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'Real Big Data: How to Leverage Bitcoin Blockchains for Unlimited Storage,' by Shankar Narayanan

Published on November 22nd, 2015 by sgsshankar

Bitcoin has been around long enough to get noticed. It has evolved so much as a currency, considering its volatile nature. Several international companies accept bitcoins as payment. Bitcoin has evolved beyond its value both as an e-currency and in its ability for instant transfer. The technology and mathematical concepts around it also make it an interesting application for common, everyday problems, such as storing big data.

Big data is a buzzword for the ever-growing, unstructured nature of data. Many databases are being built to handle large-sized data using techniques such as scaling and replication. A common problem in big data is governance — the ability to verify the authenticity of data and to tell whether it has been modified. This is very important for industries like healthcare and finance, which rely more and more on big data.

The Blockchain as a Datastore

The blockchain is the public ledger of Bitcoin. It holds all bitcoin transactions and can be viewed by anyone who has access. Each transaction is collected in a block that contains information such as a timestamp, a reference to the parent block, and a SHA-256 hash.

How can this help big data and governance? The following are some of the unique properties that make blockchains ideal for big data:

  • To the imagination, the blockchain is unlimited in size, and large data can be saved in hashing, instead of in its original format.
  • Different data cannot have same the hash, and this helps verify any change in data.
  • All the data stored in blockchains comes with a timestamp.
  • Transactions in blockchains cannot be changed, which makes tampering of data impossible.

Meet Tierion

Tierion allows you to collect and store big data on the blockchain. It can support any type of unstructured data in the form of JSON, along with preset data names for elements such as phone numbers and emails. It also has a REST API to insert and retrieve data. Tierion provides a blockchain receipt using a system called chainpoint to make sure all the data can be verified by receipts and timestamps.

At the time of this writing, Tierion provides a free account with up to 100 records per month with two data stores. Registering is an easy process of signing up and providing a few details.

Creating Your First Data Store

After you sign up, you are prompted to create a data store. A Tierion data store is similar to any NoSQL data store and does not follow any strict schema. You can store data with any flexible schema using JSON, as with any other NoSQL database. You can also group data sources for easy accessing.

Inserting Your First Data Record

You can insert your data into the blockchain in multiple ways. Tierion provides a simple REST API and easy-to-use web forms by which you can insert records into the data store.

HTML Forms

One of the advantages of having a schemaless design is to collect web data. Tierion gives the necessary form action to insert records directly from regular HTML web forms. You can collect surveys, feedback, or register users to your site directly using any custom web forms.

Data

The data section contains the HTML form code. The form submits the POST action directly to your data store using your unique datastore key.

Datastore key

REST API

The REST API can be used to post data and retrieve it from your data stores. Refer to the REST API doc to learn how. You would need to use your API key and your datastore key to insert records into a particular data source.  Find your API key information under the API section.

API

Analysing the Data

Tierion also provides good external integration that lets you integrate it with other apps such as Google spreadsheets. Using this, you can integrate the data to an external source for analysis. You can also use the REST API to build your own connector to Tierion. The "extras" section gives you integration options that are easy to use.

Slingshot

Slingshot is a POST query hook that you can use to publish your new records and blockchain receipts. If you are running any system that needs to return the receipts or process the records, use this.

Slingshot

Zapier

Zapier lets you integrate Tierion to thousands of services, such as Salesforce, Mailchimp, Google Sheets, etc. You can easily export the data to other services and configure triggers for automatic provisioning. You would need a Zapier account. An invite for accessing the integration can be found in the "extras" menu.

Zapier

Easy Insights

Tierion provides insights on the web through an easy-to-download and integrate Javascript library. Live insights can be brought into a webpage simply by embedding code. You can access Insights within the "extras" section.

Insights

Dozens of services already store data on the blockchain and use its features to address legal signing of documents. Tierion is one such service that includes a wide range of applications in domains such as finance, healthcare, and legal services. With the blockchain, your big data is no longer big.

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