Filament raises $5M to develop blockchain-based IoT networks

Just months after declaring “device independence” for the Internet of Things, long-range networking startup Filament announced today that it has raised $5 million in its first round of funding. Bullpen Capital led the investment, and was joined by Verizon Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Samsung Ventures, Digital Currency Group, Haystack, Working Lab Capital, and Techstars (Filament is a graduate of the R/GA-Techstars accelerator).

Filament’s technology uses sub-gigahertz radios that can connect over distances of up to 10 miles, coupled with open protocols that allow devices to self-organize as independent networks. At the heart of Filament’s software stack is the blockchain, which lets devices record transactions in a communally-updated ledger. It also includes Telehash for secure, private messaging; JOSE for establishing contracts; TMesh for forming adaptable, decentralized mesh networks; and BitTorrent for transferring data files and handling over-the-air software updates.

Taken together, these tools let Filament networks operate without a central server — instead, the devices collaborate, negotiate and communicate with one another on a peer-to-peer basis. The top-level organization of the network emerges out of the collective actions of many individual devices, and this kind of networking could mark a radical shift in the way the IoT (and possibly the entire Internet) is organized.

“The Internet of Things could be one of the largest and most exciting verticals for blockchain technology in the coming years,” said Ryan Selkis, of Digital Currency Group, in a statement. “Rather than operating on expensive and siloed legacy infrastructure, we believe connected devices will only realize their full potential if they operate on a secure, distributed, and interoperable network like the blockchain’s.”

As Filament looks to grow beyond its current pilot-project phase, it is taking aim at opportunities in heavy industry, agriculture and smart cities, where long-range, self-organizing networks are ideal for collecting data, remotely monitoring equipment, and connecting large numbers of devices over large areas. Co-founder and CEO Eric Jennings said that the company sees this as the first step toward “a decentralized system where billions of devices – each independently interacting and transacting value with each other – will create a massive opportunity for new business models.”

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