr 1.0, the completion of the original Streamr roadmap, on the horizon.
In the relatively new landscape of Web3, where DePINs are reshaping how we think of infrastructure and data, platforms like Streamr are essential to meet the real-time data and scalability requirements, without sacrificing decentralization. We hope to see more DePIN builders and participants leveraging peaq and Streamr and to help realize the full potential of their networks.
Streamr is building the real-time data protocol of the decentralized web. This includes a scalable, low-latency and secure P2P Network for data delivery and exchange. As part of the vision, Streamr is building The Streamr Hub, a decentralized chat application, and other dApps to help DePin projects and the world decentralize their tech stacks. To learn more, or find out how you can visit streamr.network.
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